Rory McIlroy said he believes it's his duty as a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board to present opportunities which benefit the entire membership.
Scott Taetsch/USA Today
While the PGA Tour has spent considerable time in recent weeks pushing back against a potential rival league fronted by Hall of Famer Greg Norman, the Premier Golf League – which originally presented an alternative format and huge money offers going back eight years – has quietly been working behind the scenes to garner support.
And it has gained some traction.
The reason? The 54-hole events with an individual and team component of 48 players and guaranteed money each week would come under the umbrella of PGA Tour Inc., the non-profit organization that operates the PGA Tour, along with several others, including the Korn Ferry Tour.
In a letter sent to the PGA Tour Policy Board in February and since shared with numerous players, and obtained by SI.com/Morning Read, the Premier Golf League (PGL), which operates under the banner of the World Golf Group based in London, outlines a plan that would generate significant equity value for all voting PGA Tour members, as well as those on the DP World Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour.
“This reaffirms our desire to share, equitably, the value to be generated by the Premier Golf League and to collaborate with the PGA Tour Inc. in a manner that is both consistent with its principal mission and in the best interests of its members,’’ wrote Roger Maddock, chairman of World Golf Group Ltd.
As outlined in the letter, as a new joint venture corporation, Premier Golf League Inc. would issue shares equal to 50 percent to PGA Tour players, 7.5 percent to the Korn Ferry players, 2.5 percent to DP World Tour players, 5 percent to the Tour’s commercial partners, 2.5 percent to PGL’s directors (which could include PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan), 7.5 percent to a charitable foundation (to benefit the amateur game) and 25 percent to the World Golf Group.
World Golf Group states it believes the PGL will generate $10 billion of equity value by 2030, which would equate to $20 million per PGA Tour voting member and $3 million per Korn Ferry member.
In addition, the proposal includes a cash advance on future equity value of $460 million. In simple terms, each of 200 voting members of the PGA Tour would receive $2 million upon the launch of the PGL, with 200 Korn Ferry members each getting $300,000.
Andy Gardiner, the CEO of the Premier Golf League, who was recently at the Players Championship, declined to comment. But in a November interview in which he disclosed the PGL was attempting to work with – and not against – the PGA Tour, he outlined how the concept would enhance all players, not just those who play as part of the PGL.
“It’s not destructive,’’ Gardiner said. “It’s just a division created under them. We call it co-sanctioning. And the PGA Tour has shown there is value in alternative fields.’’
"If someone comes along and says I think I can create this amount of revenue and distribute it amongst every player, you have to listen to that, right?" — Rory McIlroy
In December, Rory McIlroy, who recently became a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board after being part of the Player Advisory Council, said in an interview with the "No Laying Up" Podcast that he believed it was his duty to present the PGL plan to the membership.
“In my role as PAC chairman and now on the Policy Board, I have to think of those guys that are down at the bottom, right?’’ McIlroy said. “So then, going on to PGL and you have Andy Gardiner on here (on a previous podcast), saying, well I think I can create $5 billion worth of equity for the layers and distribute that among the 210 (members), so I’m sort of adding that up in my mind and that’s like $20 million each. I’m like again, I’m not doing a good job for the players if I don’t bring that to the attention of the Tour and be like … just sit down and listen to this guy, do something.
“Yes, OK, I get the business model that the PGA Tour is currently under, Andy said 'hamstrung,' in terms of … this is just sort of what they can do and they’re doing their best with what they can, and I agree that they’re doing a wonderful job within the structure they’re in because that was what was created before Jay (Monahan) took charge. You know it is what it is. But if someone comes along and says I think I can create this amount of revenue and distribute it amongst every player, you have to listen to that, right? Because again, that’s my responsibility to all the players who voted me into this position.’’
And yet it would be quite a departure from the current way the PGA Tour operates.
All along, the PGL – elements of which would appear to have been adopted by LIV Golf Investments – had proposed a league that would have 18 events, with a majority in North America.
Under the proposal that would see the PGL as part of the PGA Tour, those tournaments would take the place of existing events on the PGA Tour and could be played at current venues and run by the Tour staff and partners.
They could even be rebranded as co-PGA/PGL events. Purses would be $20 million, with $4 million paid out to the winner and $150,000 for last place. There would also be a team aspect – the winning team would split $1 million each week. And there would be a season-ending team playoff championship for a winner-takes-all $20 million prize fund.
The funding would come from a variety of sources. Gardiner said last year it has funds to cover the PGL’s full working capital requirements “multiple times over.’’ There is no Saudi money involved or any other sovereign wealth funds. Included are several U.S. institutional private equity and high-net worth U.S. individuals.
But what about the players who are not part of the PGL, which would have 48 players comprised of 12 four-mean teams with the potential for a 13th team each week picked by fans?
Those not part of the PGL events would compete in regular PGA Tour events in other weeks, a schedule that would, based on the current calendar, mean approximately 30 events, with the FedEx Cup structure in place. Those who compete in the 18 PGL events would not be prohibited from playing tournaments in other weeks.
Norman and his yet-to-be-named league that is being backed by the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia, has garnered most of the headlines over the past several months. Norman was named CEO of LIV Golf Investments, which has made a $300 million commitment to the Asian Tour over the next 10 years, with plans for an alternative league that is similar in structure to what the PGL has proposed.
But Norman’s league would be separate, and already there has been considerable consternation as players such as Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson were said to be in line to join the league. Most PGA Tour players backed off in the wake of critical comments of the Tour from Mickelson, who is currently taking a leave and has not competed since the Saudi International tournament in early February. Whether he will even play in the Masters is unclear.
What remains to be seen is if McIlroy, the PGA Tour Policy Board and Monahan will take a meeting with the World Golf Group to discuss the PGL proposals.
Bob Harig is a golf writer for Morning Read/SI.com and the author of the book “Tiger and Phil: Golf’s Most Fascinating Rivalry,’’ which was published in April 2022 and can be ordered here.