Cut Line: Committees insides of committees to talk to committees

Cut Line: Committees insides of committees to talk to committees

In this week’s edition, we celebrate Nelly Korda’s run through the record books, question the optics of sponsor exemptions into signature events and cringe at what felt like the PGA Tour’s rush to better governance.

Made Cut

History. Women’s professional sports is having a moment and thanks to Nelly Korda’s historic run on the LPGA, golf isn’t being left behind.

At this week’s Cognizant Founders Cup, Korda is attempting to become the first player in LPGA history to win six consecutive starts and the 25-year-old didn’t disappoint with an opening 69 at Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey to move within six shots of the early lead.

Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez are the only other LPGA players to win five consecutive starts and Korda’s run includes her second major victory at last month’s Chevron Championship in Texas.

“I’m not trying to think about the outside noise,” Korda said. “Would it be amazing? Of course. But it’s still so far away and proud of what I’ve achieved so far.”

Rewriting history is never easy; Korda is just making it look that way.

Effort. After Tiger Woods finished last in the field among those who made the cut at the Masters and withdrew from his only other Tour start this year in Los Angeles, there were plenty of reasons to question his plan to play “once a month.” But Wednesday, he gave the golf world a dollop of optimism.

Woods made a scouting trip to Valhalla Golf Club to prepare for next week’s PGA Championship, according to the association’s social media channels.

“I have basically the next three months,” Woods said during an interview on “Today” last week. “So, I have three majors, and hopefully that will all work out.”

If a short flight from South Florida to Kentucky isn’t exactly a reason to celebrate, consider that Woods hasn’t finished a week at the PGA Championship since 2020 (he withdrew from the ’22 championship after three rounds). It’s not exactly “once a month,” but it’s a start.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Politics. The ugly side of closed-door governance surfaced this week when Rory McIlroy revealed that he would not be replacing Webb Simpson on the policy board because of “some old wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before.”

McIlroy had been tabbed by Simpson to serve out the remainder of Simpson's term on the board (through next year) but others on the board balked. Instead, Simpson will serve out the rest of his term and McIlroy was given a spot on the newly-formed “transaction subcommittee” (see governance, reactionary below).

Some viewed the snub in terms of party lines, with McIlroy being an outspoken proponent of a deal with PIF while indications are others on the board, most notably Tiger Woods and Patrick Cantlay, are reluctant to bring the Saudis on as minority investors in the circuit’s new for-profit arm. But asked Thursday about a possible “strain” in his relationship with Woods, McIlroy seemed to dismiss that notion.

“There's no strain there,” McIlroy said. “We might see the future of golf a little bit differently, but I don't think that should place any strain on a relationship or on a friendship.”

Instead, the issue of bringing McIlroy back on the board seemed to be a combination of procedure and perception. After stepping down from the board last fall, some players viewed the Northern Irishman’s possible return as an attempt to circumvent the circuit’s regulations and it’s clear some on the board agreed.

Missed Cut

An invitation to second-guessing. Sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour have always been an inexact science, but this year’s experiment appears to have crossed a line.

At issue is how invitations are doled out to signature events, which feature limited fields and award dramatically more FedExCup points than full-field or opposite-field tournaments, and those questions boiled over this week at the Wells Fargo Championship when policy board player director Simpson received his fourth sponsor exemption into a signature this year.

“I know these sponsor exemptions are probably the most coveted sponsor exemptions in the history of the Tour, but we're not going to make everyone happy,” Simpson said. “I know that I've gotten, this is my fourth sponsor exemption, and [fellow policy board player director] Adam Scott's received his fair share (four). There was controversy and guys were trying to link us being on the board, but it has nothing to do with me being on the board.”

It should be noted that Simpson is a Charlotte, North Carolina, resident, a member at Quail Hollow Club and is one of the Tour’s most endearing players, but that likely doesn’t placate those who have grown weary of the poor optics of signature-event exemptions.

Reactionary governance. Perhaps the grand plan was always to delegate various responsibilities – such as finance, strategy and compensation – to committees, but Thursday’s roll out by the PGA Tour Enterprises board of directors seemed reactionary, if not desperate.

For an organization that has appeared to be playing catch-up for the last three years, this week’s fractured news cycle had a familiar feel starting with an Associated Press story Wednesday outlining how Tiger Woods would be the “lone player on a five-member subcommittee” that will lead negotiations with PIF, according to the Tour.

That story unraveled when McIlroy revealed that he, too, was part of the “transaction subcommittee” along with Scott, a player director on the board. In fact, McIlroy outlined a 90-minute Zoom “with that group” on Sunday to go over a “150-page doc about the future product model and everything.”

Thursday’s announcement included the creation of four other committees and a press release naming Joe Gorder, the executive chairman of the board of Valero Energy Corporation, the chairman of PGA Tour Enterprises. Expanding the board’s responsibility and carving out specific areas of focus seems prudent, and yet somehow it still felt rushed and reactionary.