Nearly a year after its prospects seemed to founder, a deep-pocketed rival to the PGA Tour appears to have regained its footing and is looking to lure the game’s biggest stars with lavish payouts and appearance fees.
A source tells GOLF.com that Super Golf League (SGL), previously known as the Premier Golf League, has drawn up plans for five glittery events in 2022, each of which would feature 16 players grouped into four 4-man teams drafted by a player serving as team captain. The teams, which will compete in both individual and team formats, would consist of players from the top reaches of the world rankings, some of whom stand to receive upward of $20 million just for taking part, the source said.
The Telegraph’s James Corrigan, who first reported news of the league’s latest plans, pegged that figure at closer to $30 million.
According to the source, the SGL has extended invites to an A-list roster that includes the world’s top-two ranked players in Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas; four-time major winner Brooks Koepka; three-time major winner Jordan Spieth; and 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama. (Rory McIlroy, who said in 2020 that he would not participate in the proposed PGL, did not receive an invitation, the source said.) Johnson, the source added, has already agreed in principle to captain one of the teams, though Johnson’s agent, David Winkle, dismissed that assertion.
“Absolutely no truth whatsoever,” Winkle said in a text. “Like most other top players, [Johnson] has listened to their vision, but that is all.”
Representatives for Spieth and Thomas did not respond to requests for comment, while Koepka’s agent, Blake Smith, said in an email that he had “nothing to report at this time.”
Asked whether Matsuyama had been invited to join the league and whether he might accept, agent Bob Turner said in a text: “Hideki is a member of the PGA Tour and grateful to be one.”
GOLF.com’s source said the SLG recently sent a letter to Jay Monahan alerting the PGA Tour commissioner of its plans.
Word of the SGL represents the latest wrinkle in the story of a richly financed alternative golf circuit that has progressed by fits and starts in recent years. Last January, reports began to circulate of an upstart group then calling itself the Premier Golf League and its plans to operate a world tour consisting of 18 events, each featuring 48 players vying for purses of at least $10 million and minimum first-place payouts of $5 million.
Though details were murky at first, it soon emerged that the PGL had the backing of the Raine Group, a New York-based investment group, and that a key source of its funding was Saudi Arabian money.
It was a titillating concept, but buzz around the PGL fizzled after such leading players as McIlroy and Koepka said that they would not participate. Among other reservations, McIlroy said that he was uncomfortable with the source of the PGL’s money. He also said that he had first been asked about his interest in joining a new world tour in 2014, an indication of how long the idea had been in the works. The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting international travel restrictions also were a blow to the league.
The PGA Tour did not treat the prospect of a rival circuit lightly. In communications with players in January 2020, Tour commissioner Monahan made it clear that players faced a choice: they could either be a member of the PGA Tour or the PGL, not both.
Even after the PGL seemed dead in the water, the PGA Tour continued taking steps that were widely viewed as attempts to gird itself against a potential existential threat. After inking new long-term television contracts in March 2020, the Tour last fall announced a strategic partnership with the European Tour that was viewed by many as a kind of circling-the-wagons alliance. Last month’s announcement of a $40 million bonus pool has been characterized by some as the Tour’s latest effort to further ensure the loyalty of its biggest stars.
According to The Telegraph, Monahan will address the players about the SGL’s plans ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Tuesday evening.