The world’s professional golf Tours may be suspended right now due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak – but that doesn’t mean the concept of a world Tour has lost any traction. Here, Geoff Ogilvy discusses his “dream Tour”.
It comes up a lot. Or at least now and then. Talk of a “world Tour”, that is.
And the latest incarnation is the Premier Golf League that surfaced – at least publicly – only recently. All of which got me thinking. If we are going to have a world Tour, what should it look like?
Smaller fields are a good idea. But 48, as proposed by the PGL, might be a bit too small. I’m coming at this from the premise that it would be better if more of the world saw more of the world’s best players more often. So we need more than 48 participants. And it would further elevate the game if those players were competing over the best courses more often.
So I would give every player on my Tour a contract based on where they finished on my league table the year before. As they do in team sports. If you finish first, you get, say, 100X. If you were second you get 90X. And by doing that every year we would take prizemoney out of what would then be a “purer” competition. You wouldn’t see guys laying up on the 16th hole in the final round in order to “protect” their eighth place. Instead, they would be able to hit a more attacking shot. They’d get a “free swing” and start every season with no worries about losing their jobs. I like that idea because everyone is still going to be paid on merit.
As for the field sizes, I’d take into account pace of play, which is a big issue in the modern game. It doesn’t get talked about much, but the number of players out on the course has as much to do with it as anything else. If the field is 156-strong, it invariably takes over five hours to get round. But if you knock it down to 120 players, the time also goes down – to about four hours 20 minutes.
Okay, so I’m going for fields of 60 players, which is approximately the equivalent of a typical “post-cut” field these days.
Next up: how many events do we play? And what events? It would be nice to build my Tour around the national Opens, the truly historic tournaments. But there’s an obvious problem with that. We can’t have a world Tour with nothing but “Opens” in it. Because they wouldn’t be open. So that’s a non-starter. I like the idea that anyone who enters the US Open can get in. And at the Open Championship.
Anyway, I’m going to go with 20 “world” events, plus the four majors for a total of 24. Twenty-four times a year we are going to have (at least) the best 60 golfers on the planet teeing-up on the very best courses. That sort of schedule also provides room for everyone else to run great events. So “my” players would be free to go elsewhere to play during the gaps on the world circuit. Golf needs those gaps by the way. The current situation is too much. Golf, golf, golf, golf, golf from the first week in January to the second week in December is way too excessive.
Besides, over 24 tournaments the best players are going to find their way to the top of the tree. It’s no coincidence that somewhere in the low-20s is just about the number of events the best have always wanted to play. Plus, there is going to be a bit of travel involved in this brave new world of mine, so gaps are essential.
There is just one more benefit. On the PGA Tour right now – which is a fabulous circuit – the events are too often in the right places at the wrong times. The events on America’s west coast are a month too early. The “Florida Swing” is a month too early too. In the summer, events are played in the “storm season,” so weather delays are way too prevalent. But all those places have great times of the year to play golf. So my Tour will visit only when the weather is more than likely to be perfect.
Okay, time to map out a schedule. I’d go for six in America and three in the British Isles – Scotland, England and Ireland get one each. Then two on the European continent. The Middle East also gets two. Then there is the Far East. Japan gets an event. India has a great golf tradition and a huge potential market if we are interested in growing the game. As much as anything, I want to create a platform for the best players to showcase just how good they are to the widest audience possible.
Right, we’ve got five events left to allocate. Australia gets at least one, maybe two. Canada gets one. So does South Africa. And so does South America; there are great courses in Argentina. Never mind that that nation has produced a string of great players over the years.
Where those events are played might actually be the most important thing. America has so many of the best courses in the world, but they hardly ever use them for pro events. Certainly, the PGA Tour doesn’t have too many great venues on a par with, say, Sawgrass or Riviera or Pebble Beach. Everyone would get better if they played any of those every week. You need all the shots to go low around them.
“I’m going to go with 20 ‘world’ events, plus the four majors for a total of 24. Twenty-four times a year we are going to have (at least) the best 60 golfers on the planet teeing-up on the very best courses.” – Geoff Ogilvy
So the world Tour – my dream Tour – needs to go to the best places. Scotland (Dornoch), England (Sunningdale) and Ireland (County Down) take care of themselves – pick almost anywhere. But in the States we would visit places like the National Golf Links of America or Sandhills. Elsewhere, we’d be playing at Royal Calcutta, Royal Melbourne, Royal Adelaide, The Jockey Club in Buenos Aires, Morfontaine and Chantilly. None of which would be manipulated for distance. We’d be playing them as the members play them. Maybe just firm the greens up a little.
As a result of all of the above the level of golf would sky-rocket. As good as the players are now, they would get better on this world Tour. Every week they would be getting asked different questions on interesting courses. That’s why great courses are great – they produce great golf, which is more interesting to watch.
Cast your mind back to the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne last year. The golf played that week was so compelling. At the start of the week I know some players had a few doubts about their ability to play the course. But by the end, every player, every caddie, every fan and every television viewer was saying the same thing: “wow.” And the best player – Tiger Woods – stood out. We got to see why Tiger is so great, something he can’t really do so readily on many Tour courses. Imagine having that in prospect every week.
All of which sounds like a pretty great package to me. Then all we would have to do is run every event in the same way Augusta National runs the Masters. Everything there is so “clean,” the spirit the club brings to every aspect so great. Which is why, on my world Tour there won’t be 400 people walking inside the ropes.
Hang on though. How much money we are talking about has to be part of this multi-faceted equation. And it has to be big money. Because this is how these elite players are going to earn their livings. And it has to be big money because we will be asking them to travel more than they have become used to. That’s just a fact of life.
Think about it. If you are a Grade-A professional golfer living in Arizona, Texas or Florida, why would you go anywhere else? You are playing for $6-7m every week. Most events are within three hours of home. You can speak English at them all. You can use your own currency. You can eat food you like. The courses are predictable; you know what you are going to get every week. That’s a pretty sweet package. So why change for anything other than even more money?
One last thing. The team aspect of the PGL proposal is really interesting. With that, you can have golf tournaments inside golf tournaments, multiple winners every week. Most are actually a bit like that already. But only if you know where to look. Most fans see only one winner. But there are actually a few.
There’s the guy who keeps his card. There’s the guy who records his first top-10 in months. There’s the guy who shoots 64 on the final day and jumps from 50th to third. A team aspect can tap into all of that. With more than one thing to look out for, the whole package is only going to be more interesting.
Sound good? I think so.