It has become a familiar (even predictable) cycle. The folks behind the Premier Golf League, a super league featuring teams of players among the 50 best in the world, float some information, everyone responds to that information, the PGA Tour denounces it and then Rory McIlroy gives his (well-considered) opinion, which nearly everyone agrees with and then we all move on.
After Tuesday's news that some of the top players in the world were offered unbelievable sums of money by the Saudi backers of the Premier Golf League, McIlroy -- who shot down the idea of it just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March -- once again spoke out against the idea of a golf super league. Last time around, McIlroy bemoaned the lack of flexibility provided by a proposed super league -- that you were going to be forced to play certain events instead of picking your spots. This time he discussed the legacy factor.
"They first contacted me back in 2014, so this is seven years down the line and nothing has really changed," McIlroy told reporters ahead of this week's Wells Fargo Championship. "Maybe the source of the money's changed or the people that are in charge have changed, but nothing has happened. No sponsorship deals, no media deals, no players have signed up, no manufacturers have signed up. There's been so many iterations at this point.
"You go back to what happened last week in Europe with the European Super League in (soccer). People can see it for what it is, which is a money grab, which is fine if that's what you're playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. Totally fine, then go and do that if that's what makes you happy. But I think the top players in the game, I'm just speaking my own personal beliefs, like I'm playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. That's why I'm playing this game.
"Golf has been very good to me, obviously, over the years by playing in Europe starting off, coming over to the PGA Tour and playing here. I honestly don't think there's a better structure in place in golf, and I don't think there will be. ... I think you all know my feelings on it, and I'm very much against it. I don't see why anyone would be for it."
McIlroy is the newly-elected Players Advisory Council chairman, so it would be pretty wild if he were to diverge from the PGA Tour's messaging, which came out loud and clear on Tuesday evening after commissioner Jay Monahan reportedly had a meeting with players. Still, McIlroy is one of the handful of most important voices in the room on this, and he's been consistently adamant.
According to multiple sources @PGATOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan told players Tuesday night at @WellsFargoGolf that any player joining the Saudi-backed golf league will face immediate suspension and possible expulsion from the PGA Tour. Monahan taking this threat seriously.— Todd Lewis (@ToddLewisGC) May 5, 2021
But McIlroy is not the only player who came out firing this week. Fellow top 20 players in the world, Webb Simpson and Justin Thomas, joined in praising the PGA Tour and discussing why they would not jump to a super league.
"I don't think throwing X amount of money at guys is as appealing now as it maybe once was because of how great the opportunities we have on the PGA Tour," said No. 9-ranked Simpson. "Whatever the number is, 350 million we're playing for this year, and what FedEx has done, Wyndham Rewards, now Comcast, there's so many opportunities for guys to make a great living here. If I'm a guy who's on my way to make history like a Dustin [Johnson] or a few other top guys, I want to go after records, not a dollar. So we'll see what happens, but that's kind of where I sit on it."
"I haven't heard anything personally, so again, I don't have much interest," said the No. 2-ranked Thomas. "I love it out here on the PGA Tour, and we're very fortunate to get to go to some unbelievable places and play for a lot of money and have an opportunity to grow our brands and grow the game of golf. I'm very content and very happy with everything how it's going here."
Forget for a moment all the nuances, all the details of a proposed league and remember that without a tipping point of the best players -- eight or 10 or 12 or whatever the number is-- none of this works. That's why the strong language of McIlroy, Thomas and Simpson matters. That's why the PGL is working so hard behind the scenes to turn the tide on the best individuals in the world -- thus far to no avail.