ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – After PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced Tuesday evening to the membership that Rory McIlroy was stepping down as a member of the Tour Policy Board with one year left on his term in office, the talk of the locker room at Sea Island Resort has been who will replace him.
“I was actually thinking about it this morning,” said veteran pro Ryan Armour on Wednesday.
We’ll get back to Armour in a moment but let’s begin with Lanto Griffin, the winner of the 2019 Houston Open, who had plenty to say about McIlroy, who succeeded Jordan Spieth as a player director on the board, serving a three-year term (2022-24).
“Rory was great because he was approachable by everybody, but at the same time he was bought by the Tour,” Griffin said. “The head of the board has the same sponsors as the Tour and the Players, there’s influence there – I’m talking Workday, I can’t remember all of them, Golfpass. The guy who’s running the board is being paid by all the title sponsors, it’s a little sketchy to me.”
Griffin, 35, who is playing on a major medical after having a microdiscectomy to repair a disc in his back late last year, said he would like to see someone who has prior experience on the Player Advisory Council or board and was a well-liked veteran by the majority of the players.
Rory McIlroy and Lanto Griffin at the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. (Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
“There are certain guys out here among the top players who won’t give you the time of day and then there are guys like Rory who will. I talked to him for about 30 minutes at Players and then again in Canada, which is really nice of him, and he listens,” Griffin said. “There are some guys out here who wouldn’t do it. Justin Thomas wouldn’t do it. Collin Morikawa wouldn’t. I feel like there is an elitist group. Rory feels like he can listen in and understand where we’re coming from, too. Someone like that with personality. Brandt Snedeker just to throw a name out. Someone who is respected by everybody but also has some perspective and isn’t just making $40 million to $50 million off the course and is going to be guaranteed to be in every elevated event.”
The mention of Signature Events took Griffin down a different path, but his comments are worth exploring because they give a window into how the rank-and-file players feel heading into uncertain times. In short, Griffin contends the Signature Events are unfair because the inflated FedEx Cup points give the top players a head start to keeping their card.
“Give them all the money they want but when you start giving them the points, I’ve got a problem with that,” Griffin said. “Do you know what fifth in an elevated event next year makes in FedEx Cup points? 300. It’s 110 for a normal event. So I go play Torrey Pines with 156 players and a cut and Rory goes to L.A. the next week in a 78 players, no-cut field, and he gets nearly three times the points for the same finish. How is one going to compete with that? The guys that are making the decision are obviously going to look out for themselves. That’s where there is a disconnect for guys in my position, the normal guys. So having someone who will listen and not be only concerned about the top 10.”
Griffin clarified that whoever replaces McIlroy as a player director could be someone who once was in the top 10 but isn’t any more.
Rory McIlroy at the 2023 DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
“The (top players) deserve a lot of credit, a lot of money, but Rory shouldn’t have an advantage over me in the FedEx Cup. If he wants $20 million purses and $100 million PIP money, take it. We don’t give a s – – t. I told Rory this. I said, ‘Beginning of the year, what’s your goal? Win the FedEx Cup, win majors, win three, four times? Do you know what 70 percent of the guys out here, there main goal is? To keep their job.’ He said, ‘Fair enough.’ We care about money – that comes with good play – but we’re more worried about keeping our job. Every year there’s five to 10 really good players that go back to Korn Ferry Tour that have been out here for a long time. Do you think Rory is worried about that? JT had the worst year he’ll ever have this year and finished 71st. That was a pretty great year for me last year. I had surgery and I was hurt but still managed four top-10s. To have the deck stacked against us – we’re losing points, money, starts, it feels like, who’s making these decisions?
“Then you have what Jay did to us and I don’t know how he still has his job at this point.”
Griffin took a breath long enough to be asked if he thought Monahan could regain the trust of players. He was doubtful.
“I’ve been so turned off and I think a lot of guys are, that when we get emails I don’t even open them. I don’t even read them. It’s so emotional. Them changing the FedEx Cup, changing the points, changing the elevated events, changing all this stuff in the middle of the season. It’s BS,” he said. “When you keep getting lied to and then the final straw was Canada when they threw that bomb on us. My doctor buddy sent me a screen shot and said, ‘Are you guys joining with the PIF?’ I wrote, ‘No chance. If Jay’s alive that will never happen. As long as he’s our commissioner, that will never happen.’ Five minutes later, we get the email (about the framework agreement to create a new commercial entity with the PIF). So my buddy knew about it before I did.
