Whether this latest power grab succeeds or fails, professional golf’s established world order is being seriously challenged…
Let’s park the question of whether you think the Premier Golf League will actually happen or not.
What’s more interesting is why it appeared in the first place and how the PGA Tour and European Tour will respond.
For now, it’s enough to say that the threat is real and is aimed squarely at a fundamental strategic weakness in the structure of the two tours.
The PGL project has been in planning for six years, backed by British-based World Golf Group.
It’s an 18-tournament schedule from January to August with 48 players in 54-hole tournaments, played Friday to Sunday, with the first two rounds played as a shotgun start and twosomes for the final round.
There is a team franchise element and the idea is to have 12 events in the United States and six others played internationally, with room for the major championships and Ryder Cup.
A starting date of January 2023 has been announced. Like me, you’ll have a view that sits somewhere between two extremes: The PGL is either an innovative and rational solution to the future of televised golf or a greedy opportunistic land grab that undermines the structure of the professional game.
I’m not here to persuade you either way. I’ve no skin in the game.
What we can agree on is that the status quo is under attack for a reason. There is a kernel of truth at the heart of the new project, which is that much of professional golf is boring.
The media rights boom of the last twenty years has bred complacency. Rather than make difficult decisions to evolve the product, the tours have grown by just adding more of the same – four-day, 72-hole strokeplay played by men – until there are no more weeks in the year.
The PGL is probing a strategic weakness on the part of the professional tours that leave them vulnerable to attack from outsiders with money and a plan.
This weakness relates to why the PGA Tour and the European Tour exist in the first place: They are both player membership organisations.
This means they exist to serve their members, NOT golf fans.
The decisions made by Jay Monahan and Keith Pelley must be justified to their members, all of them, not just the 5% whose presence makes a difference to gate receipts or TV interest.
The PGL is asking the same question as the Super League in European football. And it has learned from that fiasco.
The PR has been sharper. It’s clear these people know golf and they share the fan’s perspective. This was never true of the Super League, which was so obviously a plan hatched by billionaire team owners who arrogantly assumed supporters would go along for the ride.
All of which sounds like I think the PGL will win out and golf will have its breakaway moment. For what it’s worth, I don’t.
I think it will ultimately fail, but it will leave a mark. And the question it’s asking is not going away.
NOW READ: PGA Tour 2024 schedule
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Could the golf ball be rolled back for everyone?