Former World No.1: “The DP World Tour is a feeder tour to the PGA Tour and that is all”

Masters champion Ian Woosnam weighs in on golf’s current state of play, his concerns for the integrity of world rankings, the future of the DP World Tour, and why golf balls are flying too straight!

It’s been a hell of a year in golf. The seismic tremors that continue to fracture the elite game are frustrating and disappointing in one sense, yet utterly captivating in another.

The sport is sat on a precipice of uncertainty as the merger merry-go-round whirls on, with PGA Tour viewership taking the hit, one flagship event at a time.

Frustratingly, quality on the fairways is as thrilling as ever, but the infrequency of head-to-head battles between the best in the business is a net loss for the sport.

For those less familiar with golf’s Saudi-fuelled soft-power mission, Netflix’s latest Full Swing docuseries is a good place to get up to speed.

One person who won’t be watching however is 1991’s Masters Champion, Ian Woosnam.

“I have no interest whatsoever. Maybe I’ll make my own”, jokes the Welshman, from the 32 degrees of Barbadian comfort he now calls home.

Ian Woosnam won the Masters in 1991

‘Woosie’ is in good spirits as he prepares for the upcoming hop across to Augusta to dine on the Basque-inspired menu curated by Legion XIII’s Jon Rahm, the sixth LIV defector to take his place at the most coveted table in golf.

And after a turbulent 12 months, it couldn’t be better set to induce tasty tittle-tattle between champions old and new, putting the world to rights on golf’s ensuing power struggle, who will win 2024’s green jacket, and more importantly…the quality of the tapas.

Woosie informs me that he’s leaning towards the fish for mains, but it’s the wine that really interests him!

But seeing as we, or Netflix for that matter, won’t be privy to the Rioja-charged conversations of the Masters Club, it was great to get Woosie’s candid two cents worth, and he cuts straight to the chase by singling out the root of all evil.

“Look at the way golf’s going now, it drives me crazy how much money they’re playing for, moaning and groaning.”

Jon Rahm came second in a list of the 100 highest-paid athletes of 2023 following his big-money move to LIV Golf

Ironically, Woosie was the first golfer to win £1 million in prize money in a single year, an amount now regularly scooped up by fourth-place finishers on the LIV breakaway tour.

Woosie won eight tournaments to achieve that landmark windfall.

I ask if he feels the vast sums of money invested at the elite end are trickling down to grassroots, knowing how passionately he feels about making golf accessible to all.

“You can see what’s happening with councils, they’re all going bankrupt and it’s hard to sort of get the funding to keep these places going, but these are the places we need to be able to give everybody a chance to play, he says.

“I think the most important thing is the opportunity for everybody to play some sort of golf, it doesn’t matter how much money you got. For me it’s always been to find the next Open champion, it doesn’t matter what neck of the woods he’s from.”

Ian Woosnam's Open hopes were ended by a ruling on number of clubs in 2001

With Woosie-time at a premium, presumably with golf to play and pina coladas to drink, we move on to the fractured two-tour state of play.

I asked if PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s latest carrot dangler before the media at Sawgrass filled him with optimism for a swift resolution to the cracks that appear to get wider by the week.

Woosie was more concerned about the forgotten tour falling through them, however.

“I don’t know where the DP World Tour stands in all this. I just hope we don’t get thrown aside. There’s nothing being said about it. We lose our best ten players every single year they go off to America. Our ranking points go lower and lower, he resigns.

“What are we? We are a feeder tour to the PGA Tour and that’s all it is.”

It’s a damming assessment, but one that’s hard to disagree with. Matthieu Pavon is a case in point, securing his 2024 PGA Tour card on the back of a 15th-place finish in the Race to Dubai points list.

The Frenchman didn’t hang around in making an impression either, winning the Farmers Insurance Open in January by a stroke over his fellow European tour graduate Nicolai Hojgaard.

Matthieu Pavon claimed his maiden victory on the PGA Tour in just his third start as a PGA Tour member at the Farmers Insurance Open

Meanwhile, in Ras Al Khaimah, twin brother Rasmus Hojgaard who was edged out of PGA Tour membership by the narrowest of margins, was naturally claiming a second-place finish too, but this time on the Woosie-dubbed ‘feeder tour’.

Aside from the approximate $500,000 differential in their respective runner-up paychecks, Rasmus received just a third of the Official World Golf Ranking points his brother did.

