Here's a rundown of events leading to this new point
Talk of an upstart world golf league or tour has dated back to the mid-1990s when Greg Norman proposed a World Golf Tour. That ultimately never materialized, though, Norman now is front and center in the latest round of chatter. Nearly two years since speculation of a Premier Golf League began buzzing, Norman, 66, was named on Oct. 29 as CEO of Liv Golf Investments, which immediately announced it will financially back and promote a 10-event series within the Asian Tour schedule beginning in 2022.
The First Call has compiled an ongoing timeline of events associated with this ever-changing storyline.
NOVEMBER 5, 2021
> Liv Golf Investments begins to fill in its C-suite roster by appointing Sean Bratches as chief commercial officer and Ron Cross as chief events officer. Bratches arrives to Liv Golf Investments after rising to executive vice president of sales and marketing at ESPN and serving as managing director of commercial operations for Liberty Media, which acquired Formula 1. Cross spent the last 30 years in various leadership roles at the PGA Tour and Augusta National Golf Club. Cross spent two decades at the PGA Tour running premier events, including the Presidents Cup, Tour Championship and World Golf Championships. At Augusta National, he helped develop the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the Latin America Amateur Championship, and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.
NOVEMBER 1, 2021
> In a Q&A interview with Golf Digest's Dan Rapaport, Norman speaks on a wide range of topics related to Liv Golf Investments; involvement with the Asian Tour. When asked what his pitch to players would be about playing on the Asian Tour and in the 10-event series being backed by Liv Golf Investments, Norman says: "The players should keep their eyes open … to opportunities that allow [them] to do what you want to do as an independent contractor. Seve and I were staunch supporters of that, of growing the game of golf on a global basis. The tours should keep their eyes wide open, because the Asian Tour will be there. And it’s not geographically confined to Asia. It’s going global with tournaments all over the world."
> With the recent Norman and Asian Tour announcements, where does this leave the Premier Golf League? Geoff Shackelford reports in The Quadrilateral that the PGL has reached out to the PGA Tour as recent as early September to discuss a "merging of the current [PGA Tour] structure with most of the original PGL concepts." Two sources told The Quadrilateral that the PGA Tour received, but did not act upon, a memo and deck from the PGL.
Indications are that the PGA and European tours are about to go head-to-head with the Asian Tour on a number of fronts, and the PGL is now willing to side with the proven product. Shackelford asserts: "Yet the PGL believes it has found a way around the ugliness of reinventing professional golf, as we could see any day now with player defections to the Saudi-back proposal. The briefing suggests 'there would be no cliff edge, no bans and no threat to players’ pensions or OWGR points.'"
> The 'No Laying Up' podcast discusses extensively the developments involving Norman and the Premier Golf League.
OCTOBER 29, 2021
> Norman is announced as CEO of Liv Golf Investments, which is backed by Public Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia with reported assets of more than $500 billion.
Liv Golf Investments commits at least $200 million in prize money over a 10-year period to help fund a series of 10 annual events on the Asian Tour, starting in 2022. The Asian Tour has been dormant since March 2020 due to COVID-19.
The Saudi International, which is not part of the 10-event slate, will become the Asian Tour's flagship event.
Unclear with this announcement is what will become of the Premier Golf League.
> The Telegraph reports that courses owned and operated by former U.S. President Donald Trump and his family are under consideration as host venues for the new Asian Tour events. Norman and Saudi golf officials reportedly met with Eric Trump earlier in the week, and Turnberry, Bedminster and Dubai are thought to be contenders.
MAY 4, 2021
> Reports of deals ranging between $30 and $100 million to Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson to play in a Saudi Arabian "Super League" begin to surface. Other names being reported include Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler.
> At the Wells Fargo Championship, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan addresses Tour players and sternly warns them that their participation in the new league could result in either suspension or a lifetime ban from the PGA Tour.
APRIL 20, 2021
> Golfweek reports that the PGA Tour has had a Player Impact Program in place since January 1. The program will distribute a pool of $40 million among 10 players, with the player deemed most valuable receiving $8 million.
