TGL announces first-ever franchise player for Atlanta team

ustin Thomas of Team United States looks on during the Saturday afternoon fourball matches of the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on September 30, 2023 in Rome, Italy.

The TGL announced Justin Thomas as its first-ever franchise player on Tuesday.

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It seems Halloween has even made its way to the TGL.

On Tuesday morning, Justin Thomas traded in his PGA Tour costume in favor of a new one in the golf world — that of the TGL’s Atlanta Drive, making him the first player in Tiger Woods’ new golf league to be tied to a specific team franchise.

The news represents just the latest step in the tech-forward league’s steady drive toward real, material existence; an effort that has managed to wrangle considerable support among the PGA Tour establishment. The league, a weekly team-based competition played using simulators at a high-tech venue in Palm Beach, Fla., represents Woods and his partner Rory McIlroy’s response to the proliferation of team golf throughout the sport in the wake of LIV.

While Woods and McIlroy have no interest in challenging LIV (or the PGA Tour!) with the TGL product, they are surely attempting to capture the same young, franchise-focused audience that LIV has honed in on from the beginning. Woods and partner Rory McIlroy have used their shared investment firm, TMRW Sports, to pour significant resources into the launch of the TGL (short for TMRW Golf League), and have leaned on a partnership with the PGA Tour to secure commitments from many of the sport’s biggest players, including Thomas.

The Thomas news highlights a notable element of the new league, in which players will represent franchises tied to many of the biggest cities in the United States, including New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and one yet-to-be-named location. Much of the success of the new league would ostensibly be tied to the growth of each of those franchises, a growth point for the league with its own unique set of challenges. Considering all events will be played from the TGL’s arena in Florida, franchises won’t compete in front of a “home crowd,” and many will not immediately have authentic ties to their home cities.

The good news for the TGL is that the hardest sales have already been made. Unlike LIV, which has struggled to find franchisees and top-name sponsors, the TGL has already secured agreements with top-billing owners like Fenway Sports Group (Boston), Mets owner Steve Cohen (New York), Falcons owner Arthur Blank (Atlanta), Milwaukee Bucks former owner Marc Lasry (San Francisco) and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian (Los Angeles), among others. Earlier this month, the league also announced agreements with a presenting sponsor, Sofi, and TV broadcaster, ESPN, that will give the league substantial visibility in year 1.

The TGL will feature six teams of four players each, and its matches will consist of rotating rounds of three-player alternate shot (called “triples”) and singles matches. Players will compete each week from the Sofi Center, a “mixed reality,” 1,600-seat arena in Florida that has been crafted explicitly in the TGL’s image. Play will begin on Tuesday, January 9, and will continue every Tuesday through much of the winter and early spring.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.