Did Rory McIlroy just kill the Premier Golf League?
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Despite more allegations of cheating from former CBS analyst Peter Kostis and derogatory comments from Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed somehow managed to screen out all the noise and win the WGC Mexico Championship for his 8th PGA Tour title. Some seem to believe that winning should be enough to put the cheating allegations to rest. How does that sit with you? Can you put it all behind you and accept Reed as a top player, warts and all?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Patrick Reed could be ordained as the Archbishop of Canterbury and I’d still call him a bum and a cheat. If he had shown any regret or contrition for being the arrogant and inflammatory person he is, and for previous instances of cheating and completely self-serving behaviour, then I might be a little more forgiving. But clearly, he revels in being a 100% jerk, like a certain President we all know, and therefore I can’t and won’t ever have a benign thought about the guy. The amazing thing in all of this is, he does not, would not and will not care about my opinion of him.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): This is the most interesting topic on Tour right now. I don’t like Reed for lots of reasons, scandal (stealing and cheating at college), cheating and severe bending of integrity, lack of character and sincerity has everything to do with it. Is he a world class player, yeah, the guy has talent, no denying that? I have no idea who’s handling his PR, but they need to be fired or he needs to hire a good one or listen to them. He does himself no favours with how he handles himself. Let’s be clear, I don’t put him in the same bucket as many NFL, NBA and MLB players who do a hell of a lot more against society and even outside the law than Reed ever likely will (some are just despicable humans, and those leagues turn a blind eye for the most part), but that doesn’t mean I have to like Reed. I don’t know how many fans he actually has, how many kids are looking at him and saying, I want to be like Reed (and how many parents would accept that!), but I will admit, he is a top player, warts and all.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: When he was released, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to the Kostis/McCord story. The PGA TOUR will do anything to protect their players. Patrick Reed is a top player regardless of his image. We sure are racing away from the days of honour displayed by Bob Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. But so are the days of Churchill, Roosevelt and Carter behind us. Believe it or not, the times and leadership we live in are necessary so we can all see just how low our standards will go in the name of winning. The pendulum will swing back; unfortunately, it will take many decades.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): The extracurriculars don’t bother me at all. If anything, they make Reed more of a captivating character on the PGA Tour and a reason to tune in to the coverage whenever he is embroiled in controversy. By the way, it is becoming clear that Reed plays his best golf whenever someone calls him out or he gets caught up in a scandal. There are very few players across sports who excel in those types of situations and Reed just happens to be one. At this point, Reed’s caddie and manager should be paying instigators and trolls to rev their guy up before every major going forward.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I like Peter Kostis, but I find it a bit sad that he is so much in the news lately, trying to slam everything and everyone (Reed and CBS for example) to perhaps remain relevant? Anyway, saying that, I don’t think he’s wrong about Patrick Reed, and neither is Brooks Koepka, but it’s pretty amazing how he can put all that aside and still win. What that does is reinforces that the man doesn’t have a soul or conscience! And makes him that much more of a villain in the game. I still can’t accept him as one of the best, he’ll always remain a cheater in my mind, and not just because of the Bahamas incident. He came into the pro game with a heavy reputation of cheating in college, so I guess this cheater can’t change his spots.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): There’s no doubt Reed is a top talent, which makes you wonder all the more why he needs to cheat. But to put it behind us and act like it never happened is a big ask. Sports is full of cheaters, but until now, golf has been different. When accused of stealing signs, the Houston Astros owner said, “We didn’t cheat, we just broke the rules.” Somebody will have to explain that difference to me. Reed is beyond the pale and like the Orange Menace in the White House just issues denial after denial and carries on. As kids we’re taught that cheaters never prosper but it looks like they’re doin’ ok so far.
Commenting on the proposed Premier Golf League last week, Rory McIlroy said, “I’m out. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it.” As the #1 player in the world, is Rory’s rejection enough to kill the new League before it gets off the ground?
Deeks: Yes, I’d say it’s buh-bye to the PGL. And don’t forget your hat on the way out the door. (Good for Rory!)
Loughry: Just because Rory came out against playing it doesn’t mean squat at this point. Its Rory, he’s one player and if the other top players say yes, he’ll change his mind. It doesn’t help any momentum built by the recent noise from the PGL though. Next few months will be interesting to see how all this plays out.
Schurman: Rory’s comment is to be expected. He sits atop the PGA TOUR world with annual earnings in the $20M to 40M range. For over 100 years, break-away leagues in every sport go through these stages. It will come down to two ingredients just as it has in the past: format/organization and $$$$$$$$$$$. Remember the WHL bought Bobby Hull for $5M? The end result was amalgamation just as it was for the NBA, MLB and NFL.
