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  • Alistair Tait

No Brave New Golf World

One thing seems self-evident from the PGA Tour’s decision to ban players from joining a proposed new golf league: there won’t be a world tour any time soon.

A truly global golf circuit isn’t something the PGA Tour seemingly welcomes, except, of course, if Jay Monahan and the other suits in Ponte Vedra control it.

Say what you like about Phil Mickelson’s very public fall from grace, but he’s right about one thing: professional golf does need “real change.”

The PGA Tour’s global dominance needs to be challenged. It can’t be good for the game globally for all the power in men’s professional golf to reside with the PGA Tour. Good for golf in America yes, but not the rest of the planet.

Despite its underlying fault – money from a despotic regime with scant regard for human rights – the proposed new Golf Super League does have the power to challenge PGA Tour hegemony. Hence the reason Monahan is circling the wagons and threatening players with expulsion. I’m no lawyer, but how the PGA Tour could ever make that stick in any court is beyond me when it has granted releases to star players for decades so they could fill their wheelbarrows with appearance money on other tours.

No question that the PGA Tour is the biggest and the best, but its success has decimated the world’s other circuits. The European Tour, Sunshine Tour, Australasian, Asian and Japanese Tours have all been weakened by the PGA Tour’s success. All the best players from those circuits pledge allegiance to the PGA Tour.

You can’t blame the players for playing on the world’s biggest tour. They have little option if they want to maintain their places on the Official World Golf Ranking. Yes many still support their home tours in some shape, but often its mere lip service and formerly great tournaments around the world pay the cost. Many of the top Europeans cherry pick tournaments that pay them appearance money, or that fit in with their PGA Tour schedules. So the stars make money grabs in the Middle East and other far flung corners of the world while traditional tournaments that have been European Tour mainstays – the French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish Opens, for example – suffer as a result with weaker fields.

Mind you, some of Europe’s top stars are so pledged to life in America they often can’t be bothered to return to play in the season ending European finale, even if it is sponsored by title sponsor DP World. And there’s little the increasingly weakened European Tour can do other than beg them to turn up.

The PGA Tour can’t be blamed for hoovering up the best international stars. It’s a by product of a well-oiled, multi-million dollar enterprise. And, as the threatened player ban proves, the PGA Tour has no intention of ceding power to any potential rival.

Again, you can’t blame the PGA Tour for taking measures to protect its interests. However, you don’t have to have a PhD in economics to realise monopolisation of the global game isn’t good.

I’m also no economist, but isn’t competition supposed to be a good thing? Didn’t Rory McIlroy say exactly that recently?

As I’ve written previously, if the PGA Tour is so confident of its product, then why not say "bring it on" to the Saudi? Instead, one of the supposedly great bastions of free enterprise, laissez-faire economics appears to have turned into a trade union, dictating restrictive rules to what we thought were independent contractors.

Greg Norman is being cast as the bad guy along with Mickelson for his association with Saudi Arabia and his desire to set up a rival circuit to challenge the status quo. As with Mickelson, those who pledge allegiance to the PGA Tour would like to see nothing better than Norman fall flat on his face. That remains to be seen because there’s a good chance the Saudis are not going to run away from this fight. They’ve got so much money they can afford to hang around long term.

As much as Norman isn’t to everyone’s taste, he got it spot on in 1994 when he advocated a world tour. Indeed, his involvement with the Saudis more than likely stems from losing the world tour battle to the PGA Tour. Norman’s idea of a global circuit is still attractive to many outside the United States. It would arguably be better than the current status quo.

Aside from the Open Championship, practically every important tournament is held in America. Those World Golf Championships that came into existence as an answer to Norman’s world tour? It won’t take you long to count WGC tournaments held outside American shores, and we’re now down to just two. (At least one this year – the WGC HSBC Champions – in being played in China, albeit given the current world disorder, there’s no guarantee it will be held.) Hardly a raging success in taking the best players to the four corners of the globe on a regular basis, one of the central tenets of the World Golf Championships.

So don’t expect a brave new golf world any time soon. Not if Mr Monahan has anything to say about it.

#JustSaying: “The tropical elegance of (PGA Tour) stops like Doral is a mask of the Tour, which is, in fact, pure laissez-faire capitalism and Social Darwinism placed behind a thick glass partition of good manners.” Thomas Boswell


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