Thu, 27 Feb 2020 11:34:00 GMT
Major changes to the NFL regular season and playoff structure were presumably anticipated in the pending PGA Tour media rights deal. Which, presumably, is an $8 billion over ten years deal that will presumably be announced at The Players.
Full NFL membership voting is around the corner and ratification would mean a 17-game schedule, a possible Labor Day weekend start (and perhaps why the Tour Championship vacated that weekend). The Super Bowl could eventually move closer to President’s Day (if not the Sunday prior), impacting a key stretch of West Coast games and undoubtedly influencing whether NFL players will be able to tee it up in the Crosby. Now this is getting serious!
(Though that is not why some players, including Russell Wilson, are opposed.)
While a 17 game schedule won’t happen until 2021 at the earliest, the NFL seems prepared to expand the playoffs for the 2020-21 season. Jeremy Schilling has been following this and explained today how early season tournaments, already drawing small audiences when going up against NFL games, will suffer continuing to insist on weekend finishes. In the immediate future, the Sentry Tournament of Champions appears to be most in line for increased competition with the expanded playoffs.
After the schedule goes to 17 games with a second bye week looking unlikely, the NFL season start week will determine if the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am’s traditional date becomes Super Bowl weekend.
Schilling discussed this, with ESPN.com’s Bob Harig chiming in, making the fair point that fields won’t get worse due to this news.
Again, presumably all of this has been anticipated and the next media deal starting in 2022 will have forecasted these changes with planned date shifts, some Monday finishes or other ideas we have not thought about. Presumably.
In case you were wondering, the Premier Golf League has proposed four events in odd hours for American viewers, with two of those falling during the NFL playoff run and one U.S. event to start the season in mid-January.
Thu, 27 Feb 2020 09:26:00 GMT
Since the Premier Golf League ideas were first revealed here and the vision was expanded upon either in blog posts here, and now in founder Andy Gardiner’s interviews (here and here),
Randall Mell from the Honda on Brooks Koepka’s remarks, another classic example of Koepka’s shrewd way of playing his hand.
“I am just going to play where the best players play,” Koepka said Wednesday after his Honda Classic pro-am round. “I want to play against the best. I think everyone wants to play against the best. Whatever comes of it, comes of it.”
He’s available, will just go where the best players are, and he doesn’t need the money. Future agent, Brooks Koepka.
He also gratitude expressed toward the PGA Tour and its longevity as a venture.
“A lot of good things have come from it,” he said. “The Tour has been incredible to us, the way things have developed over the years. We have to see where things go. It’s all very new and it’s all very fast.”
But what if the PGL makes him an astronomical offer to be one of its new team owners?
“I know you’re going to write this the wrong way, but it doesn’t matter if somebody gave me $200 million tomorrow,” Koepka said. “It’s not going to change my life. What am I going to get out of it? I already have so much that I could retire right now, but I don’t want to. I just want to play golf. It’s not going to change anything. Maybe the only thing I do is buy a plane. That would be it. I don’t see anything that would change my life.”
True, a plane would be nice.
GolfDigest.com’s Brian Wacker covered Koepka’s remarks as well as those of Gary Woodland, current U.S. Open champion. He says he PGL has been good for the PGA.
“I think competition is good,” said Gary Woodland, who is represented by the same agent as Woods, Mark Steinberg. “I think the tour will be better for it. I think it will force the tour to make some changes.
Force. Not inspire. Or encourage. Or cause. Force.
“It’ll be interesting. There’s still a long way to go and a lot to do in a short period of time, but I think the [PGA] Tour has realized it has to make some changes.”
It would be interesting to know when that realization occurred.
For those who think the current model of constant growth and playing opportunities for retirees has damaged the “product,” there is good news. For accountants.
“I think the top players are getting together and trying to get things done. There’s a lot of things that could be done better out here to take care of the top players but also the bottom guys. I think there’s a lot more money for everybody. Hopefully that pushes the envelope.”
Players, players, players. Money, money, money. Not much about the fans or sponsors, something the PGL has highlighted in their mixed-results social media rollout and last week’s interviews.
A similar view was shared by Billy Horschel, who, as usual, said more than he should.
GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard paints a largely rosy picture of the PGL’s impact and included this from Horschel.
