World Golf Circuit Could Happen According to PGA Tour Boss
THE idea of a world golf tour has reared its head once again, with Jay Monahan, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, suggesting that it could happen, with the sport’s elite playing for eye-popping prize funds of up to £20m a throw.
Monahan has spoken about the possibility of the PGA and European Tour joining forces. “It would easier to set up a world golf tour if we did come together - it depends on how that would come together. It is something that everybody who is involved in the game should be aspiring to.” Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? And there are plenty of pros who don’t agree, but more of that later.
“If you look at what’s in the best interests of the fan and the best interests of the players, you could make a case for one global tour,” he said.
In the best interests of the fan? Really? Where would these world golf tour events be staged? If you look at the World Golf Championship series, one is held in the Far East, one is held in Mexico (and that only because it was taken away from Donald Trump’s Doral resort) while the others take place in America. It is a harsh reality that, by and large, the PGA Tour has always called the shots, and is likely to continue to do so. Thus, if such a tour ever did become a reality, you can bet your bottom dollar that it would be largely based in the United States, depriving golf fans in Europe, Africa, Australia, the Far East, the Middle East and South America of the opportunity to watch their heroes in action.
Fans already have few enough opportunities to watch the world’s best golfers close up. If there were fewer events - and a global tour, by its very nature and by the size of the purses Monahan wants to attract, would consist of far fewer tournaments - then fans would have even less chance to watch tournament golf close up and personal. So let’s not kid ourselves that it is in the best interests of fans. And it takes more than a huge first prize to make a great tournament.
And the same is true of the players. As things stand, the PGA Tour and the European Tour each support around 150 tournament professionals, many of whom make a pretty decent living from the game. That is 300 men who can tee it up pretty much every week, with the chance of changing their lives if they are fortunate enough to win on any given week. If there were a global tour, how many run-of-the-mill events would survive on the PGA and European Tours? Indeed, would those tours even survive?
It stands to reason that there is only so much prize money to go around, and we have surely just about reached saturation point. Indeed, the marketing departments for both tours have done incredibly well to keep so many tournaments going during what has been an incredibly turbulent time for the global economy.
Unsurprisingly, the world’s very best golfers have welcomed the news. But they seem to forget that we have all been here before. Back in the 1990s, Greg Norman, then at the peak of his powers, was the man leading the calls for a series of tournaments that brought together elite fields and regarded them with enormous amounts of money. It was the seed for what became known as the World Golf Championships.
The truth is that, back then, there may have been an appetite for such events from the golfers who knew they would be involved, but sponsors hardly queued up to back Norman’s idea. And there is little evidence to suggest that they will do so now.
Football has been talking about a European Super League for years - a competition that would involve the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich and Juventus. But it hasn’t happened. And it hasn’t done so for a whole variety of reasons. When would you stage it? How would you fit it around domestic league and cup competitions? What would happen to the Champions League, the most important club competition in Europe? And how would anybody decide which teams would take part?
And what about the fans? Would they seriously be expected to make midweek trips to Spain, France, Germany and Italy, on top of forking out for travel to and from domestic games? Like golf, football’s lifeblood is at its grassroots. You can milk supporters to a degree, but they will eventually say: “Enough is enough."
Eddie Pepperell, who won the Qatar Masters earlier this season and is just inside the top 100 in the world rankings, makes a decent living from the European Tour, and has ambitions to progress to the PGA Tour and, with it, the WGC series and all four of golf’s majors. He is a young golfer with plenty of promise, but he wouldn’t be invited to play in any global tour as things stand.
“Personally, I don’t love the idea,” he said. “Golf has done a great job over the past couple of decades of making sure 300 guys who play the game at the very top earn a good living. You can’t say that about any other individual sport.”
He is right - the top 80 players on the European Tour earned each earned more than £500,000, while $1m is no longer good enough for a player to retain his card in America.
“It is surely better to have more people earning more money than less people earning even more, and that is what is going happen if we have a world tour. The European Tour should try as hard as it can to exist on its own two feet.”
You can call me old-fashioned if you like, but Pepperell speaks for most of us who care about the future of tournament golf and who enjoy watching it.
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