Kaplan: I think so. It seemed like PGL was hinging on McIlroy’s membership, and I wouldn’t be surprised if players on both the PGA and European Tours were also waiting to see which route McIlroy would take before making their own decisions. I expect a domino effect to result with notable name after notable name rejecting the PGL in the wake of McIlroy’s decision, similar to the steady announcements of zika-virus related dropouts we saw from PGA Tour players prior to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Rule: It sure doesn’t help the tour! But if they are as serious as they seem and have enough money behind them, then one person wouldn’t kill it, but on the other hand one person could make it a success. Of course there is only one of those “persons” out there, and it doesn’t seem like he is sold on it at this point. But it’s not dead in the water yet!
Mumford: It certainly puts a hitch in their get-along but these foreign characters with deep pockets are often not deterred so easily. I suspect they’ll bob and weave until they see a crack in the major Tours, then deliver a solution to a problem that may not even be visible today. It’s kind of like TopGolf, which probably couldn’t exist 20 years ago, yet there is a significant market for their product today. Similarly, there will be a Premier Golf League in some form, with or without Rory. The real question is, if the PGL gets off the ground, what do the PGA Tour and European Tour look like?
The WGC events were started more than 20 years ago as a reaction to another proposed world tour. At first, the limited fields with the world’s best players and large purses made them stand out from regular events and a WGC win was the next best thing to winning a major. Lately however, due to changes in venue and increased purses everywhere, they don’t seem to have the same lustre they once did. Have the WGC’s run their course? And if so, what should replace them?
Deeks: They’ve run their course with me, not that I ever really did pay them much attention. As I get older and more apathetic about everything, the only golf events that I make a definite point of watching are The Masters, the US Open and the Open Championship. (I’m quite proud of myself for having adapted to never saying “British Open” anymore.) And the Ryder Cup. And any tournament in which Brooke Henderson is contending. So, the WGC’s get a big yawn from this chair. What should replace them? How about radio silence?
Loughry: Meh, WHC’s are better than most events on Tour in terms of field quality, in terms of purse, they’re in the upper tier. I agree they have lost a bit of their lustre. Players like them because in general, they are limited field size and no cut (guaranteed money). The fact that the majority of them are on US soil but keep the WGC label is a bit of a stretch. Overall though they’re a good product and sellable, I think they just need to truly make them more WORLDLY hosted. And that may be easier said then done.
Schurman: In question #2 we talk about a new tour and in question #3 we talk about the WGC events which were designed to thwart talk of a world tour. As I have previously stated, I think the PGA is on the brink of a huge downhill decline if they don’t do something new. Yes, there is a big TV renewal ready for announcement and yes, they signed a big contract with gambling entities, but this only brings in money. Money only solves money problems. What about the lack of interest shown by the shrinking galleries? Our main newspaper, The Toronto Star no longer writes stories about each event and in most cases, you can only find the final scores and even tournaments broadcast by The Golf Channel that exceed their allotted time on Thursday, Friday and/or Saturday are terminated to show regular programming. The biggest stars only play 18 to 20 events because they can earn enough money from that source to stay relevant allowing the other 32 weeks for sponsor obligations, non-PGA TOUR events, family-life and a chance to match or exceed their ‘on course’ earnings. Other sports leagues employ 600 to 1500 players which provides ample distribution of the stars’ time and availability. The PGA TOUR only has 125 marketing minions. There are some very big problems on the horizon if something doesn’t change.
Kaplan: No, I love WGC events—especially the match play! The WGC events aren’t the issue. They’re the next best thing format after the majors and the Players (I’d listen to an argument for the FedEx Cup playoffs but all of the hype surrounding that entire scheme seems still seems a little too contrived for me). The problem is the PGA Tour’s never-ending schedule and the sheer number of mundane and forgettable events that fill the gaps between the important ones. These second-rate tournaments need to be eliminated or, at the very least, reduced drastically for events like the WGCs to retain their lustre.
Rule: I still pay more attention to the WGC events than other tour events, mainly because they still do draw a better field than most tourneys that aren’t majors. And star power is what drives the sport. Maybe they have to jump the purses higher to create that large gap between themselves and the John Deere Classics of the world. Personally golf courses make a big difference to whether or not I watch a tourney. And they also likely make a difference to players wanting to play a tourney.
Mumford: I like the smaller fields and better talent that gets into WGC events but apart from the Match Play, it’s hard to tell them apart from regular Tour events. And sorry Commissioner, awarding more FedEx Cup points doesn’t make them more watchable. It just means more FedEx Cup promos and pandering by the broadcast crews. I’d keep the Match Play and make the Tournament of Champions a WGC event. Invite the Euro Tour winners and maybe some from Asia too. Give it the largest purse on any Tour, a better date and move the venue all over the world. Winners ONLY, regardless of how many points a player may have. That’s something worthy of being called a World Golf Championship.