This week we are going to hear a lot about the “mandatory player meeting” that will take place at the Farmers Insurance Open. The formal press is not invited into these meetings for good reason. But with the advent of smartphones and Twitter, most of the players are their own press agents these days.
We will hear a lot more about this meeting than we have meetings in the past – because it is one of the most important ones in the past five or six years.
For the last seven or eight months, the players have been hearing about the possibility of a new Q-School system that would funnel all players from Q-School to what is now known as the Nationwide Tour. Tuesday night they are supposed to hear the details, as there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the new system and there will be plenty of questions, discussion and probably some arguing. But that is later on in the evening.
The meetings that I attended throughout my career tended to start with the Commissioner and other senior staff presenting the players with a “state of the tour.” There will be several minutes spent on the success of the tour in these difficult economic times. Then there will be more conversation about the importance of sponsor relations. At this point some players will start to glaze over. Some might sneak their smartphone out of their pockets – and, if we are lucky, one or two of them will start tweeting.
Inevitably there will be players who have come to the meeting with an agenda. Whatever the topic that they want to discuss they are not going to be denied. Slow play will be discussed because it always is. One popular misconception is that new items on the agenda will be voted on by the players. The players do not have that type of influence over policy.
The Policy Board and the Players Advisory Council – along with administration – create policy. The player meetings that happen a few times every year are the only opportunity for a player to formally discuss policy with the membership and the powers that be in Ponte Vedra. Consequently the meetings are terribly important and virtually impossible to keep on track. In my career the only thing that I voted on was Players Advisory Council and year-end awards.
Usually decorum is maintained. Usually the meetings drag on a bit longer than necessary. As you would expect there are players like Joe Ogilvie who have very strong opinions about tour policy and how it is shaped. Other players have very little interest until that policy has a negative affect on them. And of course the meeting is mandatory but that doesn’t mean what it used to. The meeting is mandatory for every member in the field at Farmers. More than two dozen PGA Tour members, including, Tiger, Rory and Luke Donald are half way around the world playing in Abu Dhabi. They are excused but will have to attend the mandatory meeting at the Players in May.
The central issue of this meeting will likely never affect those players who had the option to go to Abu Dhabi. The issue of altering Q-School and the Nationwide Tour will have a tremendous impact on the careers of the vast majority of players in the room. Inevitably next year a large number of the players in the room will not make the PGA Tour playoffs for the Fed Ex Cup and will be sent to the Q-School series. However what that means and how that will be orchestrated remains to be seen. Hopefully the details of the plan will be unveiled to the players this week.
If you mention player meeting to the average tour player you will get eyes rolled and a sigh. Most of the time it seems the agenda and the inevitable hypotheticals concerning it become belabored and exhaustive. However, this meeting and the meetings the rest of the year will be as important as any since the inception of the PGA Tour playoffs. The playoffs were an easy sell – and easy to explain in the beginning. The players like it when you throw money at them. When they perceive, rightly or wrongly, that there job is going to be less secure next year than it is this year even those players who have never spoken in a player meeting will stand up and be heard.
The path to the PGA Tour is changing, that seems inevitable. This week will find out just how dramatic those changes will be.
Either way, there will be a lot of resistance.