PGA Under Fire

New Tour Group Muscling in on PGA

A new corporate alliance called British World Golf Group, based in the UK, has emerged as a challenger to the PGA and other major tours in Europe. Premiere Golf League wants to share the calendar, and I believe take it over. It wants to steal the top group of the PGA player roster, leaving the rest of the field behind. And, it’s got a ton of money to throw at the effort. A natural group of tournaments for the new venture can be fashioned out of those somewhat neglected by the PGA over the years, such as the Singapore and Australian Opens, the Dubai Desert Classic and the Dunhill.

This idea was pushed by Greg Norman some decades ago, but was suppressed by the powers that be, mostly by the American contingent of the PGA. Players agree that the idea has been discussed over the years, and several are listening to see what develops. It’s not a question of sentimental loyalty to an existing tour. There is a perception that zest for the PGA is fading, and a lot of money is at stake.

The Premiere League is proposing a slate of 18 tournaments, all 54 hole events. Ten of them are to be scheduled in the U.S., with the remaining to be held in Europe and Asia. The invitation is extended to the top 48 male players in the world, formed into a dozen teams of four each. The prize money is off the charts, with the general pot holding about 240 million. Individual winners take home about 2 million per tournament, plus team money in this “individual and team league” format. Both stroke and match play abound. On top of the whole thing are 10 million dollar bonuses.

This shangrila of golf’s best is intended for launch in January of 2022. The calendar goes from January to August, and it is hard to see how collisions with a year-round PGA schedule could possibly be avoided.  I don’t think it can. Perhaps the Premiere League is faking a hostile takeover on the basis of “tour with the most money wins.”

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And what is the difference between the two that is intended to regenerate interest in the game? The elite, and only the elite will play for the new enterprise. Regardless of having won their cards in Q school, those who inhabit the middle and nether regions of the PGA leaderboard will be dropped.  Only the Tigers, Phils, Rorys, Rickies and major-winning Koepkas are invited.

At present, the PGA insists as a contract item that any player seeking to perform off tour must sign a release. It has the power to do that as the big guy in town. Because of that, the biggest stars only participate in a limited number of international events. There are six “must be there” events, and unless the world changes drastically, a spot at the Masters is still the biggest invitation in town.

Taking the top winners of the present tour has a problem. It does occur that a Tiger will miss a cut on the same week that an unfamiliar name wins the tournament. Still, the Premiere League is counting on the odds that a star will remain a star most of the time. If successful, throwing out two thirds of the normal field would leave the PGA as an also-ran tour, not exactly what the reigning organization  had in mind.

The emergence of a challenger to the PGA format must mean that something in the status quo isn’t working as it should. With globalization, some parts of the world, and some tournaments aren’t being served or recognized. If the field is weighted down with players who are never going to win, Premiere’s idea of trimming them out is intended to revitalize the appreciation of greatness. I would warn that the field is volatile enough to produce new stars, and the new league might not be in a position to recognize one when he appears. They seem to have also discounted the sentimentality fans feel for certain golfers, and being too clinical could have repercussions.
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The most interesting thing about the whole affair how is how the PGA responds. If it cleans its own house, and finds the handle on rekindling the passion, a Premiere League might not find air to breathe. It will take a lot of money, but it might be worth spending.

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