When Rory McIlroy revealed last week that the earliest vestiges of what is now called Super League Golf approached him in 2014 with the concept of a global tour, it became clear that whatever the current iteration is it likely won’t be the last.
Before the pandemic halted play on the PGA Tour about a year ago and dramatically changed the narrative, it was the Premier Golf League. While those making decisions behind the scenes remain purposefully out of the public eye, the notion of a world circuit organized around a team concept continues to be discussed in hushed tones across the PGA Tour.
Where the SLG concept goes from here remains unknown, but what does seem obvious is that it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, however, and players are starting to carefully pick sides.
It would be career suicide for a player to fully commit to the SLG concept, following Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s promise last week to immediately suspend anyone who associates with the breakaway circuit followed by a “likely” permanent expulsion from the Tour. But there are signs of at least a handful of “interested” parties.
Interested, or “interesting,” appears to be code for “my people are talking to their people.”
Asked about the SLG concept last week, Phil Mickelson seemed to set the tone.
“I think it’s very interesting. What’s interesting is the players would be giving up control of their schedule and then compete against each other 14 times or 15 times or whatever the final number is,” Mickelson said.
“I’m 50, this really isn’t going to affect me. My career is winding down, but if I’m a golf fan, which I am, it would be interesting to see the top players play and compete against each other an additional 15 times a year.”
Asked about the then-PGL concept last year, Adam Scott also seemed to be squarely in the “interested” category.
“Selfishly, for me, there is some appeal. I might have the opportunity to park myself up in Australia for a little bit if I’m being selfish,” Scott said.
And Patrick Reed said this, “Honestly I have my team grabbing all the information about it, and I don't know enough about it yet to really say anything about it, but once we get all the information, I'll go make my mind up later on."
Tommy Fleetwood appears to have adjusted his outlook toward the SLG since he was asked about the proposed circuit last year.
“Money is one side of it, world ranking points is a side of it. The Ryder Cup is always such a huge thing on people's minds, European and American,” he said. “There's a lot that goes into the criteria of why people play where they play. … I know [Monahan] has a very, very firm stance on it. We'll see where that leads.”
Others appear to be undecided on the new league, a list that includes Tiger Woods based on his reaction to the PGL reports last year. “Have I been personally approached? Yes, and my team's been aware of it and we've delved into the details of it and trying to figure it out just like everyone else. … 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,” he said.
Some players have gone with a hard “no,” with McIlroy being the frontrunner in that group.
“People can see it for what it is, which is a money grab, which is fine if that's what you're playing golf for is to make as much money as possible,” McIlroy said last week. “I'm playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. That's why I'm playing this game.”
McIlroy is hardly alone on this island. Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele all offered rebukes of a new league regardless of who is proposing the idea or how much money might be available.
“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,” Schauffele 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.”
Two player managers who have spoken with representatives from the SLG pointed out that there are currently no players who have committed to the new league and amid Monahan’s clear messaging that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. However, given that this idea has been around since at least 2014 it’s also clear the concept isn’t going away anytime soon, either.