MEXICO CITY – Following weeks of speculation, and with nearly all of the game’s top players taking a wait-and-see approach, the first domino has fallen in the mysterious bid to create an alternative global golf tour.
Last month at Torrey Pines, current world No. 1 Rory McIlroy said he needed to take some time to consider what the Premier Golf League was proposing, but on Wednesday at the WGC-Mexico Championship the Northern Irishman shut the door on the concept.
“The more I've thought about it, the more I don't like it. The one thing as a professional golfer in my position that I value is the fact that I have autonomy and freedom over everything that I do,” McIlroy said. “If you go and play this other golf league, you're not going to have that choice.”
Although funding and corporate structure of the PGL remains a mystery, the proposed tour would feature 12 four-man teams playing an 18-event schedule during the heart of the PGA Tour season. According to league organizers, each event would have a $10 million purse and the final event of the season would be a team competition worth $40 million.
The league has also proposed a team ownership structure for the game’s top players and McIlroy would have been among that group of potential owners.
It remains to be seen if other players will follow McIlroy’s lead. Last week Tiger Woods seemed to leave the door open to the concept when he told reporters, “There's a lot of information that we're still looking at and whether it's reality or not, but just like everybody else, we're looking into it.”
Phil Mickelson was also still mulling the proposed circuit and told reporters last week, “Not really ready to talk about [it]. I’m going to play Bay Hill and Players, I’m going to guess by The Players I’m going to have a pretty good opinion.”
McIlroy acknowledged that money is a primary motivator for some, and he realizes that if all other top players decide to join the PGL he would probably have to follow them, but that doesn't mean he likes the idea.
“For me, I’m out. My position is I’m against it until there may come a day that I can’t be against it," McIlroy said. "If everyone else goes, I might not have a choice, but at this point, yeah, I don’t like what they’re proposing."
But as he explained during last week's Player Advisory Council meeting, this is about legacy.
“I would like to be on the right side of history with this one, just sort of as Arnold [Palmer] was with the whole Greg Norman thing in the '90s,” McIlroy said. “I value a lot of other things over money, and that's sort of my stance on it at this point.”
In a memo sent to players last month PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained that Tour members are limited to three conflicting event “releases” under the Tour’s current regulations and he also references “strict enforcement of the Conflicting Event and Media Rights/Release rules.”
“It doesn’t matter to me, I’m playing on the PGA Tour," Bubba Watson told Golf Channel. "Why go anywhere else, we have the best tour in the world?"
“Our commissioner set us straight, you have to pick which tour you want to play on and the benefits we have on the PGA Tour are pretty hard to beat,” Xander Schauffle said. “For me, how young I am and how early it is in my career all the history is made on the PGA Tour and that’s where I want to be.”