Matt Cooper, Golf writer @MattCooperGolf
Ahead of this week’s Saudi International it emerged that the Premier Golf League had reinvigorated its desire to transform the professional golfing landscape–and on Wednesday at Royal Greens G&CC the mystery backers began to reveal themselves.
Martin Dempster of The Scotsman and Euan MacLean in the Daily Mail broke a story that Phil Mickelson had played the pro-am with leading figures in the on-going drama.
“I had the chance to spend time with, and play with, the gentlemen in charge of trying to start a new Premier League,” Mickelson said. “It was fascinating to talk with them and ask some questions and see what their plans are. Where they started, how they started, why and just got their background, which wa
“I haven’t had the chance to put it all together and think about what I want to say about it publicly, but I do think it was an informative day for me to have the chance to spend time with them. I asked a lot of questions today and there are some very interesting ideas and it seems very well put together.”
The history of the PGL has been murky. Rory McIlroy revealed he was first approached about the idea in 2014. It has also been couched in previous guises as the Tour de Force and World Golf Series, whilst a 2020 start date was once mooted.
But the most recent plans, somewhat revealed in a series of anonymous press releases from “The Comms Team”, suggest a new 2022 or 2023 start date with $10 million prize fund in 18 tournaments that feature 48 of the world’s best players competing individually and also in teams of four.
A Q&A, which referred to “we” whilst never revealing any identities, invoked a desire to be something of a saviour for the sport.
“We care passionately about the game and believe that, to thrive, it has to evolve,” it read. “If you had the chance to start again you wouldn’t create professional golf as it exists today. The League is that chance.”
A later answer suggested that the League cares less for the wider touring golf brethren.
“At the moment, the best–the true global stars–subsidise the rest,” it read. “The League will rebalance the economics. The best player needs to compete, but not against 150 other guys every week–47 will suffice.”
It then appealed to the example of history: “This is also an opportunity for some players to make history. Just like those who broke away from the PGA of America–to form the PGA Tour–in the late Sixties. They faced resistance and the restructuring wasn’t straightforward, but it strengthened the sport–and, 50 years on, it’s this generation’s turn–the same principles apply.”
It added: “In cricket, Kerry Packer broke the mould by establishing World Series Cricket. He took on the game’s administrators and revitalised the sport.”
However, two pages earlier it had insisted, “we aren’t taking on the establishment–we intend to work with it”.
Following the pro-am duties it became clear that the Saudi Golf Federation is involved in the project, alongside sports consultant and partner in The Raine Group Colin Neville, and London financier Andrew Gardiner, a director at Barclays Capital.
Mickelson’s future role is an intriguing conundrum.
He sits outside the world’s top 80, hasn’t made a top 20 anywhere in the world since last April and hits 50 in June.
Given the insistence that only the very best are invited his chances of being involved (in a playing capacity, at least) might be considered fraught at best.
As things stand, the heads of the world’s current leading tours have pulled up the draw bridge and issued similar thoughts from between the battlements.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley told the Press Association: “I think they’ve been trying to move forward for eight years, but I can’t comment on other tours, and certainly one that is not real.”
Whilst PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan released a statement that read: “We don’t comment on the business of other tours, real or hypothetical.”
Matt Cooper, Golf writer
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