Tiger Woods addressed a bevy of topics at his press conference on Tuesday at Augusta National as he gets set to tee it up for the 25th time at The Masters, including two major changes likely coming to professional golf.
First, the five-time Masters champion was asked about the PGA Tour's plans to elevate eight non-major, non-FedEx Playoff tournaments to “designated” status beginning in 2024. Those eight events have yet to be officially announced, but they are likely to include the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Genesis Invitational (hosted by Tiger), the Arnold Palmer Invitational, THE PLAYERS Championship, the Memorial (hosted by Jack Nicklaus), and the Travelers Championship.
Designated events would feature reduced fields (70-78 players) and have no 36-cut hole to ensure that top players will compete all four days. The purses will be significantly boosted. The proposal has ignited criticism for its exclusivity and garnered support for meritocratically offering players the opportunity to earn more money and improving the fan experience.
Tiger didn't offer a general take on the idea of designated events, but he does seem to take issue with the no-cut component — a staple of the LIV Tour.
“I think that there's still some ongoing discussions about some of the designated events, and whether or not we're going to have cuts going forward,” said Woods. “I'm pushing for my event (the Genesis) to have a cut. I think that maybe the player-hosted events may have cuts. These are things Jack (Nicklaus) and I are still discussing with (PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan) and the board and the Tour. I still think there needs to be a penalty for not playing well. Every event shouldn't always be a guaranteed 72 holes.”
Tiger also gave his two cents on the USGA and R&A's “rollback” proposal, which would place regulations on the dimensions of the golf balls used by pro players to limit driving distance and encourage accurate ball-striking, strategy diversification, and skill.
The proposed changes — which wouldn't go into effect until 2026 — have elicited reactions on both sides of the aisle, too. Rory McIlroy, the PGA Tour's longest driver, supports the rollback. Justin Thomas, on the other hand, ripped the idea.
As for Tiger? He's with Rory, as long as pro balls differentiate from those used by amateurs.
“I don't think you change the size of the heads anymore, because there are so many out there. You can have a difference in the golf ball. I've been of the position: if you play in a pro event or you have a ‘P' next to your name, you should be playing a pro ball.”
As Tiger noted, the vast majority of golf courses (Augusta being an exception) can't keep adding land to counteract the increasing power of modern golfers.
“You can start rolling the game back. Start slowing it down. We're just not able to create enough property out there. The guys are gonna become more athletic … With technology, you're gonna find — even if you roll the ball back and get a spinnier golf ball — guys are gonna find, they're gonna go to a 4-degree driver…The average (driving) number was 279 when I came up on tour. Now the guys are carrying 320.
“This should have happened a long time ago. That is my take on it: The amateurs should be able to have fun and hit the golf ball far. But we should be regulated about how far we hit it.”
Tiger said he understands that a de-emphasis on distance will impact how equipment companies market their products and that the ongoing “boom” golf is experiencing and the “joy of the game” for many fans is related to bombing off the tee.
Ultimately, it's not surprising that a ball-striker as creative and accurate as Tiger would support the measure.