Why PGA Tour stars might soon be getting even richer, according to Greg Norman
This is the finale of a four-part Bamberger Briefly series in which Greg Norman offers his insights into various golfy subjects. Part I: Norman on Michael Jordan’s golf. Part II: Norman on helicopters. Part III, Norman on Tiger.
HOBE SOUND, Fla. — The Premier Golf League is not dead. The world needs it now more than ever! So says Greg Norman, an Aussie who has lived in Florida most of his adult life and is a 2001 inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Golf needs fewer events with more star power, Norman says, and that will ultimately happen because golf fans across the world will want it to happen. Norman says he has had no communication with the league’s organizers since February, but his understanding is that the first PGL event will be in January 2022. There may be no bigger believer in this new league than Norman.
Norman is saying the PGL, in concept and in practice, won’t be killed by the Covid-19 pandemic. He’s saying the PGL won’t be killed by the public disavowals of it by Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka. And, Norman is saying, the PGL won’t be killed by whatever the PGA Tour is cooking up in an effort to squash it. News of the PGL dominated golf websites in January and February of this year, when the world was in a different place. The proposed league would be funded by Saudi wealth.
“What I’m hearing is that the PGA Tour, against all their bylaws and governances, is talking about putting aside a $40 million pot for eight players, with $8 million for the top player,” Norman said in a recent interview. “The PGA Tour is re-tweaking their model with the PGL out there. If you’re player nine, 10, 11 or 12, I think you’d be pretty pissed off.”
Norman said he didn’t know how the PGA Tour would rank the eight players. This pot would be beyond the FedEx Cup playoff money.
Norman, who is 65, is not an active golfer these days, either in the professional or recreational ranks. But he is, in normal times, out and about often in South Florida, where many Tour players live, and he hears things the ordinary golf fan would not hear.
“I also understand that there are four or five European Tour events that the PGA Tour would like to put under its umbrellas and run as world golf events,” Norman said. This, Norman said, was also a response to pressure from the PGL.
Norman was the architect of what he envisioned as a world golf tour more than 25 years ago. Deane Beman, then the PGA Tour commissioner, outmaneuvered Norman politically and essentially buried the idea.
Despite the countermoves that Norman says the PGA Tour is making, he believes the PGL will still be able to establish itself because there are too many weeks on the PGA Tour schedule with fields that lack star power. He says he has no financial stake in this proposed PGL, although it is not hard to imagine him with a role in it. Norman says his sustained interest in this subject is rooted in his desire to see “golf grow on a global basis.”
Norman was asked if the PGA Tour’s purported response to the PGL is just an example of capitalism at work.
“Yes,” Norman said. “That’s very valid. They’re going to try to protect their turf in any way possible.”
The Tour declined to respond to Norman’s comments.
“We’re focused on our Return to Golf,” a Tour spokesperson, Laura Neal, said by email.
Return to Golf is a phrase the Tour is using to describe the first four announced events — in Fort Worth, Hilton Head, Hartford and Detroit — beginning on June 11. Those events will be played with full fields, with caddies and without fans.
How players who live overseas will get to these events remains to be seen. Norman imagines that by January 2022 international travel will not be the issue it is now. For the PGL to work, with events all over the world, that would be a necessary starting point.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael_Bamberger@GOLF.com.