Premier Golf League: Would proposed league be a success?
Last Updated: 11/02/20 7:18pm
David Livingstone looks ahead to a world-class field in action at the Genesis Invitational and gives his verdict on the possibility of a Premier Golf League...
Golf's A-listers take over from the Oscars in Los Angeles this week and the kid from Holywood rolls into Hollywood as World No 1. Rory McIlroy's back on top of the world but content to share top billing at Riviera Country Club with tournament host Tiger Woods.
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The big two headline a field that makes the renamed Genesis Invitational, a World Golf Championship in everything but name, sure to be one of the outstanding weeks of the year. It started with Tiger's Celebrity Cup, which set the tone for a star-studded tournament, although there's also another interesting sideshow.
With virtually every top player taking part, it's likely the mysterious figures trying to get the Premier Golf League off the ground will be lurking in the background with persuasive promises about the future.
It's strange, because you'd think this fabulous event in Pacific Palisades would be everything the PGL guys dream about, but, in fact, it's not, assuming what we're hearing about their brave new world is accurate.
For a start, it's in the wrong place. If this were a PGL tournament, it would probably be taking place in somewhere like South Korea and we'd all be watching, or not watching, in the middle of the night. Then, there are far too many players and prize fund of $9.3m and, of course, the players have to play four rounds instead of just three.
All this without even the chance to wear their nice team uniform identifying them as one of 'Tiger's Terrors' or 'Rory's Rockets' or 'Phil's Foxes'. Worst of all, anyone who doesn't play well could be sent home after two rounds without any cash.
No, the Genesis Invitational is nothing like the product the PGL wants to introduce as a replacement for what they see as a stagnant, stale format. And up to a point they may be right because, despite my hitherto mocking tone, I recognise the importance of innovation in sport.
Millions have been introduced to cricket through one-day matches and the Twenty20 format. Many more have become hooked on football thanks to the elitism of England's Premier League and Europe's Champions League. And we all know how the bells and whistles of Formula One have made motor racing one of the coolest sports on the planet.
In all of these, however, the purest parts of the sports have been respected and largely retained and, despite concerns about English football's cup competitions, the overall effect has been positive. However, with the best will in the world, I can't see a Premier Golf League creating long-term benefits for the game.
The idea of a globe-trotting, 18-tournament circus featuring 48 players in 12 teams of four, playing in three-round events is, to me, a fantasy league better suited to a computer screen than the real sporting world.
There are probably many reasons for doubting its chances of success but there's one very basic stumbling block that no one's talking about so far, which is the reluctance of American players to travel outside of the United States.
Yes, many of them do venture across the time zones a couple of times a year and the odd one, like Patrick Reed, seems to genuinely enjoy seeing the world.
But, apart from a cherished trip to the Open Championship or the pride of being part of an away Ryder Cup team, home comforts make domestic golf a delight for the well-rewarded US stars.
And, at any given time, the top 48 players in the world required for the PGL would most likely include between 20 and 30 Americans. If they were required to fly overseas three or four times a year for huge amounts of cash I could see them signing up but the best part of 18 times? I don't think so.
There is plenty of evidence to back this up because when the first idea of a World Golf Tour was championed by Greg Norman in 1994, established Tours around the world closed ranks and found ways of appeasing their players.
One of them was the introduction of World Golf Championships, a grand plan to have major tournaments in different parts of the world. For a time, one of the events visited different countries but, in the end, they all went home to America except the HSBC Champions which had enough financial clout to stay in China.
The fact that one is now across the border in Mexico merely masks the overall failure of the original grand plan for international golf. It doesn't augur well for the Premier Golf League but, in all fairness, the people behind it have plenty of ideas and even more cash and they could turn out to be visionaries. That is a matter of conjecture but what is a fact right now is that the top golfers in the world are in a win-win situation.
If the PGL happens in two years' time, they'll all be even more fabulously rich than they are now. Also, when the PGA Tour moves to counter any change, they'll make sure their star players are even more fabulously rich than they are now.
Happy days guaranteed then at the Genesis Invitational, where the best field of the year so far gets down to business on the road to Augusta National and the opening major of the year.
No one is more focused on that journey than Woods and McIlroy and the last thing on their minds is the Premier Golf League. Both of them appear to have followed the best advice handed down through the generations in sport: "Be successful and money will take care of itself."
I'm not entirely sure it's an ethos shared by the PGL but the group deserves respect for the seriousness of their proposals and it's something to enjoy as a sporting amusement over the next couple of years
In the meantime, let's savour this week's traditional golf at an old-fashioned golf course with great crowds and a proper Californian weather forecast. We'll see how Rory copes with being back at the top of the world rankings and whether he can make up for "The Irishman" coming away empty-handed at the Oscars.
Watch the Genesis Invitational throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins with Featured Group coverage on Thursday from 2.45pm on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event.