Giddy after a 66, Peter Malnati goes on a rant (and shares more than he probably should)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Peter Malnati has been working overtime – on his game so that he can continue living his dream on the PGA Tour, on his role as a Tour player director because he cares about the future of professional golf and feels a responsibility to voice the concerns of the players outside the top 50 and most importantly, as a husband and father of two.

It doesn’t leave much time to talk to the press, but after making eight birdies, including sticking inside 2 feet at 17, and shooting 66 on Saturday during the third round of the 2024 Players Championship, Malnati went on a rant about the state of the professional golf and shared some thoughts on what unification might look like for the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

“I think something needs to happen for our sport,” he said. “I want to see a unified game where, when we have events like the Players Championship, that we have all the best players in the world and we’re proud to call ’em PGA Tour members. That’s what I want. I don’t know how we get there, but that’s what I want.”

Malnati also voiced what many players surely think but have been reluctant to say about this week’s Players.

“Whoever wins this golf tournament is going to have achieved the most incredible accomplishment, to win on this golf course, against this field, but it would be even better if we had Jon Rahm here. I’ll just say it. It would be even better. It would be an even better win,” he said. “So that’s something that we as a membership and as leaders of the membership, we need to figure that out, how do we make this happen for people to come back, and do it in a way that has some semblance of fairness, some semblance of just, how do we do it in a way that can at least somewhat pass the sniff test and get us to a place where, when we have championships like this, we have a group of the best players – like, we already have a group of the best players in the world – how do we get to a place where we have all of the best players in the world here.”

Players: Leaderboard, tee times, hole-by-hole

Malnati may have best articulated how LIV players would be permitted to return.

“That might be the thing that’s most top of mind for people. You would find opinions that ran the gamut, from guys that just have a line in the sand that say never, and guys – I mean, I think Rory’s been pretty outspoken that he wants to see the best players playing on the PGA Tour – so we’re going to have to net out somewhere in the middle.”

He reiterated what fellow Tour player director Webb Simpson previously told Golfweek – that LIV defectors will have to earn their status back. But then he offered some new insights publicly, suggesting defectors will never be eligible to be part of the equity ownership plan.

“I think there’s certain methods that we’ve been able to establish and put in place that will be really, really good for the PGA Tour and its membership, and our fans, too. This player equity plan, I don’t understand it, it’s a little bit above my head, but I certainly know enough to say that I really do support it. It’s going to make players owners of the Tour, and guys who violated our policies aren’t ever going to be eligible for that. That’s a big deal. Like, that’s a big, big deal,” Malnati said. “So I think, if we do find a pathway for guys to come back, there will certainly be safeguards in place to protect the members of the Tour who stayed here.”

Asked about a potential meeting with the leaders of PIF, which was first reported by Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch on Friday, Malnati said, “I think at this point I probably should have more details because, yeah, there may be a meeting, but I don’t even know, I don’t know where it is or how I’m getting there. I would like to know that information, and I would like to then tell the membership about it before I talk about it.”

Malnati pointed out that when the framework agreement between the Tour and PIF was announced on June 6, he resisted the idea.

“As I’ve learned more, I think I understand better and I’m very open minded to learning what involvement they want, what they want out of this and how they think they can help. I’m very open minded to that now,” he explained. “But, yeah, on the surface, I think there are players who have resistance to that relationship, for sure. So that’s why I do think it’s important that maybe our next step is to meet at some point.”

Malnati also suggested that when it comes to determining the deal, the players should only have so much of a say.

“At its core, like, players have no business running the PGA Tour, but this is a member, this is a members’ organization. Like, we should have input in the direction it goes. For something, some of these monumental changes that are bound to happen as we start up this for-profit company and take on investment, whether it’s from the private sector here or the whatever it is, like, players should have involvement and knowledge of that, and even input.

“Like, players do not need to be running this organization, but we certainly, yeah, we certainly should be a part of decisions like that. I think we’ve almost swung the pendulum too far in the other direction now after what happened on June 6th, where players and the whole organization were left in the dark, the pendulum has swung too far to where players are probably feeling like they have, you know, more input than we should. So I think, as it comes back to sort of neutral, I think we’re going to land in a really sweet spot where we have the leadership of the Tour doing what they should, which they are, and we have a lot of transparency where the players know what’s going on and are able to give their input.”

Before he finished his rant, Malnati found time to torch LIV’s team-golf concept.

“I need to understand better what Yasir is really trying to accomplish there,” he said, adding that he doesn’t see a place for team golf as part of the FedEx Cup schedule. “Are there any fans that care which team won the tournament? And, like, and I don’t know, I don’t know what fans of LIV want or care about, but are there any fans that care about who won it? I mean, that seems so contrived to me.

“I feel like we could also create some contrived team golf something, somewhere outside of the FedEx Cup season, but, like, what does he really want is a question that I want to understand better. Because I don’t think it’s some contrived, fake, add up random guys’ scores and call them a team. I don’t think that’s it. I think what he means is more stuff like the Ryder Cup, I would guess, but I have no clue because I haven’t talked to him.”

That day may come as soon as Monday.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek