The 73rd Hole: Jerry Kelly sees major changes in PGA Tour through an 'old-school' lens

SAS Championship - Round One
SAS Championship - Round One / Mike Mulholland/GettyImages

The PGA Tour and golf at large have been changing for some time. LIV Golf's inception certainly played a role in that, but so too have scientific advances in equipment and numerous other aspects of the game. As such, we've recently seen some changes come about for the PGA Tour and the sport as a whole.

Among the most notable, of course, was the $3 billion overall long-term investment and $1.5 billion immediate influx of money from the Strategic Sports Group (SSG) -- comprised of several prominent sports owners and investors -- into the PGA Tour. The deal will create the for-profit PGA Tour Enterprises that will give PGA Tour members equity stakes in the new endeavor. It remains vague how exactly this influx of money will work, but some assumptions have been higher purses Tour-wide, bonuses, a hopeful lessening of commercial load during broadcasts, and more.

Longtime PGA Tour member and current PGA Tour Champions member Jerry Kelly spoke with FanSided about the ongoing changes in golf, including regarding the forthcoming USGA and R&A rollback, to offer some insight from the top of the game as to what's happening and, just as crucially, what should happen.

Jerry Kelly shows hesitancy toward SSG investment in PGA Tour, finds hopeful use for newfound money, sends message to amateurs about USGA rollback

When asked about the potential effects, positive or negative, about SSG's investment in the PGA Tour and the beginning of PGA Tour Enterprises, Kelly expressed some trepidation about just funneling this money to the players.

"I'm old school, man. I'm really old school. And you know, this money shouldn't be the players'; this money should be the PGA Tour's, in giving us a place to play. So I don't know, we've always been independent contractors and things are about going to change. I don't I don't know if that's a good thing. It's going to be different. There's going to be hurdles to go over. But I mean, I think we've got the best product."

Kelly's insinuation about "the best product" was, of course, regarding the upstart LIV Golf league, which most recently poached Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and DP World Tour standout Adrian Meronk for their 2024 rosters. But Kelly doesn't believe that the PGA Tour needed to be as reactionary in looking for new outside investments like from SSG.

"I don't think the reactions had to be there. So they take a bunch of great players. What did we just talk about? There's 50-plus chomping at the bit right behind them who could be bigger names than we're seeing over there right now. So I don't I don't think we had to protect and overreact. I think, you know, our product and our history and our reverence is what really would have kept the PGA Tour alive."

So what does Kelly hope that the new investment and influx of cash goes toward? To the longtime veteran, it's about building up the game for the future and forthcoming generations.

"Let's hope they use this money to grow the game for more access for Tiger Woodses to come up. And I'm not talking about race or ethnicity; I'm talking about every young kid having access to a golf course and the ability to play the game...

"Not private golf courses, build more courses, access for kids, lots of kids courses, things like that, that would interest me and how they're spending that money...

"I think those types of things would go a long ways for the fans for the public to know that, yeah, this isn't about the money. It is. But hey, there's a lot of things we can do that will use that money for the amount of good that we really, truly need. And that that needs to be brought up. And that's going to be one of my jobs this year."

Beyond just the new investment and the for-profit enterprise that the PGA Tour is branching out to with it, though, another major change set to affect the game of golf, the professional game in particular, is the announced USGA and R&A rollback of the golf ball, which is set to officially take place not until 2028. Still, it's something that's been hotly debated on Tour, but also among amateurs.

Kelly, however, noted that it's not something that amateur golfers should remotely be worried about as it's meant to help the future of the game at the elite, top levels, not diminish amateurs' ability.

"I would tell most amateurs about the rollback that you're not going to notice any difference. It's not for you. It's for the great golfers and golf courses of our time to actually be playable. We show the Merion is playing, was playable, and is playable, and they're still back on the schedule. But if things were to continue at this trajectory, we'd have to build bigger golf courses, use more land, use more water. I mean, it's just not sustainable. It was a bad practice. And that's where golf was going. And this is why golf was going that way. Hey, they're 20-some years too late; should've happened in the year 2000. That's when the real study should have happened, they should use the correct swing speed of up today. I mean, it's exponential distance, it's not linear. So that's where things are different."

Kelly also noted that, as a PGA Tour Champions player at his age, he's also not likely not going to be swinging at speeds where he will even see any kind of dramatic effect on his game as a professional.

"I'm 57 right now. By the time that thing kicks in, I'm not going to feel it. So it's really not going to make any difference to 90% of the amateurs out there, I'd say so I just say don't worry about it. It's going to come and go and it's going to be business as usual."

So maybe don't stockpile the current Titleist Pro-V1s just yet. If you ask a real pro, you don't need them now, and won't need them when the rollback kicks in either.

Jerry Kelly spoke with FanSided as the player host for the 2024 Cologuard Classic by Exact Sciences, a PGA TOUR Champions tournament that will take place at La Paloma Country Club in Tucson.

The mission of the Cologuard Classic by Exact Sciences is to raise awareness of colon cancer, highlight available screening options, and recognize those who have been affected by the disease.

The Cologuard Classic by Exact Sciences helps kick off National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March. 

This year, over 230 survivors and loved ones from 3 countries and 28 states will attend the tournament where they will be recognized for their continued fight against the disease.

Tune into the 2024 Cologuard Classic by Exact Sciences on the Golf Channel from March 8–10 to help increase awareness of colon cancer and the vital importance of early detection through screening.

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