Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy can scupper Premier Golf League
Updated: Feb 23, 2020
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy can guarantee the concept of a Premier Golf League remains just that.
If the people behind this pie in the sky tour can’t talk the world’s two biggest stars into playing, then they should pack it in right now.
It seems strange to think the Premier Golf League might not get off the ground for the very reason it was dreamt up in the first place: money.
How’s that for irony?
Friend and former colleague Geoff Shackleford (https://www.geoffshackelford.com/) has done a lot of work over the last week or so to uncover the latest hopes for a concept Greg Norman first floated 25 years ago, a world tour.
Essentially the Premier Golf League, an idea I first heard about six years ago in Qatar in an off the record conversation with a player manager, is based around a world tour, with the world’s top 48 players competing in 18, 54-hole events worth $10 million. Tournament winners receive $2 million. The player who tops the order of merit gets a $10 million bonus.
The concept also features a team competition worth $40 million, with the best four-man team splitting a $14 million pot.
It sounds great but probably won’t get off the ground because the figures are meaningless to top players. The Premier Golf League would probably have to double the prize funds to $20 million per event to have any chance of getting the name players to turn up. Even then they can’t guarantee stars will appear.
There’s more money in the game now than ever before. However, some sponsors might be wondering why they’re investing so much money when they can’t attract marquee names.
Woods has so much money his great, great grandkids probably won’t have to work. He turns down seven figure appearance fees on a regular basis. He reportedly snubbed a $3 million cheque to play in this week’s Saudi International.
McIlroy was also offered a seven-figure inducement to play in Saudi Arabia. He also refuses huge incentives on a regular basis. He can afford to. One former European Ryder Cup captain recently told me he’d heard Rory was on course to make $100 million last year.
When you’ve got 100s of millions in your bank account, why do you need to jump on a plane chasing money you’ll never spend?
Rory’s already sounded indifferent to the Premier Golf League. At last week’s Farmers Insurance Open he said:
“It’s definitely a different time than what it was before.
“I love the way golf is set up right now.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to lose what’s been built in the last 40 or 50 years.
“I’m still quite a traditionalist, so to have that much of an upheaval in the game I don’t think is the right step forward.”
Organisers of the Premier Golf League should look at the effect money has had on golf and think again. The European Tour has eight tournaments, the Rolex Series, worth more $7 million each. Yet some of these tournaments struggle to get all-star line ups, a fact that has been discussed at European Tour board level. The recent Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship not only had a $7 million purse, it also paid appearance fees. Ditto for last year’s Turkish Airlines Open.
Rory only played three of last year’s Rolex Series events. Justin Rose appeared in four.
Eight of the proposed 18 Premier League Golf events will be held outside the United States. That’s not going to appeal to top American players. Three of the WGC tournaments, the series launched as a sort of counter proposal to Norman’s world tour, are held in North America. There’s good reason for that: past experience proves top Americans don’t like to travel.
And why should U.S. players decamp to the Middle East or elsewhere eight times a season when there's so much money at home? The PGA Tour has seven regular events outside the majors, Players Championship, Tour Championship and WGCs worth over $9 million. Is another $1 million into a prize fund really going to make a difference?
As Rory hinted, the Premier Golf League is probably an idea that’s six years too late.