Tom Watson wants to see golf stars ‘together again’

The honorary starters for the 2024 Masters want to see the world of men’s golf reunified.

Jack Nicklaus trusts that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund on the right track, but Tom Watson said he hopes the players look inward regarding the fracture state of the sport.

Watson, Nicklaus and Gary Player served as the ceremonial starters for the 88th edition of the Masters, each hitting a ball off the first tee at Augusta National on Thursday morning. They have combined to win 11 green jackets, with Nicklaus earning six on his own.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Watson was asked about the fact that the four major championships are presently the only times the best male golfers in the world convene to compete against one another, ever since the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League attracted several marquee names with giant guarantees.

“Well, we all know golf is fractured with the LIV tour and the PGA Tour doing the different things they are doing,” Watson said

He then relayed a story about standing up at the annual champions’ dinner early in the week to address the group, which would have included members of LIV Golf and longstanding opponents of the league alike.

“I’m looking around the room, and I’m seeing just a wonderful experience everybody is having,” Watson said. “They are jovial. They are having a great time. They are laughing. I said, ‘Ain’t it good to be together again?’

“And there was kind of an appall from the joviality, and it quieted down, and then Ray Floyd got up and it was time to leave. And in a sense, I hope that the players themselves took that to say, you know, we have to do something. We have to do something.”

Watson said he believes the players have control, claiming “I don’t think the PGA Tour or the LIV tour really have an answer right now.”

The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF struck a deal for a “framework agreement” 10 months ago, and a self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline to finalize the deal came and went.

Nicklaus, who won a record 18 major titles and has supported Monahan publicly in the past, said he does not “want to be privy” to how those negotiations are going.

“I talked to Jay not very long ago, and I said, ‘Jay,’ I said, ‘don’t tell me what’s going on because I don’t want to have to lie to the press and people that ask me questions,'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said, ‘We’re doing fine.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s all I want to know.’

“If Jay thinks we’re doing fine, we’ll get there, I think we’ll get there. And I certainly hope that happens, the sooner the better.”

Player weighed in on the possibility of players who defected to LIV Golf returning to the PGA Tour without some kind of compensation for those who turned LIV down.

“Anytime in any business whatsoever, not only in the golf business, there’s confrontation, it’s unhealthy,” Player said. “You’ve got to get together and come to a solution. If you cannot — it’s not good. The public don’t like it, and we as professionals don’t like it, either.

“But it’s a big problem because they paid all these guys to join the LIV Tour fortunes, I mean, beyond one’s comprehension … Now these guys come back and play, I really believe the players, that if they are loyal, should be compensated in some way or another; otherwise, there’s going to be dissension.”