Key figures behind the breakaway Premier Golf League concept are pressing ahead with plans for a series of events on both sides of the Atlantic despite the newly-formed partnership between the European and PGA Tours.
The Raine Group, venture capitalists who came close to an agreement with the European Tour, believe the finest golfers in the world – as independent contractors – can still be coaxed to play in competitions not sanctioned by the sport’s traditional tournament organisers.
There remains concern among some at the upper levels of professional golf that, by coming closer, the PGA and European Tours are not boosting the market by allowing competition. Meanwhile, Raine are not going away.
The European and PGA Tours announced a “strategic alliance” in late November that will inevitably lead to co-sanctioned events. For the time being, the PGA Tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, will take a place on the European Tour board and the PGA Tour has taken a minority stake in European Tour Productions. Raine’s own talks with the European Tour, first revealed by the Guardian in June, resulted in an offer worth up to $200m (£150m) that was ultimately rejected at board level in favour of a PGA Tour partnership. Via Raine, the European Tour would have remained independent and had the option of equity in Premier Golf League at no cost to the tour.
The PGA Tour has been adamant the Premier Golf League, initially set out as a F1-type concept including a team element, must not impact on its membership. Monahan’s agreement of a new multi-year broadcasting deal before lockdown strengthened the PGA Tour’s hand. Players had earlier been warned they could not be PGA Tour and Premier Golf League members simultaneously. Whether the best in the world can feature in a highly lucrative series, independent of any existing tour, remains to be seen. As, indeed, does how easy it will be to find new competition windows in an already congested calendar.
The European Tour had worries about what the knock-on and negative effect of any deal with Raine, and not the PGA Tour, may have been. There would have been an anticipated PGA Tour reaction. Documentation seen by the Guardian understood to have been shown to the European Tour board cited, as examples, potential scheduling conflicts and increasing the number of minimum events that players must enter to retain PGA Tour status. The notion of PGA Tour qualifying events in Europe, the lobbying of major championships regarding eligibility criteria, pressure on broadcasters over coverage and impact on the Ryder Cup were all even mooted as possible outcomes. As things stand, the PGA Tour has no formal involvement in the Ryder Cup whatsoever.
Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson were the players most closely linked with the Premier Golf League. Rory McIlroy had denounced the project, which included funding from Saudi Arabia, in early 2020.
Meanwhile, the R&A has confirmed that Royal Liverpool and Royal Troon will host the Open in 2023 and 2024 respectively. The venues had both originally been scheduled to welcome the championship a year earlier, but the coronavirus pandemic – and the resulting cancellation of the 2020 tournament at Royal St George’s – prompted a reshuffle.
The famous Kent links will now play host in 2021, with St Andrews to stage the 150th Open a year later than planned in 2022. It was announced on Monday that Royal Liverpool and Royal Troon will take centre stage in the subsequent two years after agreeing to push their duties back 12 months.