NOVEMBER, 27, 2020
> The PGA Tour announces a strategic alliance with the European Tour, buying an estimated $90 million minority stake in European Tour Productions, the the European Tour's media production company. Monahan is also named to the European Tour's executive board. "Emphatically, this is not a merger,” European Tour CEO Keith Pelley says.
> Representatives of the Premier Golf League approach Pelley with a "compelling offer" to bolster the European Tour.
JUNE 8, 2020
> The PGL tweets an open letter.
FEBRUARY 21, 2020
> Golf Digest reports that Andrew Gardiner, a British attorney and businessman, attends events on the PGA Tour's West Coast Swing before now stepping out as CEO of the Premier Golf League. Gardiner adds that Raine Group, an investment banking firm that focuses primarily on technology, media and telecommunications, is a partner.
Gardiner unveils his proposal of an 18-event schedule — 10 events in the U.S. and others in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East — that could begin in January 2022. Months later, the launch date is moved to January 2023.
More PGL plans crystalize: the league would consist of 12 four-player teams, with a team captain who would receive upfront fees. A 13th team would be selected by fans. The captain would decide prior to each round which two players' scores would count for the team. Tournaments would feature a no-cut, 54-hole format, and individuals and teams would compete for shares of the $10 million purse. The winner would receive $2 million.
FEBRUARY 19, 2020
> Rory McIlroy, then World No. 1, says he is not interested. “The more I've thought about it the more I don't like it," says McIlroy, who was aware of the idea as far back as 2014. "I read a thing that said if you take the money they can tell you what to do, so if you don't take the money they can't tell you what to do." Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka have also announced no interest.
FEBRUARY 11, 2020
> Tiger Woods, ahead of the PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational, confirms that he and his representatives have been contacted by the Premier Golf League. "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. We’re looking into it,” Woods said.
FEBRUARY 2, 2020
> On the final day of the Saudi International, Norman expresses optimism in the proposed PGL. "It’s just a matter of getting all the right components together, whether players stay together," he says. "With my original concept, some players loved it and others didn’t like it. I had corporate, I had television, but you need 100 per cent of the pie to be together before we can bake it. From what I’m seeing here, this one has every chance of getting off the ground."
Perhaps foreshadowing the future, Norman speaks about one of the looming questions with any new league — broadcast rights. “Who is one of the biggest companies in the world right now with a trillion dollar business? Apple. And Amazon. Streaming is the future. ... Why not stream golf on Apple, why not on Amazon? Get out of the box. There are opportunities out there that are far greater than even I could have contemplated back in my day."
JANUARY 29, 2020
> Phil Mickelson plays in the Saudi International pro-am with a group that includes Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation; Colin Neville, a sports consultant for Raine Group, a reported partner in the Premier Golf League bid; and Gardiner, a director at Barclays Capital.
"It was fascinating to talk with them and ask some questions and see what their plans are," Mickelson says. "Where they started, how they started, why and just got their background, which was very interesting."
> Speculation about the formation of the Premier Golf League, owned by the UK-based World Golf Group Limited, creates a buzz. The Telegraph reports that PGL has spent a reported $15 million to share its vision of a new-age World Golf Tour with a number of the world's top-ranked players.
> The still-nebulous PGL attempts to tamp down speculation with a statement:
“There has been significant media speculation relating to our plans to launch The League, a new professional golf format that will be comprised of 18 events per season. Some of that speculation, including details of the proposed format and our financial backers, is inaccurate. While we do not wish to comment further at this time, we would like to say that it is our intention to work with, rather than challenge, existing tours for the betterment of golf as a sport, pastime and media property, and we have partnered with the Raine Group to help make this vision a reality. We appreciate the interest and look forward to providing everyone with further details.”
> Meanwhile, Monahan reportedly meets with the Tour's 16-man Player Advisory Counsel at the Farmers Insurance Open and says that no player will be a member of the PGA Tour and the PGL. He also sent a memo to Tour players.
> In 1994, Norman reigned as World No. 1, and he attempted to create a World Golf Tour that would feature smaller marquee fields, larger purses and a bona fide television deal. The tour never came to fruition.
> In 1999, the PGA Tour apparently adopted much of Norman's idea with the formation of the World Golf Championships.