By Brian Wacker
Image by Ryan Young/PGA Tour
When news of a potential new tour aiming to lure the game’s biggest stars emerged last week, the PGA Tour did not initially comment. Its commissioner Jay Monahan, however, did send an email to players on Monday expressing the organization’s thoughts, Golf Digest has confirmed.
The gist of Monahan’s message: The PGA Tour would take whatever steps necessary to try to keep the competitor from launching, including adding to its regulations if necessary.
Monahan said in the letter that while the PGA Tour has not been in touch with officials from Team Golf Concept—identified as the Premier Golf League—the league’s proposed 18-event season would be in conflict with the PGA Tour’s schedule.
“The schedule for the Team Golf Concept is designed to directly compete and conflict with the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup schedule, and to not conflict with [and would be in addition to] the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and the Open Championship,” Monahan said in the letter. The email warned that under current tour regulations a tour member can’t have a financial interest in another player, which is one of the central elements of Premier Golf League’s team ownership concept. Monahan also noted the strict enforcement of the tour’s policy on conflicting event releases, which the tour typically limits to three per player.
In a Q&A released to media by Premier Golf League officials last week, the new league outlined its plan to hold tournaments with 48-player fields and include $10 million purses, with the first season starting in 2022 or 2023. Where that money would come from has been something of a mystery, though in the PGA Tour’s email to players, Monahan did mention funding from “Saudi interests” and offers of “potentially large financial guarantees to the 12 player-owners of teams.” He also told players that the Team Golf Concept’s focus is on getting player commitments first because it has no sponsorship, media offerings or rights.
“If the Team Golf Concept or another iteration of this structure becomes a reality in 2022 or at any time before or after,” Monahan said in the letter, “our members will have to decide whether they want to continue to be a member of the PGA Tour or play on a new series.”
Most players Golf Digest spoke to on Tuesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open think it would be difficult for Team Golf Concept to get those commitments and that the league’s formation is a longshot at best. “It’ll never happen,” said one member of the tour’s player advisory council, citing the aforementioned reasons as well as skepticism surrounding its financial backing.
The threat of the new league, however, offers a potential opportunity for players to push for changes to the PGA Tour. Among the possible areas the PGA Tour might explore are holding fewer events with smaller fields, and offering fewer overall cards. Such measures could allow for increased purses and provide a larger cut of the pie for the game’s big names.
Others see such changes as problematic, however, as it would limit playing opportunities, which contradicts one of the PGA Tour’s key mandates.
Beyond Rory McIlroy, who discussed the pros and cons of the Premier Golf League after the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday, few marquee players have voiced opinions about the potential rival league. Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, both competing this week in Saudi Arabia, said on Tuesday that they have been approached about the new league but that they need to look more closely at the proposal.
And yet changes could be on the horizon. According to one source, Monahan had a conversation last week with McIlroy and Rickie Fowler about the potential new league, during which he expressed his concerns about the sustainability of the status quo for the PGA Tour in the long term.
So where do things go from here?
The next Player Advisory Council meeting will be at next month’s Genesis Invitational, so stay tuned.