Two weeks after it was reported that the PGA Tour started a $40 million fund, called the Player Impact Program, to be dispersed to its most popular golfers, the reason the fund was created to begin with resurfaced on Tuesday. According to the Telegraph, a golf super league -- ostensibly called the Premier Golf League and started by a "Saudi team of negotiators" -- has made official offers to many top golfers, including the No. 1 player in the world, Dustin Johnson. The report was later confirmed by ESPN.
If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. This song and dance was done at the beginning of 2020 before new PGA Tour Player Advisory Council chairman, Rory McIlroy, put it to bed right before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything else down. Talk bounced around behind the scenes in golf media circles, and though most folks in this world took it seriously, nothing substantial was ever really presented. That is, until now.
The report says $30 million or more plus ownership in one of the teams -- the league could be made up of four-golfer teams that compete against each other -- has been laid out in front of players like Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and D.J. It's compelling and massive. But it's also theoretically without a mechanism for making money back right away, which makes it a bit like the Netflix model where you spend a ton of money now creating your own content and make it up on the back end when everything is in place.
But the PGA Tour (obviously) is doing everything it can to keep the status quo from being upended. Thus the $40 million annual fund to 10 of the biggest draws in their league via that Player Impact Program. Given that up to $1 billion could be in play over at the PGL (according to one report), that $40 million seems like a bit of a bargain now.
According to ESPN, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is at Quail Hollow Club, site of this week's Wells Fargo Championship, to rally the troops. He has plenty of ammunition. With the newly funded PIP and a relatively new strategic alliance with the European Tour (which was announced at the end of 2020), all professional golf roads lead through Ponte Vedra and the PGA Tour.
There are two big questions here that need an answer and that have always needed an answer. The first is whether the PGL can get anyone to bite. For golfers like Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson (who was reportedly offered $100 million!), the offer could be compelling. They're edging toward the end of their respective careers. But to make it work, you have to get more than two, three or four players.
The second big question is what this would mean for the major championships and the Ryder Cup. The PGA Tour does not control any of the four majors, nor the Ryder Cup. However, with its European Tour alliance (the European Tour controls half of the Ryder Cup), there will almost certainly be some "if you do this, then you cannot participate in that" rhetoric.
How will Augusta National (the Masters), the PGA of America (PGA Championship and Ryder Cup), the USGA (U.S. Open) and R&A (Open Championship) respond? Nobody knows that for now, but with the amount of money that is apparently on the table and an insistent group wanting to start this league up at the end of 2022, a lot seems to be at stake.
As professional soccer just showed, alluring offers like this can often prove to be empty -- even after intentions are announced -- but that doesn't mean this is over for pro golf. Not with how necessarily fractured the sport's power structure is with different organizations controlling all the biggest events and certainly not with the amount of money that is reportedly at stake.