Plans revealed for $240m Premier Golf League

Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the 16th tee during the second round of the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open (by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The World Golf Group (WGG) organisation has unveiled plans for a new global tour encompassing an 18-event season offering a total prize purse of $240m (€217.7m).

The UK-based organisation’s Premier Golf League (PGL) vision is two years in the making and is scheduled to launch in January 2022. An eight-month season would commence in January, with 10 of the 18 tournaments being held in the United States.

WGG is seeking to sign up 48 players, with an individual champion to be decided after the 17th event and the finale to be staged as a team play-off. WGG said in a statement: “If you want the world to watch, you have to showcase your best product, week-in-week-out. Golf doesn’t do that currently.

“If you had the chance to start again you wouldn’t create professional golf as it exists today. The League is that chance. We believe we’ll succeed because the League is what fans, sponsors and broadcasters want — and the best players deserve. It will revitalise the sport for this and future generations.”

WGG said it has partnered with New York-headquartered merchant bank the Raine Group in the venture. Selected players would be handed part ownership of a team franchise, with WGG stating this would give them the chance to share in “significant equity value”.

The prospect of a world golf tour has been mooted for more than two decades, with WGG answering questions on how the PGL would differ from a proposal from Australian golf legend Greg Norman that ultimately failed to get off the ground in 1994. WGG said Norman’s plan “resulted in a threat to ban its participants and the creation of four World Golf Championships – all in the US. The world is now a different place, restraint of trade laws have changed, and the League is a very different proposition.”

WGG said it is keen to work with established golf tours rather than act as a breakaway league. However, both the PGA Tour and European Tour have dismissed such a proposal. The PGA Tour told the Reuters news agency: “We don’t comment on the business of other tours, real or hypothetical. We’re focused on our business.”

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley told UK news agency PA News: “We’re not in the habit of talking about the business of other tours, whether they are true or fictional.

Read this: “We can no longer rely on the Ryder Cup, and in this cycle we will not” | Keith Pelley, European Tour

“We focus on the business of our tour and the growth that we’re having right now so I don’t really have much more to say. I think they’ve been trying to move forward for eight years, but I can’t comment on other tours. I wouldn’t comment on the business of the PGA Tour or certainly one that is not real.”

Speaking at the Farmers Insurance Open on Saturday, world No.2 Rory McIlroy said talks with players had been going on for years. “Those guys have been talking to a few of us for six years,” the Northern Irishman added. “It’s a hard one…but I love the PGA Tour, I love the way golf is set up right now. I certainly wouldn’t want to lose what’s been built in the last 40 or 50 years, tournaments like this.

“I’m still quite a traditionalist, so to have that much of an upheaval in the game I don’t think is the right step forward. But I think it might be a catalyst for some changes on this tour that can help it grow and move forward and reward the top players the way they should be.”

The latest news comes after the PGA Tour announced it is raising the prize money of the 2020 Players Championship to $15m, with the winner of the March 12-15 event at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to receive $2.7m.

The move represents a total rise of $2.5m from last year’s event, which was won by McIlroy. It also means that, for the time being, the Players Championship will pay more than any of the major championships. Last year, the payouts for the men’s majors were: US Open ($12.5m), The Masters ($11.5m), PGA Championship ($11m) and Open ($10.75m).

“It feels like it keeps going up and up and up,” Jason Day, who won the event in 2016, told the Associated Press. “That’s great. I’m not complaining.”

“As a player, I feel good about it,” added Brandt Snedeker. “The Players does it to push the majors to keep up. The majors are huge money-makers, and we’re getting a small percentage of that.”