Rumours of a new world golf tour won’t go away

The concept of a world golf tour has resurfaced, this time in the form of a proposed Premier Golf League.

We thought we would wait until something concrete materialised regarding the rumours of a new world golf tour. But as yet nothing like that exists.

But something is going on with recent comments seeming to confirm the rumours from several tour pros and player agents.

Here is what we know. Kinda.

Reportedly an unknown, faceless ‘World Golf Group’ are trying to lure the world’s best golfers into a Premier League Golf tour slated to begin in 2022 or 2023.

Selected media received an email from the group with some details:

If you’re keen to read it all, Geoff Shackelford breaks it down piece-by-piece.

And Geoff Shackelford soon after revealed that the rumours appear to have legs based on comments by player agent Mark Steinberg:

The original concept presented by the group featured an 18-event schedule from January to September with 48-player fields vying for $10 million each week, highlighted by a season-ending team championship.

The World Golf Group’s current proposal has since been adjusted after feedback from players and agents now aiming for ten events. The group is retaining a Formula One-style team component, complete with managers and potential drama surrounding players who are signed, benched or released from franchises. Those franchises, offered to a group of megastar players who could retain ownership past their playing days, would be capable of generating an “equity value between $350 and 750 million” along with a 4% of annual net profit.

Things got a little murkier for Australian golf with AAP’s Evin Priest suggesting the group could target the Australian Open as part of the tour:

They say the Premier Golf League (PGL) would feature 48 of golf’s biggest stars playing 18 tournaments a year, each with a prize purse of $US10 million ($15m).

The PGL would be “an individual and team league” with 12 teams of four players vying for a world championship. Ten of the PGL events would be held in the United States but the Australian Open has been earmarked as one of eight overseas fixtures.

Sources have told AAP that the WGG recently held discussions with Australian Open organisers, given the British company wants to acquire some events rather than create 18 new tournaments.

Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt admitted they were aware of the world tour plans:

“We’re aware of what is being proposed with this new league and that the Australian Open has been included in those plans. However, it is too early in the process to make any further comment.”

Not surprisingly the PGA Tour isn’t happy with the idea with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan saying as much in a statement:

“The schedule for the Team Golf Concept is designed to directly compete and conflict with the PGA Tour’s FedExCup schedule, and to not conflict with [and would be in addition to] the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and The Open Championship,” Monahan’s statement read.

Several golfers have commented on the rumours.

Brooks Koepka has weighed in (as reported by Golf Australia Magazine and Reuters) giving perhaps the strongest indication he knows exactly what is going on:

“I think this might actually happen,” American Koepka told reporters. “This is all basically a month old for me when I realised that, okay, well, this could be a possibility. Things are, I guess, developing, even as we speak.

Phil Mickelson thinks the world tour proposal is intriguing but wants to know more, and Rory McIlroy says the group behind the concept has been chatting to a few players for many years now.

“Those guys have been talking to a few of us for six years,’’ McIlroy said after his third round at the Farmers Insurance Open Saturday. “They approached me at the end of 2014. It’s a hard one. I love the PGA Tour, but these guys have exploited a couple of holes in the system. The way that golf at the highest level is nowadays and how it’s sort of transitioned from a competition tour to entertainment, right? It’s on TV, it’s people coming out to watch. It’s definitely a different time than what it was before.

Ernie Els was playing when Greg Norman first proposed the idea of a world tour in the 1990s which was immediately shut down by the US PGA Tour and understands how difficult this will be to get off the ground. Els expressed caution in a piece by Martin Dempster at The Scotsman:

“There’s a lot of factors, but I think it’s very intriguing having heard the way they want to do it. But it’s a difficult one for the players because if you break away you’re probably going to be away for life.”

And Michael Bamberger and Evin Priest chatted to a few pros under anonymity about the world golf tour idea with many – not surprisingly – suggesting money was the big factor:

“It depends on the money,” said a fourth player, who also has multiple Tour wins. “There is such big earning potential on the PGA Tour. So, it would need to be a crapload of money to entice players to come across. I don’t know about everyone, but I know I’ve got a price.”

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