PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club



Money

How powerful are PGA Tour players relative to athletes in other leagues? Very.

No other major professional league has a board dominated by active players. Could that be a weakness?

1170000093

Shaquille O'Neal is the only athlete on the board of Papa John's Pizza.

Prince Williams

It’s no shock that powerful, Type-A athletes like Tiger Woods want more control over the tour on which they play. That’s been coming in the form of more player representation on the PGA Tour Board—which gives commissioner Jay Monahan his marching orders on the organization’s strategy.

But fellow player Lucas Glover enunciated one of the potentially messier bits about players like Woods, Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth now holding a controlling bloc of six player votes on the 11-person board: “Businessmen run business. They don’t tell us how to hit 7-irons, and we shouldn’t be telling them how to run a business,” he said on his Lucas Glover podcast Tuesday. “We’re about to launch a huge, huge enterprise and a for-profit company that the players are going to own a part of, and we don’t have the smartest possible people there to help guide us in the right direction. That’s scary.”

That’s presumably less a knock on Woods and company's academic or business credentials and more a nod to a basic economic reality: Every other major professional sports league has businesspeople running the business with athletes in mostly advisory roles.

Powerhouse leagues like the NFL, NBA and Premier League soccer are run collectively by franchise owners, while auto racing giant Formula One is administered by a board of financial heavyweights like Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim—who make up umbrella organization FIA’s ruling senate. Even individual competitor leagues like the ATP (men’s tennis) and WTA (women’s tennis) have boards with equal representation among players and tournament organizers.

In other words, PGA Tour players have unprecedented power to shape the future of their league. That’s heady stuff for a group with undeniable hand-eye coordination but more narrow financial acumen, especially when you consider the tour’s rough parallels in the world of business. With $2.1 billion in revenue—the NFL's revenue is $18 billion—and around 5,000 full-time employees, the PGA Tour is about the same size as international pizza chain Papa John’s or Boston Beer Company (which brews the popular Samuel Adams line). The boards of both of those companies have a majority of members from outside the business mixed with a smattering of important insiders. Boston Beer’s board includes founder Jim Koch, CEO Michael Spillane and a collection of various experts in packaged foods, consumer goods and technology. Papa John’s board includes bankers, accountants, gaming executives and retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal—one of the chain’s most prominent franchisees.

Among the tour’s player board members, Woods sits at the head of his own enormous sports conglomerate, with interests in course design, clothing and charitable work. Spieth is a well-known ambassador for brands like Under Armour and AT&T. Patrick Cantlay has had sponsor relationships with banking and private equity firms Goldman Sachs and Apollo Global Management.

Does that make them ready to sit at the table with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which has nearly $1 trillion in assets and stakes in everything from Premier League teams to Uber, Meta and Boeing?

Call Glover skeptical. “I’m at the point in my career now and my future and my family’s future hinges on this, these decisions that are about to be made,” he said. “The way they’re going to reach these decisions now is backwards.”

PGA Tour
Board makeup:
11 members
Player board representation:
Six players

NFL
Board makeup:
32 team owners
Player board representation:
None

Premier League
Board makeup: 20 club owners
Player board representation: None

Formula One
Board makeup: 16-member FIA Senate
Player board representation: None

ATP
Board makeup: 9 members
Player board representation: One former player (Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi), four current players

WTA
Board makeup: 9 members
Player board representation: Three players