Rory McIlroy Says “No” to New Tour Requirements
The Premiere Golf League has contacted multiple top PGA players around the world to see who wants to make ten million per tournament. On the face of it, that should be an easy question to answer, but as in all things that sound so attractive, there’s a catch, possibly a lot of them. The new tour has been promoted as a collaborative effort with the PGA, but has failed to appear like one from the beginning. It comes down to a question of money versus autonomy, and if that’s a contest, Rory McIlroy is the first and greatest winner.
McIlroy is now on record that he understands the Premiere Golf League to be a direct competitor to the PGA, not a collaborator. The PGL is not talking about loaning and borrowing players, or any other kind of compromise plan to guarantee the existence of two organizational entities. The first catch is that a Premiere player is required to appear in all 18 events. If you’re going to take such money for tournaments with no missed cuts or large fields, you have to follow the rules. That much money almost certainly means follow the rules today and whatever we decide tomorrow. I’ve had one or two of those jobs, where drawing a line at anything is not acceptable. With an instant rejection of that principle, or lack of it, McIlroy’s already high stock soared with me.
Players typically withdraw from tournaments for several reasons – to protect health, family events, pacing one’s self for a long year, etc. However, if you go for the ten million per week, that self-governing flexibility is gone. The Premiere cannot have its headliners dropping out on various weeks, because everyone in the field is a headliner. Arnold Palmer took a similar dim view of Greg Norman’s idea back in the 90s, and McIlroy believes that he is right to follow suit, with history as his guide.
What would happen without player choice on events to play? Would one be barred from the wedding or funeral of a close family member? And what about health crises that are unavoidable.? The doctor might tell someone they shouldn’t play for another month just to be safe, only to be countermanded by investors who couldn’t care less about that. Speaking of investors, much of the incredible funding figure for the Premiere League comes from Saudi Arabia. I am not confident that they are much interested in any other consideration but how well it pays. Golf is not historically a Saudi game, and I doubt they feel the same reverence toward the pastime as the Scots always have.
McIlroy’s resistance to the idea sent me into another question. They say they want only the top golfers in the world. They also state that they want the players who drive the game with the public. These two, however, are not always the same thing. Tiger Woods is the name who most convincingly drives the game, but despite having been the greatest golfer of at least his generation, that is no longer the case. Further, Woods, who is now in his mid-forties with two children, has stated he wants to play around 12 times per year. How is that going to work? McIlroy reminds us that in addition to playing 18 events with the Premiere, one needs to play 15 with the PGA, including majors. to remain in good standing there. Players on the verge of retirement are not going to keep up with that, any more than young ones.
The truth is, as we know it thus far, is that one would have to leave the fellowship of the PGA to join the new organization. And what if a player decides he doesn’t like the new arrangement, and wants to return? How does he get back in? In the question between money and what portion of the soul one is willing to sell, those who are already rich from golf may increasingly reject the Premiere, as McIlroy has done. The new tour has two years before launching to hone its pitch and propose a kinder, gentler plan. Meanwhile, a freedom-loving Rory McIlroy says “I’m out.”