“I have no desire [to play on the PGL]. What [Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] has done is great. He understands that the Tour in its current form isn’t viable in the future,” Horschel said.
I’m sorry, what was that again? Not viable in its current form. Again, when did this realization happen?
“Changes are going to have to be made. What changes? I don’t know. The business model is great, it’s what we do with the players and the product. We may have to make some tweaks to the product to continue to be able to garner the money that we want.”
So to recap Horschel’s quote: the Commissioner understands the current model is not viable, yet the business model is “great”, and the PGL-inspired changes will help keep the money flowing.
Something tells me fans and sponsors who have not agreed that the PGA Tour is “growing and thriving” and never more exciting want to hear ideas that will make the sport more fun. Enriching players for helping the cause is a nice byproduct of those efforts, but if pocket lining is the sole focus of this change, then the PGA Tour’s finest will have missed the point in a major way.
Thu, 27 Feb 2020 04:14:58 GMT
A bizarre and surreal AP story details the Oman Open WD’s of Italians Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari amid reports they have been isolated due to possible coronavirus exposure.
From the report:
Gagli tells Italian newspaper La Nazione that a European Tour doctor told him at breakfast Wednesday to return to his room. Molinari, his roommate for the week in Oman, was moved to another room.
Gagli said he was given a test and told the result would be available in two days, but that he would have to remain in the room until next Wednesday, meaning he also would have to withdraw from the Qatar Masters the following week.
''It's an inexplicable decision,'' Gagli said. ''Only us two have been excluded from the tournament, but I arrived in Muscat last Sunday and over the last few days I've worked out in the gym with dozens of other players. I ate with them and traveled by bus with them.
''If there was a risk of contagion, then they would have to isolate dozens of golfers and cancel the tournament.''
The European Tour has kept their comments to acknowledging the WD’s were on “medical grounds.”
A frequent presence on Twitter, Molinari has not posted anything since February 22nd.
Wed, 26 Feb 2020 10:10:00 GMT
GQ’s Daniel Riley does a fine job until a late unraveling in profiling Brooks Koepka for GQ. As always, please hit the link, things aren’t great at Conde Nast these days.
The most compelling stuff is early on, including this on selling his 2020 Masters water ball shot knowing Tiger still had to play the 12th.
“My theory is if you don't show them anything visually, they can only go off one of their senses: sound,” he explained. “How did the ball sound when it came off? They don't know if I hit it a hundred percent or 90 percent. And they've gotta judge it by the strike.” But if he starts cursing or sulking, Tiger will know it was the shot, not the tricky wind, that foiled him—and calibrate his own approach to No. 12 accordingly. “And so I didn't have any reaction. I just handed it right back to my caddie. And it might've confused him.”
Then there are his thoughts on golf as as “a gentleman’s sport” and why the sport loses a lot of people playing up that notion.
“One thing I'd change is maybe the stuffiness. Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn't always have to be that way. That's part of the problem. Everybody always says, ‘You need to grow the game.’ Well, why do you need to be so buttoned-up? ‘You have to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ‘You're not allowed in here unless you're a member—or unless the member's here.’ Really? I just never really liked the country club atmosphere. I know that drives a lot of people away from liking me. But just 'cause this golf club has such prestige and the members are all famous and have a lot of money…like, why can't I show up and just go play the golf course? Why do I have to sit in my car and wait for the member?
Well, if you want to charge lunch to Chuck Underwood’s account, it’s a good idea. Go on…
“I just think people confuse all this for me not loving the game. I love the game. I absolutely love the game. I don't love the stuffy atmosphere that comes along with it. That, to me, isn't enjoyable. When I practice, I don't think I've ever tucked my shirt in. I show up to the golf course, half the time my tennis shoes are untied, I'm chippin', puttin', shirt's untucked, I've got my hat on, and I'm not wearing a belt, because who wears a belt when it's untucked? But a lot of clubs, if I walked up like that, it'd be: ‘Sir, you need to tuck your shirt in. You need to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ”
You can take the boy out of Florida but you can’t take the Florida out of this boy!
And here’s where the story unravels in unnecessary fashion.
