Here’s a pretty simple question. With details slowly beginning to emerge about the Premier Golf League, will you watch?
Make no bones about it, this league has an uphill climb and there are a plethora of obstacles that stand in its way. Including but not limited to…
- It’s always hard being the “new kid on the block”. Golf is, generally speaking, closed-minded to new things and ideas.
- Not long ago PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan delivered an ultimatum. It essentially went like this. Play in the Premier Golf League and you lose membership on the PGA TOUR.
- The Premier Golf League really focuses on the term “premier” in defining who’s invited to play in this league.
- Make no mistake, geopolitics is going to play a part in this to a certain degree.
And the list could really go on, but for the sake of word count, I’ll refrain from continuing. So, I’ll just touch on these points. Before starting, I just want to look at the proposed format.
The league is set to launch in January 2022. The PGL will feature 48 players competing among 12 four-person teams. If this sounds familiar, it might. This is similar to how Formula 1 racing is done. There will be 18, 54-hole tournaments with purses of $10 million each and no cuts. The events will be played on four continents: 10 in the U.S., four in Asia (including one in the Middle East), three in Europe and one in Australia. An interesting format, that might work. The events would run from January to August and would not get in the way of Major championships.
I really hate bringing politics into any conversation, especially when it relates to sports. But it can’t be overlooked in this case. Like it or not, geopolitics will play a part in whether this league takes off or not. Let us look at the origins of where a lot of the financial backing for the PGL is coming from. Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has been a “powder keg” and a serious source of malcontent in the “Western Hemisphere”. From the way that Saudi Arabia handles human rights, the way that they treat women, to the case of the 2018 murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi there are many political reasons why many golf viewers wouldn’t support the Premier Golf League.
In 2019, there was a backlash when the European Tour teed it up to play the Saudi International. Many golf fans and observers felt that in light of the current events that were going on then, they should have canceled the stop. I for one thought about this briefly, also I was against the Turkish Airlines Open as well in light of the “genocide-like” attacks on the Kurdish people in late 2019 that were taking place at the time.
A few decades ago, there was another new golf tour that tried to emerge. As I recollect, it was called the “Pro Golf Tour”. There were a couple of wealthy backers that backed that venture. Their names were Bill Gates and Donald Trump. It never really got off of the ground. But just because you’re a new kid on the block doesn’t mean that nobody will be interested. This is partially where the Premier Golf League has a chance to get the leg up on the PGA TOUR. Enforce the little things. The pace of play, make the players accountable and bring some freshness to an otherwise stale sport to watch on television. Which gives me another thought. Television broadcasting rights. Who gets it? Would it be pay-per-view? Pay-per-view would be suicide. GOLFTV? That almost seems like the obvious choice.
Jay Monahan announced the ultimatum, play there (PGL) and you’re no longer a PGA TOUR member. In almost a way that a kidnapper holds someone for ransom. I applaud him for showing some semblance of a backbone, but maybe if he had shown some against his players the PGA TOUR wouldn’t be a mess. Here’s the thing though. At the end of the day, the players are independent contractors and they have the right to play when and where they want. There’s no union here. Another small point, what is the European Tour’s stance on the Premier Golf League? They’re pretty forward-thinking and I could envision some sort of collaboration there.
Guys that would bolt, as it stands right now would be able to play events like The Open, The Masters, The U.S. Open (unless their respective organizations/committee were to get involved in strong-arming the players as well) with the PGA Championship being the only one that’s sort of murky. While some players from the PGA TOUR are open to it, others are not. Rory McIlroy came out and to paraphrase said that he “wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of history”. I wonder what the context of “history” was. Conversely, you can’t help but feel that Phil Mickelson would be all over it. He played in the Saudi International instead of the WM Phoenix Open. That too was a sort of “black-eye”. What about Patrick Reed? Has he refuted the notion?
With Rory debunking playing in the PGL, who are the organizers trying to attract? Obviously the elite and the best of the best. We know that Tiger Woods has been approached. Ultimately, they need 48-players who need to commit to every event on the schedule to make this format work. Rory, in a way, sort of alluded to this when he said this earlier this week.
“The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it,”. “The one thing as a professional golfer in my position that I value is the fact that I have autonomy and freedom over everything that I do. If you go and play this other golf league, you’re not going to have that choice.”
Golf has never really been a sport where open-minds win. In fact, golf and golf fans can be quite closed-minded. There’s a massive feeling out process right now. So many details have yet to come to the forefront. As it stands right now. The Premier Golf League. Would you watch?
Until The Next Tee!!