MEXICO CITY – The Premier Golf League now has a verified Twitter account. And on Friday, a voice emerged for the new golf venture that would shower hundreds of millions of dollars – much of it guaranteed – on some of the game’s best players and be in direct competition with the PGA Tour and European Tour.
Andrew Gardiner, the league’s CEO, is the voice behind the league and he spoke for 90 minutes on the British-based golf show podcast hosted by Rick Shiels.
Gardiner, a London-based director at Barclays Capital, said the Premier Golf League would run from January through August and consist of 12 four-man teams, with Gardiner saying the owner or the leader of each team would pick two players to count for the team score prior the start of the first round.
Players would be required to play all 18 events, with each featuring 54 holes, shotgun starts, no cut and no dress code. Each of the first 17 events would have a $10 million purse, with the season-ending playoff tournament boasting a $40 million purse. An individual champion will also be crowned in the final event.
The goal is for the league to begin in 2022.
“We want as many people to watch this sport as possible because we believe that there is a connection between the number of people who will watch (golf) and the number of people who will actually play it,” Gardiner said. “This is in the best interest of the game.”
Throughout the podcast, Gardiner asserted the PGL wants to work with both the PGA Tour and European Tour to achieve collaboration. Right now, that seems to be a questionable pursuit, especially when the league wants to purge some of the biggest stars from both tours.
While Gardiner sounded confident about the new venture and alluded to his experience and relationships built up over the years, there remain a lot of questions and unknowns.
Could the league survive without Tiger?
Could the PGL be viable without Tiger Woods, the game’s biggest draw by miles? That’s hard to imagine, since stars drive the bus of interest.
Woods, who will be 46 in 2022, has said he’s looking into the new league. He’s also said he’s going to play fewer events per year in an effort to prolong his career. If he were to join the PGL, he’d be looking at 23 starts – 18 PGL events, four majors and the Genesis Invitational, which benefits his foundation. That is, if he’d still be allowed to host the Genesis Invitational if he were to leave the PGA Tour. When asked about Woods, Gardiner said, “I am going to treat all player matters as confidential.” But he also said the league only happens “if everybody wants it to happen, and that includes the best players in the world.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, in an email to players, said players wouldn’t be allowed to be a member of the PGA Tour if they join the PGL. The European Tour likely would take the same stance. So what happens to the Ryder Cup? The Presidents Cup? And would players in the proposed new league have a path to the Olympics?
Is the OWGR board involved?
Would the Official World Golf Ranking board – comprised of members from the major tours and golf organizations – vote to give the PGL ranking points? The world ranking is used to help determine fields for the major championships. If the PGL wouldn’t get world rankings points, players in the league would have a harder time getting into the four biggest events of the year.
“We appreciate what the majors are to the game,” Gardiner said. “The term I’ve used in the game is they are sacrosanct. They also determine who plays in their events. Will the players be able to play? That’s really down to those who operate the event. I’d find it odd if they decided to preclude the Premier Golf League.”
Who’s footing the bill?
Who is funding this new league? Gardiner said the PGL has partnered with Omnicom Sports, the largest media buyer in the U.S., and The Raine Group, a worldwide merchant bank. Gardiner also said backing would come from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. But no major sponsors have been revealed, and television and live streaming rights are unknown.
What happens if a player is unable to play?
What happens if one of the 48 players – or two or three – are hurt and can’t play one of the required events? Gardiner said replacements would be available, but what would the playing status of those players be?
Where will events be held?
Where would these tournaments be held? Gardiner said the worldwide tour would make 10 stops in the USA, four in Asia (including one in the Middle East), three in Europe and one in Australia. But which courses? Gardiner didn’t reveal any potential host sites.
How does this affect playing relationship with other tours?
Many title sponsors on the PGA Tour also subsidize individual players. Well, if a player leaves the PGA Tour, how would that affect his relationship with a title sponsor of a PGA Tour tournament? And would tournaments be allowed to give a sponsor’s exemption to a player who left the PGA Tour or European Tour?
Will there be a drug policy to adhere to?
Will there be a pension program established (the PGA Tour’s is a monster)?
These and other queries have led many players on fact-finding missions and unable to comment on the proposed league until further information is obtained. As of now, no player has formally committed to the new venture.
But this week, World No. 1 Rory McIlroy became the first high-profile player to reject the PGL.
“The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it,” McIlroy said. “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.
“For me, I’m out. My position is I’m against it until there may come a day that I can’t be against it. If everyone else goes, I might not have a choice. But at this point, I don’t like what they’re proposing.”
Gardiner said he wasn’t deterred by McIlroy’s stance.
“It brought to mind the Mark Twain quote, ‘Rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated,’ as if this were some fatal wound,” he told Golf Digest. On the podcast, he said, “I haven’t had the opportunity to have the discussion about the things that matter to (Rory). I have with others.”
But Bubba Watson isn’t going anywhere, either, saying he’s not leaving the PGA Tour for a variety of reasons, among them the organization’s charitable arm that helps raise so many in need. Xander Schauffele told The Golf Channel he’s going to chase history on the PGA Tour.
Phil Mickelson, who said earlier this year he was “intrigued” by the PGL and played with three key figures from the PGL in the pro-am at the Saudi Invitational, implied he might reveal his verdict on the PGL at The Players next month. Mickelson, who would be 51 in 2022, played with Gardiner in the pro-am at the Saudi International earlier this year.
Gardiner said he hopes a decision on the existence of the PGL will come soon.
“We have done everything we could and should have done to present the opportunity,” he said. “It started with the idea of what would we like to see. I must confess, I spent the first period of time waiting for somebody to tell me to move on from this, it is never going to work. In six years it has never happened once.”