When we pulled up to the security hut at Medalist, something happened that hadn't even occurred to me as being possible. Medalist was closed for the day, and there wasn't any way Brooks or Ricky (or Dan) would be permitted access to the driving range or golf course. I've been denied access to enough golf courses in my life that it didn't really shock me in the moment, but as we drove 30 minutes in the opposite direction to another club, I let the indignation creep in. A golf course just denied access to the No. 1 golfer in the world, as though it were a perfectly ordinary thing to do, which apparently it was. Still, I tried to imagine the security guard at Yankee Stadium denying Derek Jeter batting practice. Or the high school A.D. with the keys to the gym denying LeBron James a shootaround. Wild. And precisely what Brooks had been referring to when he was lamenting all the things that golf gets so absurdly wrong at this critical juncture for the game. What side of society do you want to be on? The one that makes sense? The one that's open and inclusive? Or the one that's rigid, pedantic, exclusionary, stuffy—all for the sake of, what, the enforcement of rules for the sake of rules? It was a buzzkill.
Or maybe they were just punching the greens and the place was closed? Just saying…
Wed, 26 Feb 2020 06:31:00 GMT
Greg Norman is a bit miffed at Rory McIlroy’s “out” declaration related to the Premier Golf League. And naturally, because it’s the Shark, it really has little to do with the positives and negatives of the proposed tour.
Josh Sens caught up with Norman in Mexico and taking time away from finding his biggest fan—hit the link if you thought April 1 had arrived early this year—and Norman seemed to take McIlroy’s invocation of Arnold Palmer personally.
With a TV deal in place and the support, Norman believed, of many players, the concept seemed to have legs. But it foundered in the face of savvy PGA Tour maneuvering and vocal opposition from the King. Shortly after Norman announced his plan for the global series, Palmer came out publicly against it. Norman, who had what he describes as a close relationship with Palmer, was devastated.
“I was blindsided, I felt backstabbed,” Norman said. “I’m listening to Arnold, with [then-PGA Tour commissioner] Tim Finchem standing beside him, chest puffed out for a 5-foot-4 guy, and I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding? Why are you saying this?’”
Well, he could be an intimidating 5’4”…
Anyway, he goes on to say IMG planted the negative thoughts with Palmer to go against the Tour and accuses McIlroy of taking his stance against the PGL as part of his Golfpass/Golf Channel relationship ala the King back in 1994.
But other than that, he’s really worked through any lingering issues over the World Tour effort…of 25 years ago.
Wed, 26 Feb 2020 04:28:05 GMT
…that the operation is owned by…the owner of Golf Magazine.
Now, we always knew there was a good chance that the 8am Golf family of brands would get special coverage from Golf Magazine and Golf.com after the man who owns it all took charge.
So far things have been good, with writers doing their thing and the print product receiving nice reviews. But there have been hiccups with disclosures and questionable choices, like a blatant rip off of Fried Egg’s template hole series, down to using the same holes as examples.
And overall, to Howard Milstein’s credit, there were no signs he gave the Nicklaus Designs firm any favoritism in the latest Golf Magazine Top 100, restoring luster to the most credible of all rankings (there was, however this painful Nicklaus Design puff piece quietly posted in January and a very random best renovation award last year. Nicklaus Designs is another Milstein outpost).
That Valley of the Eagles renovation award at least received a disclosure of the 8am/Golf/Milstein ties.
But True Spec getting the top fitter ranking bequeathed this February? No.
Now, I’ve been to a few True Spec facilities and they are wonderful. For all I know True Spec is worthy under the criteria, but to not disclose the ties is inexcusable and a credibility killer. The news has not gone unnoticed.
And other fitters are not pleased…
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 19:55:00 GMT
Competing for eyeballs against a suddenly resurgent NASCAR, Lakers-Celtics on ABC and the mystery that is the XFL (ESPN), not even NBC’s very enjoyable coverage of a compelling leaderboard could help the WGC Mexico Championship’s ratings.
Throw in Tiger playing this event in 2019, and the 2020 ratings were down significantly across the board according to ShowBuzzDaily’s Mitch Metcalf. This continues a trend from the West Coast swing where CBS numbers were well down according to SportsMediaWatch.com.
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 18:20:00 GMT
Michael Bamberger brings calm, perspective and a very simple explanation as to why Patrick Reed will have a hard time changing the narrative, no matter how much great golf he plays after last December’s waste bunker lie improvement: “That afternoon, he made a mockery of golf’s underlying principle: Play the ball as it lies.”