DPWT flagship events aside, the chasm is widening, and the recent shock departure of CEO Keith Pelley, seen as a key mediator in the merger deadlock, will have done little to alleviate Woosie’s fears for the future of Europe’s premier circuit.

Keith Pelley succeeded George O'Grady as Chief Executive of the European Tour Group in 2015.

Another hot topic right now is the integrity of golf’s world rankings system, one that Woosnam spent 50 weeks perched on top of.

“You’re not becoming the best player in the world anymore. You’re becoming the best player on the PGA Tour, or best player on the LIV Tour, I just don’t know where it’s going”, says Woosie.

Even Greg Norman has given up the pursuit of OGWR points which tells you everything you need to know about their perceived value in golf’s fractured marketplace.

Few would dispute the authenticity of Scottie Scheffler’s No.1 positioning, but that’s perhaps where the consensus ends. Take Joaquin Niemann for example. The Chilean leads Jon Rahm by a healthy margin of 40 points in LIV’s individual player standings, yet sits at World No.84.

Joaquin Niemann has won two of the first three events of the LIV Golf 2024 season

Aware that our conversation isn’t exactly flowing with positivity, I ask what would be top of his agenda if he were in charge of golf for a day.

“I’d change the equipment, he says almost before I finish the question.

“The ball goes too far, too straight. The ball needs to spin more. If you mishit it, it should go off-line. The way the technology has developed means you can attack the ball as fast as you can without that much risk.”

Watching back the 72nd hole of Woosnam’s Master’s triumph is a stark reminder of just how far golf equipment has come in the last few decades. You can clearly see the screws holding the clubhead together I point out.

“I know! You used to practice and practice to try and hit the ball straight. Now when I play, the ball goes too straight.

“Club golfers should play with whatever they want to enhance the enjoyment of the game, but when you turn professional, you should use a different set of golf clubs and balls. If I had the game for one day, that’s what I would do.”

Ian Woosnam teeing off on the Legends Tour

On that career-defining day, Woosnam had driven left-left into the practice ground, tied on 11-under par with Tom Watson, who was right-right in the trees.

Winning the 1991 Masters came down to who could make par, and it’s this type of jeopardy that’s most exciting to Woosie.

“The trouble is, the TV and public want to watch birdie, birdie, birdie, but as a professional golfer, I don’t want to watch golf courses set up to do that all the time. It just becomes a putting competition.”

Plans to roll the golf ball back have already been announced to curb the hitting distances of Bryson & Co by changing the way golf balls are manufactured and tested. 

This has to be a step in the right direction to ensure future champions in the game remain as well-rounded as possible I suggest.

“Absolutely. How often do you see them hitting 4-irons into the green? A 4-iron today has to be 250 yards now, it’s crazy. It used to be 195 yards for us, you’ll have to make golf courses 8,500 yards long at this rate.

“It’s more water, more land, more cost to the environment. Just change the bleeding equipment! There are too many people making money out of it, that’s the problem.”

Rory McIlroy is one of the biggest hitters in golf, but his distances could be impacted by the new rollback proposals.

And on that note, I thought it best we wrap up and let Woosie get back to the pool. How’s life treating you in Barbados by the way?

“Sunshine, blue skies, nice breeze 29 to 32°. It’s a bit cooler up at Apes Hill though,” he says, speaking of the multi-award-winning golfing utopia that he is now an ambassador for.

Sitting 1,000 feet above sea level, overlooking the Scotland District, Apes Hill with its unique and diverse ecosystem, spectacular setting and Ron Kirby crafted Championship Course is something to behold – it’s a bucket list golfing get-away.

It’s no wonder Woosie is so excited about bringing the Legends Tour over to Apes Hill in May.

“It’s been 15 years or so since the seniors have played in the Caribbean. I actually played my first seniors when it was at Royal Westmorland and that was 16 years ago, so yeah, it’s been a long time coming and I’m very excited.”

Ticket information for the Barbados Legends hosted by Ian Woosnam from May 3-5 can be found here.

View of the Scotland District in Barbados

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About the author

Ross Tugwood is a Golf Equipment Writer for Today's Golfer.

Ross Tugwood

Senior Digital Writer

Ross Tugwood is a golf equipment writer for, specializing in data, analytics, science, and innovation.

Ross is passionate about optimizing sports performance and has a decade of experience working with professional athletes and coaches for British Athletics, the UK Sports Institute, and Team GB.

He has post-graduate degrees in Performance Analysis and Sports Journalism, enabling him to critically analyze and review the latest golf equipment and technology to help you make better-informed buying decisions.

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