“It’s sad because the dream growing up was to play on the PGA Tour. It doesn’t feel that prestigious anymore. It feels more like a job. It’s become so politicized. It’s been frustrating for a lot of guys out here. Just the image of what we’re doing, but not much else we can do but show up and do our job and see if we can play well.”
Griffin had one more name he’d like to see fill McIlroy’s board seat and mused about the role.
“A guy like (Kevin) Streelman would be great for the board,” he said. “But seriously who would want this job? I wouldn’t want this job. It’s like being president of the United States. You’d have to be a full-on narcissist to want that job.”
Here is what some players have to say about a replacement.
Streelman, 45, served on the board from 2017-19 and is serving on the ad hoc governance committee that recently was formed by the commissioner. Asked what qualities are important for the position, he said, “Experience, unity, prioritizing the players vision and betterment of the future for the PGA Tour. I’d be really good at it. I’m on the ad hoc governance committee with Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Charley Hoffman, and Davis Love III. I said I’d be honored to do it if they need me, but I understand if they want to go with more youth or try to get some experience for a younger guy. Charley (whose term ends this year) staying on would probably be a good thing because he’s so versed in what has been happening. He’s been in the middle of this since 2020.”
Streelman pointed out the need to have a good balance on the board to represent the various interests of the players, and that it is an unappreciated job.
“You put on a suit and its big-boy stuff. The first time you do it, it’s intimidating but you realize how important it is. It’s a lot. It’s not always appreciated. It’s an unpaid job, a lot of the players don’t understand the time commitment. We do it because we care. If they ask me, I’d be honored to do it.”
Harrington, 52, had an out-of-the box idea in naming Joe Ogilvie, who retired from the Tour in 2014. That would require a change in the bylaws but given the response to his recent open letter to the membership and his experience on the board should be given consideration.
“The time I’ve spent with Joe over the years, he’s a very measured guy, he thinks his way through things, he sees both sides. You need someone to champion the journeyman pro and someone to champion the elite pro. There’s no one size fits all. You need balance so everything gets discussed. The problem with committees is you can end up with the lowest common denominator. I personally prefer a benevolent dictatorship. If someone told me tomorrow and said that Joe Ogilvie had been named the head of the board – I wouldn’t give it to him for life but say for two years – I would be very happy to let him run with it and in two years if I didn’t like him, put someone else in. He’s very reasoned and he seems to have a very good knowledge. I think the board needs player representation but it doesn’t have to be active ones. We need independent business people, especially when you’re dealing with professional golfers who because we’re good at one thing, we think we’re good at everything.”
The 32-year-old Westmoreland, who served his country in the Air Force, is more focused on having a big week at the RSM Classic to retain his card for next season, but he commended McIlroy for doing “a great job.”
“He set the bar high and will be hard one to replace,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what that job entails. I would hope to see the PGA Tour leadership get out in front of some of these issues for the player that gets involved.”
Westmoreland, too, proposed a retired player be considered for the open seat.
“Billy Hurley would do a good job. He has a background outside of golf as well as being successful out here,” Westmoreland said. “He might enjoy doing it as well.”
Armour, 47, was vocal about the direction the Tour was head earlier this year when he famously dubbed the rank-and-file “the mules” in an interview with Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski. He still has strong opinions about the future of the Tour and isn’t afraid to share them.
“I respect Rory and a lot of views that he brought up when he was on the PAC and then the board. I think we’re walking a tightrope right now alienating a lot of the membership vs. the so-called top 50 in the world. I think we have got to remember that we are a membership organization with 250 or so members and someone on the board really needs to remember that when they are in those pressure moments. Their vote matters. I always have said this,” Armour said. “When I was elected to the PAC, I wasn’t elected to stick up for the McIlroys, the Rahms. They are going to get into every event and they deserve to. I’m not taking anything away from them, they are phenomenal players. We need to look out for the membership.
“Just someone with an open mind. I think Rory had an open mind. We as rank-and-file members know our place in the sport, we understand, but we are here supporting events, supporting charities, doing pro-ams, doing the things why the Tour has succeeded and the reason why we have 40-some events and not just 22. We have a lot of talented players that basically want to play in the U.S. We want to be here. We have a lot of great events and I hope they continue.
“I think people should have served on the PAC first before they are appointed to the board so they understand the nuances. I’ve been really impressed with some of the PAC members this year that were willing to think outside the box. Adam Scott comes to mind. [As PAC chairman, Scott is in line to succeed Hoffman as a player director next year.] Very engaging with everybody. That’s one off the top of my head. He’s not top 20 right now but he was forever. He gets it. He’s great with sponsors, host organizations and the membership. I hope they put it to a vote.”