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Gary McCord sounds off on 'chaos' in golf, future of the pro game and 'insane' money at LIV

December 09, 2023
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Stan Badz

Gary McCord has never been one to bite his tongue. That’s what got him banned from Masters broadcasts on CBS, and he was never short of an opinion over his 30-plus years on the network before being unceremoniously let go in 2019.

McCord, 71, plays a lot of golf these days around his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and there are plenty of PGA Tour players on the course bending his ear of late over the many challenges and controversies facing golf’s biggest circuit—from LIV, to the future of golf on TV, to the status of commissioner Jay Monahan.

McCord has thoughts on all of it, of course, and he said out loud what many players and fans are thinking when appearing on the Subpar podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. Everybody is baffled by what the future might hold, and the episode was taped before Jon Rahm left for LIV and the governing bodies announced a golf ball distance rollback.

“I’m at a point in my life where I read something, and I think everything is wrong, it’s all disinformation,” McCord said. “And the tour is the epitome of that right now. I’ve never heard so many rumors back and forth—it’s chaos.

“Until we get some rudders in the water, and these boats are going toward a certain direction and a unified direction, it’s going to be chaotic. And I don’t know if any of these boats have got rudders in them right now. Your guess is as good as mine.”

The PGA Tour and Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia continue to negotiate on a potential partnership, with a previously agreed upon deadline of Dec. 31 to finalize a deal. “Something has to be done by that date, which there’s no chance of getting anything done,” McCord said. “In the end, we don’t even have a commissioner; we don’t have anybody to lead us where we’re going.”

Monahan is the commissioner, of course, but confidence in his ability to lead has come into question after the framework talks with PIF were done without the players’ knowledge or input.

“To have a leader, you have to believe in the leader, correct?” McCord said. “We’ve got a lot of guys we know on the tour … I’m pretty sure most of them don’t believe in our leader.”

McCord ’s prediction for how this will all eventually shake out is that there will be a pyramid of tours. At the very top will be about 75 players who will play in about 20 events a year, including majors, and have the biggest purses to play for. He contends there could be a relegation system whereby the lowest 25 are demoted and top 25 from the next division will rise. All other tours will work as feeders to the top, and though McCord didn’t describe it this way, it very much sounds like Major League Baseball and its various levels in the minors.

McCord also believes the team element that has been so derided in regard to LIV—but also has been lauded for the Tiger Woods-Rory McIlroy TGL simulator league—will have a place in the future because it creates a natural revenue stream from interested investors who might not otherwise get involved with the PGA Tour.

Knost is not a fan of the team concept, but McCord countered, “How do you produce something that doesn’t really involve a superstar, one guy? We’re a third-page sport. Golf is never on the first page unless it’s Tiger Woods. But that’s a bad business plan. You’re not going to get a Tiger Woods but for every 20, 25 years. How can you build a business plan?”

On the broadcast side, McCord said he can’t foresee the networks re-upping on a deal that reportedly pays the tour approximately $75 million per year and expires after the 2030 season. He also sees a changing landscape in which few of those who broadcast tournaments will be on-site to save costs.

“All golf shows are going to have their broadcast team going to a studio somewhere in the United States,” he said. “Every week it’s going to be there, and you put two people on the ground, someone to do interviews; they will not know I’m in a studio in Dallas, Texas, with the two other guys talking. Put a backdrop of the 18th hole there, they will never know.”

As for his own broadcast career, McCord was not happy with how his time ended at CBS, but he also didn’t have the desire to travel around the globe—even if it meant turning down what figured to be a highly lucrative offer from Greg Norman and LIV.

“The money, believe me, was insane,” McCord said. “Greg never told me what I’d be, but I had to ask [fellow broadcaster David] Feherty, ‘Let me ask what you are making?’ And I went, ‘What did you say?!’ I never told anybody. To this day I never told anybody. But that was interesting.”