Read it all at Golf.com, but this was strong and perhaps helpful for those struggling to understand why the story isn’t going away:
Koepka, Kostis and Chamblee weren’t just playing with New Year’s Eve noisemakers. They were defending golf’s organizing principle: play the ball (all together now) as it lies. These are serious people. Anybody who has played a lot of golf knows that what Koepka said is true: you know where your clubhead is and what it’s doing. Your clubhead has the ability to detonate a bomb. Your hands are on the grip, your ball is underneath you and you know exactly where the clubhead is and what it’s doing. Professional golf is not played casually. It’s a study in obsessive-compulsive behavior. It’s a study in self-governance and communal-governance.
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 17:35:47 GMT
The Postage Stamp
In a bit of a shocker, Royal Troon is returning to The Open rota, prompting multiple media reactions, starting with Turnberry’s hopes of a return now extending to at least 2025. And will the “historic” Adamson Country House “house” media again? Oh, and why such a speedy return?
Just seven years after producing the Stenson-Mickelson duel, it seems Troon’s 100th anniversary and an ability to turn a big profit took priority.
Alistair Tait shares some eye-opening and extensive remarks from Martin Slumbers about the need to grow Open revenues to invest back in the game. While Slumbers’ motives are certainly noble, it also would appear to put pressure on venues to be revenue producers.
Could the real reason be that Troon can deliver more fans than Muirfield and Turnberry? Exactly 173,134 people turned up at Troon four years ago compared to the 142,000 who attended Muirfield in 2013. Turnberry delivered 123,000 fans for the 2009 Open Championship.
“We’re looking at the Open,” Slumbers said. “It’s growing. The size of crowds is growing. We’re heading into Royal St George’s in just five months now. The previous record for size of crowds at Royal St George’s was 183,000. We will be through 200,000 come July.”
It could also be as simple as Trump Turnberry and Muirfield still having perception issues the R&A wants no part of. Because both are arguably superior to all venues not named the Old Course or Royal Portrush.
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 11:33:00 GMT
Now that we’ve had a couple of weeks to contemplate the impressive USGA/R&A Distance Insights study, comments have been largely predictable from elite players and the equipment industry: all is well, grow more rough, tuck pins, move along.
This ignores the six-or-so million who have quit the game over the last fifteen years despite amazing equipment advances. And yet there seems to be a pressure to skirt the rules, market increased distance and create equipment that can sell at a premium price.
The governing bodies are forced to preach diplomacy in dealing with so many factions and factors. But what if the manufacturers are working around the rules? Or as Callaway CEO Chip Brewer acknowledged last summer, his company puts drivers in hands of players that cut it close to non-conforming.
And then more recently there was this from Bridgestone’s Elliot Mellow on Golf’s Fully Equipped podcast. At the 1:01:00 or so mark (full January 15th show embed below), Mellow responded to a question about the biggest area for future “growth” (i.e. distance). Thanks to reader M for catching this.
Without getting into too much trouble with our friends at the USGA, there’s 72-plus shots per round with 14-plus clubs and you know there’s not necessarily regulation on all of those clubs, or shots at this point in time, so we play within the rules that exist and then we innovate beyond them where there’s opportunity. And trust me, there’s a lot of opportunity.
It is 100% optional for equipment makers to follow the Rules of Golf. A USGA/R&A “conforming” stamp of approval is a selling point to customers and therefore, a privilege manufacturers should theoretically respect.
But when you highlight working around the rules or bemoan surprise tests or fight rules bifurcation, then maybe this is a sign governing bodies need to stop working around the “needs” of clubmakers. Perhaps these are signs for the USGA and R&A to simply make the rules they deem best.
If skirting the rules will deliver such enjoyment for the masses and “grow the game”, why won’t manufacturers just make non-conforming equipment? Oh right, because core golfers have shown they’d rather play by the rules than be seen as skirting the rules. Perhaps the folks making the clubs should adopt a similar ethos or give up their seat at the distance debate table.
Mon, 24 Feb 2020 16:49:08 GMT
Halftime of an Ole Miss basketball game got a lot more exciting when 84-year-old Mary Ann Wakefield drained a 94-foot, full court putt to win a new car.
