Is the proposed Premier Golf League a legitimate threat to the PGA Tour?

The first significant golf tournament of the year, the Players Championship, at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, is just two weeks away but in just under two years, professional golf could undergo a dramatic makeover. A UK-based organization called the World Golf Group is planning to launch a new global tour in January 2022. The Premier Golf League (PGL) would feature an 18-event season and offer a total prize purse of (US) $240 Million. But players on the PGA Tour may not be given permission to participate in the new venture.

The proposed new golf league rewards an individual champion each week but there is also a team concept where players can share equity in a franchise.  However, there are several challenges posed by this new format of world golf.

“Obviously, it will take a ridiculous amount of money to convince players to leave the PGA Tour to be a part of this”, said Mark Zecchino, host and producer of Golf Talk Canada on TSN TV and radio. “PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was very straightforward on this saying players cannot participate in both, or any other league, for that matter.”

“There is a precedent to this”, Zecchino continued. “Back in 1991, Greg Norman proposed something similar and the PGA Tour shot it down but, in the same breath, created a four or five-event World Golf Championship, on an annual basis.  This (new proposal) is very different because it offers players an alternative. There still isn’t a real good face to this, but we do know money is coming out of Saudi Arabia and apparently the pockets are pretty deep.”

The new global golf tour proposes a 48-player field playing in 18 tournaments over an eight-month season, with up to ten of those events in the United States. The format would not interfere with the four majors of golf, which are not governed by the PGA Tour. But top PGA players like Rory McIlroy are hesitant to endorse it. Zecchino, however, offers a possible candidate for this new venture.

“This might be the final cash grab for a player like Phil Mickelson. He’s one of the biggest names in the game but we know he’s on the down side of his career. It’s been a year since his last victory on the PGA Tour and he has very little interest competing in the Champions Tour, even though he’s eligible. So does a guy like Mickelson, with his star power and legacy, lend his name to a start-up league? I could certainly see that.”

Canadian golfers are trending upwards on the PGA Tour, thanks in part to Nick Taylor’s recent victory at Pebble Beach. But Zecchino doubts any of the Canucks currently among the top players on the tour would entertain a move to the PGL.

“There are a few questions players like Corey Conners and Adam Hadwin would have to answer. Would they take the guaranteed money? Would they want to play further from home on a regular schedule when the PGA Tour is mostly a North American tour? I can’t see it.”

The PGA Tour recently announced a significant increase to the total prize money for the upcoming Players Championship, considered by many to be the unofficial fifth major. This development, and the recent speculation that new broadcast deals in two years time would bring in significant revenues, could be an indication that PGA officials may be looking to offset the attraction of an upstart golf league. According to Zecchino, that announcement was expected but the timing was interesting.

“I think that was in the works for some time.  The TPC wants to be recognized as golf’s greatest event. It’s the deepest field in the world of golf on the best stadium course with the biggest purse. That’s the packaging of this event. There’s been other times in the past when it has been the richest four-day event on tour. So I think this is a repositioning back to where they’ve been in the past but, yes, the timing of it was curious.”

It remains to be seen how disruptive this proposed new golf league will be on the PGA Tour but chances are some players will be intrigued by its potential and the allure of a considerable shared pool of money.

For more on this proposed new world golf venture, listen to the latest Sport$trategies podcast, available for download now at 1059TheRegion.com or on iTunes.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images 

 


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