Premier Golf League – The Change Everyone’s Talking About

by Maura Hutchinson

Over the past couple of months there has been loads of chatter about a new Premier Golf League, and whether or not the game’s most elite players can be wooed to join. Phil says he’s “intrigued,” Rory says he’s “out,” so what is it really all about? And should the PGA and European Tours be worried?

In January a British-based group, the World Golf Group announced its plans to launch the Premier Golf League in 2022. Little was known about the people or the money behind the proposed Tour, with some speculating links to Saudi Arabia. In a statement last month the group said, “If you had the chance to start again you wouldn’t create professional golf as it exists today. The league is that chance.”

The Format…

The grand-prix style 18-event tour will feature the top 48 golfers in the world plus a staggering $240 million USD prize fund.

“If you want the world to watch, you have to showcase your best product, week-in-week-out – golf doesn’t do that currently,” read the statement from WGG in January.

The PGL will focus on an eight-month season, with 10 tournaments being played in the U.S. and eight played worldwide (four in Asia, three in Europe and one in Australia). Tournaments will run from January to August and won’t conflict with any of the four majors. Event prize purses will be set at $10 million, with each winner claiming $2 million and the overall champion taking home a further $10 million at the end of the season.

A team-style competition will also run concurrently with the singles tour, as 12 four-man teams compete for a further prize fund of $40 million. The team champions will share $14 million.

That’s a lot of money! But is it enough to lure golf’s top players???

Last week world number one Rory McIlroy made his stance known ahead of the WGC-Mexico Open.

“The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it,” McIlroy told reporters. Adding, “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.”

Brooks Koepka also weighed in from this week’s Honda Classic, telling the press, “I am just going to play where the best players play.”

When asked about how money might affect his decision, the American was steadfast in his reply.

“I just want to be happy. Money is not going to make me happy. I just want to play against the best, and at the same time, I just want to play golf.”

Former world number one Justin Rose hasn’t ruled himself out just yet, but he chose his words very carefully when speaking on the topic at the Genesis Invitational earlier this month.

“It’s increasingly becoming talked about in the locker room,” said Rose. “I think a few players are keen but you need a critical mass.” Adding, “I don’t see half the players going and half staying. It would have to be an all or nothing situation. But how do you get to that point and is that point even the right one? Would it be a better offering for fans, players, for the game itself?”

Rose also touched upon the impact it would have on other Tours, mainly the PGA and European Tours.

“Right now I play on the European Tour at the end of the year, and I come back the following year to play the PGA Tour and I'm always playing catch-up on the guys who stayed in America. So it would suit a lot of the international players but then you’ve got the loyalty question to the two established tours who have been so good to so many of us.”

South African Ernie Els, was around when Greg Norman tried to propose a similar World Tour in the 1990s. Els can see similarities in the proposals but thinks the PGL might just have the edge this time around.

“I do think it has a chance. If the players support it, then it’s a done deal. If you have the top players in the world supporting an adventure like this it will go because that’s where television will go and the fans will follow. So it’s really up to the existing top world players,” said Els.

Charley Hoffman agrees with McIlroy’s stance stating, “As an athlete, any guaranteed money is very intriguing. But I’ve grown up playing this game that there is nothing given to you, and you earn every penny of it. And I think that a lot of golf fans really enjoy watching that.”

The Face of the PGL

Earlier this week the CEO of the PGL was revealed. Meet Andrew Gardiner, a London-cased director at Barclays Capital whose 100-page manifesto, written a decade ago, has now become the basis for this new world tour.

Gardiner has been a busy man this week, talking to multiple media outlets to ensure his message gets out and to finally give the PGL the face and voice it’s been lacking.

“I figured now was probably time. I’m aware of enough people saying we have to speak and I wanted to make sure people had the ability to know where we’re coming from,” Gardiner said in an interview with Golf Digest.

The CEO also took aim at McIlroy’s “I’m out” comment by stating, “This isn’t about an individual. I’m not entirely sure what ‘I’m out’ meant. But all I would say is that this is a conversation and I’ve barely spoken to Rory over the last six years. I haven’t had the opportunity to have a discussion about the things that matter to him. I have with others.”

Gardiner also sat down with Rick Shiels. You can watch part of their conversation below to learn more about his vision for the future of golf.

While the ideas behind the new league seem plausible and positive, there are still many questions that need to be answered before it can truly take off. So will Gardiner and his financial backers have the answers needed to persuade modern golf’s top players? Only time will tell. Watch this space.