The Premier Golf League has resurfaced, bringing its big stash of cash along with it.
According to a story that first appeared in The Telegraph, the organization, which hopes to create a rival league to the PGA Tour, is looking to start play in 2022. Backed by money from interests in Saudi Arabia, it has reportedly been offering top players big bucks to make the switch.
Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson are among the golfers who have been targeted with deals that could be worth as much as $30 million per player, but it’s unclear how any of those deals might be structured.
The organization created a stir last year when it proposed an 18-event schedule featuring a team structure. It also floated multi-million dollar offers to top players to try and sway them. No golfers took the deal and the league went quiet until this week.
According to one agent, the new league’s organizers, which have reportedly set up an office in Florida, are once again reaching out to top golfers to make the switch. The plans appear to be similar with a global tour and a team format. Each tournament would feature between 40 and 48 golfers playing in teams, with an individual competition as well.
However, much as when the Premier Golf League made headlines a year ago, most players don’t seem ready to embrace the idea.
“I think you all know my feelings on it,” said Rory McIlroy at a press conference at the Wells Fargo Championship on Wednesday. “I'm very much against it. I don't see why anyone would be for it.”
McIlroy was opposed to the idea the first time around and has remained an outspoken critic since. Most other top players seem to feel the same way.
“I don't know where it's going to go because everybody feels differently and everybody's in different places in their career,” said Justin Thomas. “For me, I personally am about being No. 1 in the world and winning as many majors as I can and winning as many tournaments as I can and doing historical things on the PGA Tour. If I was to go [join the other league], then all those things go down the drain and I can't do that.”
At a player meeting on Tuesday at this week’s stop in Charlotte, N.C., PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan reportedly said any player who made the jump to the new league would be immediately suspended and face possible expulsion from the PGA Tour.
Many players also seem skeptical that the proposed new organization can even get off the ground.
“I think there's too many unknowns and too many things they would have to figure out for this thing to actually work,” stated Webb Simpson. “Are the best players in the world really going to go to this tour if only eight of the top 25 in the world ranking are going to go? I think as a top player, I want to play against the best.”
McIlroy said the group first contacted him back in 2014. The fact that nothing has materialized since then leaves him doubting it will ever get off the ground.
“They first contacted me back in 2014, so this is seven years down the line and nothing has really changed,” said the four-time major champion. “Maybe the source of the money's changed or the people that are in charge have changed, but nothing has happened. No sponsorship deals, no media deals, no players have signed up, no manufacturers have signed up. There's been so many iterations at this point.”
If the proposed circuit accomplished anything, it’s to put enough of a scare into the PGA Tour to make it react.
In addition to reminding players of the all-or-nothing clause in the tour’s bylaws, it has also built a strategic alliance with the European Tour, last year buying an interest in its television production arm and getting a seat on its board. Further co-operation is expected in the coming months.
"We are aligned with the PGA Tour in opposing, in the strongest possible terms, any proposal for an alternative golf league," Keith Pelley, head of the European Tour, said. "Since the launch of our strategic alliance last November, our two organizations have been working together to make global golf less fractured and not create further division, with the interests of all players and fans at the forefront of our thinking."
Earlier this year, the PGA Tour also announced a player-incentive program with $40 million to be split between 10 golfers who boost publicity and engagement. The top golfer in the Player Impact Program will take home $8 million.
What remains uncertain is access to major championships. All four are operated independently of the PGA Tour and whether those who compete on the Premier Golf League would be allowed to compete in them is undetermined.