Despite a rejection from the world’s No. 1-ranked player and without having a single player formally commit to the venture, backers of the proposed Premier Golf League are forging ahead with their idea to create a world tour that would stage limited-field tournaments with massive prize money.
Andy Gardiner, a London-based director at Barclays Capital, gave the first interview to a British-based podcast by Rick Shiels, in which he outlined how the new tour would work — including its team concept, a world championship and $10 million purses in events from January through August.
“This came from a blank piece of paper; it was a flight of fancy,” Gardiner said on the podcast of the idea that he and his partners have been working on for six years. “Around 2014, Tiger [Woods] was missing from the game for a period of time. And there had been talk about a world tour from the time back when Greg [Norman] made his attempt in ’94.
“I got to know some senior executives in the game. And over a period of 18 months, I got to know a lot about the game and its politics. As a fan, when you walk into the inner sanctum, you can sometimes think it was different. I sat down with these guys and said just casually, ‘You’ve got to do a world tour. Why haven’t you done it?’ And the answer was it won’t ever happen. …
“When it dawned on me that the game probably wasn’t going to move ahead in the way that fans wanted it to, all I did was take the position that if you had the opportunity to start again, what would you create? It became a minor obsession with me.”
And Gardiner said the group was not dissuaded by Rory McIlroy‘s comments earlier this week that he was “out” and not interested in the new tour because he “wants to be on the right side of history.”
“It’s a decision of a much larger context,” Gardiner said. “I haven’t had the opportunity to have the discussion about the things that matter to [Rory] … I have with others.”
Among the big catches for the new league would be Woods, who would be 46 years old when it hopes to launch in 2022. Woods did not close the door on the idea last week at the Genesis Invitational, saying his team was studying aspects of the plan. Asked about Woods, Gardiner said: “I am going to treat all player matters as confidential.”
But Gardiner did say that no agreements have been signed with any players.
As has been previously reported, the Premier Golf League would consist of 48 players competing in 18 tournaments that would be 54 holes, with no cut and $10 million purses. There would be shotgun starts the first two days to allow television to capture all players more easily.
There is a team component that would have 12 four-man teams, and Gardiner disclosed for the first time that the owner or leader of each team would pick two players each week to count for the team total prior to the start of the event.
Team scores would be kept, with the team champion through 17 tournaments getting a bye in a season-ending playoff event that would have a $40 million purse as well as an individual season champ crowned at that time.
The 18 tournaments would see 10 played in the United States, three in Europe, three in Asia, one in Australia and one in the Middle East. They would be spread out so as not to conflict with the major championships.
“We appreciate what the majors are to the game,” Gardiner said. “The term I’ve used in the game is they are sacrosanct. They also determine who plays in their events. Will the players be able to play? That’s really down to those who operate the event. I’d find it odd if they decided to preclude the Premier Golf League. The way the schedule is set up will put them in position to compete in the majors.”
The Premier Golf League is viewed as a major threat to the PGA Tour and the European Tour, which could see their top players competing in another circuit and rendering their events far less meaningful.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in an email to players several weeks ago that taking membership in the new tour would preclude membership on the PGA Tour. And given the tour’s by-laws which require releases to play in competing events, it is difficult to see how playing on both tours would be feasible.
But Gardiner insisted his group wants to work with both tours. “Our intention, strong desire, is to achieve collaboration with the PGA Tour and European Tour,” he said.
Among the biggest questions: How would all of this be funded? So far, no television rights deal has been disclosed, nor major sponsors. Gardiner said his group has partnered with the Omnicom Sport, the biggest media buyer in the United States.
And Gardiner disclosed that Saudi Arabian interests are involved in the form of the public investment fund of Saudi Arabia. The Raine Group, a global merchant bank, is another partner.
“We have done everything we could and should have done to present the opportunity,” Gardiner said. “It started with the idea of what would we like to see. I must confess, I spent the first period of time waiting for somebody to tell me to move on from this, it is never going to work. In six years it has never happened once.”