For some time now, and as far back as 2014, there has been talk of the possibility of creating a ‘World Tour’ – a global Tour that would seek to marry events on leading US-based PGA Tour and the PGA European Tour in the first instance and probably events on other members of the International Federation of PGA Tours – the Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and the Southern Africa based Sunshine Tour. Such a move would mimic the November 2019 merger of the Ladies PGA and the European Ladies European Tour (LET)
Commenting on the LPGA-LET merger, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said that the initiative was designed to “push women’s professional golf to new heights in Europe and around the world”. This merger in the ladies game follows concerns over financial viability of the LET whose schedule is down to 20 official events across 13 countries.
The LET board chair Marta Figueras-Dotti said this partnership “will create opportunities for our members to pursue their passion and their careers as professional athletes”. Before the merger, the LPGA offered about Euros65 million (Sh7.21 billion) in prize money per season whilst the LET offered Euros14 million (Sh1.55 billion).
Can the men professional tours follow suit? This past week, the World Golf Group (WGG), based in the UK, although it has been described by GolfChannel as an “ethereal entity” alluding to its mysterious nature, announced that it would soon launch the “Premier Golf League” sometime between 2022 and 2023.
According to the WGG, their schedule would include 18 events, running from January to September and offer $10 million prize purse per week. Further, their events would have a limited 48-man field playing 54-holes with no cut.
And whilst the WGG have indicated a desire to work with existing tours, golf reporter Randal Mell, GolfChannel, has described their plans as a “hostile takeover”. Mell goes on to describe the WGG as “either a dire threat to the PGA Tour or a preposterous pipe dream.
The WGG is troublingly mysterious and until somebody steps out from behind the curtain and identifies himself as the face of the Premier Golf League, there is no credibility in what is being proposed”.
In a communique sent to media houses, WGG announced that they had the support of “an existing shareholder base with assets of more than $20 billion (Sh2 trillion)”. The WGG promises players a sensible schedule that includes four months off per year and a shorter 54-hole format.
The WGG have promised to “work with, rather than challenge existing tours for the betterment of golf”. GolfChannel’s Mell describes this last statement by WGG as insincere, calling it “wolf in sheep’s clothing” going on to say that the WGG would reduce the PGA Tour and the European Tour to “developmental feeder systems”. According to Rory McIlroy, WGG had been speaking to players for about six years. “They approached me at the end of 2014 and they have exploited a couple of holes in the system the way golf at the highest level is nowadays and how it is sort of transitioned from a competition tour to entertainment”. Phil Mickelson said he was curious; “I don’t know enough to talk about it, I am listening to it, I think it is intriguing but I just don’t know enough about it to comment publicly”.
Keith Pelly, the European Tour’s CEO said, “We are not in the habit of talking about the business of other tours, whether they are true or fictional”. According to Golf Digest, the PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, sent an email to players saying that, “the PGA Tour would take whatever steps necessary to try to keep the competitor (WGG) from launching”.
Monahan went on to say that the WGG was allegedly receiving funding from Saudi Arabia. “Our members will have to decide whether they want to continue to be members of the PGA Tour to play on a new series”. This week, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson who are both playing in Saudi Arabia told Golf Digest that they had been approached about the new league.
SportBusiness.Com reported that WGG has partnered with New York merchant bank Raine Group and Forbes.Com quoted WGG saying, “if you want the world to watch, you have to showcase your best product, week-in week-out”. The Bleacher Report are reporting that the WGG are making a “fervent bid to lure top players away from the PGA and European Tour”.
Will the WGG and their Premier Golf League become the top golf league? Only time will tell.