PGA Tour players are abusing the system. Is that accurate? – Lynch


Although political strategist Lee Atwater passed away over thirty years ago, his hated maxim, “Perception is reality,” is still relevant today. Just a cursory glance at social media can reveal how many individuals have strongly held beliefs about the wrongdoing of others, even in the absence of proof. It’s not surprising that mentality has spread to the golf industry given how common it is in other spheres of life, but it does cause the PGA Tour additional difficulties because some of its board members share the negative viewpoint.

Webb Simpson has acquired sponsor exemptions into events for which he is not normally eligible on a number of occasions; the most recent one is for the Wells Fargo Championship, which is held next week. He is a well-liked previous major winner. Although it is only partially true, he has solid relationships based on his professionalism and ability to keep things moving on the golf course. He has been a dedicated participant in the Tour’s Policy Board, helping it to navigate through waters rife with sharks. Both in Harbour Town, where he has won, and in Quail Hollow, the Wells Fargo host community, he is well-chosen. You can see why he would receive one or more special invitations.

But four? And that too for marquee events, the richest pit stops on the circuit with disproportionately small fields? Of the eight starts Simpson has made in 2024, that makes up half. He declined to participate in ten non-signature tournaments. Simpson doesn’t use a lot of foul language, so someone has to teach him the meaning of pissing in the pot.

The schedules of other player-directors on the Policy Board have also been examined. This year, Adam Scott was given complimentary passes to three prestigious events. Peter Malnati and Tiger Woods, who was also the event host at the Genesis Invitational, were the other two player-directors who each received one. Board members receive golden tickets so freely that it’s practically expected that the panel’s chair, seasoned lawyer Ed Herlihy, will also make it a hallmark event.

All invitations to player-directors are valid and defendable, for those who feel so inclined. Since the restrictions allow members to use an infinite number of exemptions, none of those players are acting unethically by asking for and accepting them. However, the practice of inviting player-directors on a regular basis gives the bad impression that board members are taking use of the system to their own advantage. Whether or not it is the case is irrelevant. Even the appearance of self-dealing poses a risk to an organization that is already struggling to maintain the goodwill of its rank and file members.


Sponsors who grant these exemptions are also not in violation of the law. Events should be allowed flexibility in how they use their limited number of invitations in exchange for a little financial investment, even if it results in startling parochialism. See Ricky Barnes, who is run by the Thunderbirds, get into the 2023 WM Phoenix Open, then a signature event, for no obvious reason other than that he is a cool guy. But nowadays, simply adhering to the relevant criteria isn’t sufficient. There are many standard procedures used at the Tour that are out of date. Applying common sense and optical awareness is also necessary.

Opportunities for rank and file players are decreasing, and this trend is probably going to continue in the years to come as the Tour product gets even more simplified. Less opportunities to earn a living, less cards accessible, and fewer tournaments will all occur. This season, cardholders who have gained status but lack privilege or seniority have already seen how painfully obvious that is. For them, it only makes matters worse when sponsor exemptions into the most coveted events are routinely utilized to support underachievers whose prime is long gone.

While it is true that player-directors who voice concerns about the Tour’s lax governance should exercise greater self-control when it comes to accepting undeserved benefits, the Tour’s administration and Player Advisory Council should take the initiative in this matter. The circuit will never be the total meritocracy it purports to be, where each participant is entitled to a seat at the banquet. The existence of exemptions is certain. Imagine if Jay Monahan were to inform a sponsor that, despite Tiger Woods’ expressed desire, he is unable to participate in their event. Higher restrictions are necessary, though.

Invitations to all regular Tour events are acceptable, but after a few travels, the fast lane into signature events should be closed. The high-level competitions just have too much weight, especially in relation to FedEx Cup points, which are currently the most significant factor in deciding eligibility to participate. But continue on. The receiver should be obliged to enter a normal event that they haven’t supported in the past for every exemption into a profitable signature stop. Since they are now the owners of the league, players who profit more from it should have no problem giving more.

When it comes to how player-directors conduct themselves while serving on the board, position counts. Having a pleasant demeanor does not excuse one from fostering a negative impression. Furthermore, residing in the host location is definitely not.

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