Just when many wondered whether the Premier Golf League was gone, the renamed Super Golf League and its Saudi Arabian financial support has jumped back into focus.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has been quick to respond.
The concept of a rival Tour for 48 of the top male players in the world competing in a Formula 1-style team season had fallen quiet in recent months, COVID-19 likely a factor in this. Perhaps too, people such as Rory McIlroy suggesting he wasn’t interested in joining.
But in the wake of the sudden unveil and almost immediate collapse of soccer’s European Super League, the golf equivalent has reemerged with reports in The Telegraph by golf correspondent James Corrigan of approaches to top players in the game, including Dustin Johnson.
Suggestions of Super Golf League representatives spending time in Florida, a hub of Tour player living, and eye-watering financial offers spread quickly overnight.
"To fend off the challenge, Monahan is making unprecedented moves of his own that change the very fabric of what it means to be a PGA Tour player, despite no confirmed player signings or guarantee the new league will even get off the ground."
Also moving quickly was Monahan, who apparently called a mandatory meeting of Tour players at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina, where it is reported by multiple publications that players were told if they were to sign with the upstart league, they would be suspended then potentially removed permanently from the world’s biggest circuit.
A strong reaction is no surprise from the organisation that saw off Greg Norman’s attempt at a World Tour many years ago when under the stewardship of Tim Finchem. And Monahan’s own bullish moves to get the Tour back in action last year during the coronavirus pandemic suggest he is not backward in coming forward.
But there is an issue at play that seems to represent a greater overall shift in the PGA Tour’s way of looking at its members.
The PGA Tour is run for the members, read players, to provide a schedule of tournaments, organise sponsors and prizemoney, the lucrative superannuation fund and much more. And the players, for all intents and purposes, have always been something of independent contractors, free to tee it up on other Tours around the world and source their own sponsorships, so long as they fell into line with the Tour’s rules.
The rumoured edict by Monahan of suspension or expulsion for taking others’ money to ply their trade makes sense of course to defend his business and circuit. But it flies in the face of the concept that professional golfers are their own businesses taking advantage of what opportunities are presented to them.
Even the recently announced Player Impact Program (PIP) that rewards players with the greatest fan engagement numbers judged by metrics that was clearly in response to the PGL (now SGL) is a significant move towards making the players more employees than contractors.
The PIP rewards players who bring eyeballs and attention to the Tour, placing a carrot in front of those willing to push “the brand”. Both their own and the Tour’s.
Golf at the top level is entering into an extremely interesting period, the challenging of the status quo of the PGA Tour being the be all and end all for all the top names through questionably sourced money almost unprecedented.
To fend off the challenge, Monahan is making unprecedented moves of his own that change the very fabric of what it means to be a PGA Tour player, despite no confirmed player signings or guarantee the new league will even get off the ground.
For mine, if the reports of Monahan’s threat are true, there is a significant risk that he is playing into the hands of his faceless rivals, with professional golfers not used to being told what to do in the way of a professional athlete playing a team sport.
And while we are on the new league, can we all agree, that perhaps ‘Super’ shouldn’t be part of any new league or Tour’s name given its poor track record. Just ask Rupert Murdoch how it travelled in Rugby League in this country.