Rory McIlroy’s views on a potential rival golf league that would threaten the PGA Tour and European Tour remain steadfast.
“I’m very much against it. I don’t see why anyone would be for it,” McIlroy said Wednesday ahead of the start of the Well Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. “You go back to what happened last week in Europe with the European Super League in football. 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.”
On Tuesday, The Telegraph reported the aspiring breakaway tour backed by Saudi Arabian money has made multi-million dollar offers ranging from $30-$50 million to several of the game’s biggest names and best players, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose.
“The money is there,” one agent told Golfweek on condition of anonymity. “I heard $1 billion. This is real.” Another agent added, “We’re in the listening stage again. Nothing is concrete.”
The proposed league – whether known as the Premier Golf League or Super Golf League – would feature 40-48 players playing 12-18 events around the world with lucrative purses. The league would have a lot of guaranteed money and include a team concept that would dole out ownership stakes for 10-12 players who would captain four-man teams.
“Maybe the source of the money’s changed or the people that are in charge have changed, but nothing has happened,” said McIlroy, who added that he was first approached about a competing league in 2014. “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.
As the threat of the proposed league mounted, the PGA Tour and European Tour circled the wagons. The two formed a strategic alliance, with the PGA Tour buying an estimated $90 million stake on the European Tour’s media operations.
This year, the PGA Tour also established a $40 million Player Impact Program that would reward 10 players not for their results inside the ropes but their work to promote the game outside the ropes.
That is on top of the roughly $390 million in purses, $60 million in FedEx Cup bonuses, $10 million for the Comcast Business Tour Top 10 bonus and $1 million for the AON Risk Reward bonus. All told, more than $500 million is in the pie this season.
In 2022, a nine-year, $700 million TV deal with NBC and CBS kicks off and will likely boost prize money and bonus money.
“We are aligned with the PGA Tour in opposing, in the strongest possible terms, any proposal for an alternative golf league,” Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, said in a statement. “Since the launch of our Strategic Alliance last November, our two organizations have been working together to make global golf less fractured and not create further division, with the interests of all players and fans at the forefront of our thinking.”
The PGA Tour did not release a statement, but commissioner Jay Monahan told players in a meeting at Quail Hollow on Tuesday that any player joining the league would face immediate suspension from the PGA Tour and possible expulsion, according to three players who attended the meeting. Presently, the PGA Tour requires players to get releases for conflicting events on other tours, which are limited to about 3-5 per year.
“You have to protect your product, right?” McIlroy said when asked about the immediate suspension and possible expulsion for defecting players. “It’s a competitive threat. And Jay took us through that last night. It’s in the bylaws that were written by the members.
“I just can’t see how it works. I just can’t see how it happens.”
If the league does happen, it’s unknown how the four major championships would handle matters. Or what would happen to the Ryder Cup.
While representatives for the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship didn’t directly mention the rival league, the three pronounced their support for the PGA Tour and European Tour.
“The PGA Tour and European Tour have each served the global game of golf with honor and distinction,” a statement from Augusta National said. “As it has for many decades, the Masters Tournament proudly supports both organizations in their pursuit to promote the game and world’s best players.”
Added U.S. Golf Association Mike Davis in a statement: “The USGA is very proud of its long-standing partnership with the PGA Tour. We greatly appreciate everything the Tour does to create a global platform for the game’s elite players, which introduces millions of fans to the game worldwide.”
Said the PGA of America: “We are in full support of the PGA Tour and the European Tour regarding the current ecosystem of the professional game,” said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh. “We strongly believe the current structure is both highly functional and in the best long term interest of the game that our members work so hard to grow every day.”
World No. 9 Webb Simpson said he won’t be going to the rival league.
“From the beginning (the league) seemed like something that seems pretty farfetched to actually happen,” he said. “To come in and shake up the way golf’s always been.
“I love the PGA Tour. It’s given me an incredible opportunity these last 12 years of my life. It’s hard for me to believe that the guys will really jump ship and go to a completely different way of golf than we’ve always had.
“Are the best players in the world really going to go to this tour if only eight of the top 25 in the world ranking are going to go? I think as a top player, I want to play against the best. 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. It’s not that I’m against it, it’s just I’m for the PGA Tour.”
As is world No. 2 Justin Thomas.
“I don’t feel the need to completely up and leave the PGA Tour because not only have they been great to me and everybody else, but we have it pretty good here and I do understand that and respect it,” he said. “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.”