AUSTIN, Texas — With all the discussion and animosity that’s surrounded the PGA Tour-LIV Golf battle over the last 18 months, Austin resident and 1996 PGA Champion Mark Brooks wants to make sure he’s clear about one thing: he’s not against either of the current golf leagues. But he insists he is squarely in the corner of a group that hasn’t been collectively represented — at least properly, in his eyes — through golf’s civil war.
“I’m pro-player,” Brooks said this week. “I’ve always been in the corner of the players. There have been so many words thrown around. To use some classic terms, there have been a lot of turf wars, just people trying to protect themselves and their own turf. But I’m not sure the players, overall, have been heard from.”
Brooks offers an interesting perspective on the current squabble. His 803 starts are the most by any player in PGA Tour history, so he’s well-versed in Tour life and the organization’s management style. But while he did win seven times on Tour, including the major victory at Louisville’s Valhalla Golf Club, he also often hovered outside the top 50, meaning he’d be omitted from the current list of designated events.
What Brooks sees in the current landscape is a shift from the Tour’s authoritarian style to a few top players holding all the cards. None of this is surprising, he said. But it could have been avoided.
“Look, the Tour has always been pretty heavy-handed in a lot of ways. They kept the schedule really full from January through November for the last 45 or 50 years, even knowing they’d lose to the NFL and college football each fall, just to make sure another entity didn’t come in and form a seasonal tour,” he said. “They didn’t want anyone else swooping in.”
That is why Brooks was part of a movement to pull players together back in the 1990s. The Tour Players Association, of which Brooks was the treasurer, wasn’t a union, per se, but was hoping to bring players together to collectively bargain. It ultimately disbanded, but the idea was to get numerous voices in the room.
And now, with the Tour using an us-or-them approach with LIV Golf, Brooks thinks the majority of players have lost their say, with a few of the world’s top producers holding all the power.
Unlike other sports, which all have labor unions, golfers…
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