Mon, 24 Feb 2020 16:06:47 GMT
The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Beaton and Jared Diamond look at the more sordid moments in Jim Crane’s business career and circumstances surrounding Major League Baseball’s vetting of his 2011 Astro’s purchase for $685 million.
The story implies Commissioner Bud Selig ordered more extensive vetting than normal given the cultural issues at Crane’s business, including allegations of discrimination against minorities and women, as well as a case of war profiteering.
As with the continuing Astros cheating saga, Crane was never proven with direct links to any of the questionable acts and eventually, baseball pushed the sale through.
The people say Crane had a couple important factors on his side that helped usher the deal through. For one, he was willing to move the Astros to the American League, a move others were unwilling to make. MLB was so keen on making this happen that Crane wound up receiving a roughly 10% discount on his purchase price.
“The negotiation of the Astros move to the American League was the driving factor in the length of the vetting process,” said Giles Kibbe, the Astros’ senior vice president and general counsel. “Switching from the National to American League required renegotiation of terms, which took months.”
Moreover, there was that price: Even with the discount, it was among the highest ever for a baseball franchise, and a rich sale has the effect of boosting club values for all owners across the league.
Crane was instrumental in saving the PGA Tour’s Houston Open, and also in pushing out its longtime operators at the Houston Golf Association.
The announcement also means the Houston Golf Association is no longer the host organization of the Houston Open after 72 years. The HGA already has been cutting its staff, though executive director Steve Timms said it will remain active in its successful junior golf programs -- which includes The First Tee -- amateur tournaments and a municipal golf project to restore city golf courses in Houston.
The 2020 playing is scheduled for November 9-15th at the freshly renovated Memorial Park.
Mon, 24 Feb 2020 08:11:00 GMT
There is no more nerve-wracking tee shot in golf than the opening hole at the Old Course.
There’s the history, the gallery and the mystery of whoever is watching behind those tinted Royal and Ancient windows. Oh, and it’s about a wide of a landing area as you can get.
And I’m confident, should you be worried, that this gem nobly shared in response to a Zac Blair question, will alleviate all concerns you will look foolish should the Old Course opportunity arise. Thanks to reader Brian for catching this.
Note that it appears the ball remains in bounds. Glad the tees were up!
Mon, 24 Feb 2020 04:43:10 GMT
Say what you want about Patrick Reed, but it was mighty impressive to go win over a quality field in the same week Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis mentioned his cheating ways. Or, it speaks to an ability to compartmentalize worthy of deeper study on the outskirts of Vienna. Or wherever they psychoanalyze golfers.
Either way, in passing elite talents like Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau, Reed navigated the narrow and bumpy Club de Golf Chapultepec for his second win in this event.
GolfDigest.com’s Brian Wacker reminds us of the quaint old days in 2014 when Reed declared himself a top 5 player.
Even his victory on Sunday was a reminder of controversies past. In 2014, Reed won the same tournament when it was played at Trump Doral in Miami. That year, in a taped interview with NBC that aired during the final round, Reed declared himself a top-five player in the world, a remark that came off as cocky and was generally not well-received, considering Reed was just 23 at the time, hadn’t played in a major yet and had started the week ranked 44th in the world.
Since then, Reed has racked up several notable wins, including his 2018 Masters triumph, leaving that misstep a distant memory.
When this latest controversy will wash away, who knows. In the meantime, Reed is now up to No. 8 in the world after his latest victory over a world-class field.
“I think the biggest thing is I’ve grown as a player,” he said. “I’ve not allowed too many things to bother me, the highs and lows in golf, especially through a round of golf.”
While DeChambeau seemed to have the tournament in his grasp, a three-putt at the 71st hole and a hideous birdie attempt at the final hole left him in solo second. But feeling bonded with winner Reed, reports G.C. Digital at GolfChannel.com.
"[I congratulated him] because he's a great player," DeChambeau told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis. "There's been a lot of stuff said in the past years, I guess you could say, with him – and even with me – and I feel like unfortunately sometimes we get quite a bad rap. And yeah, there's things that we've done that hasn't been right, but we haven't got really got the best rap and we're still trying to provide great entertainment for everyone. You know what, he's a great player, and he'll be a great player for a long time, and yeah, I have respect for his game."
Lewis then followed up by saying, "It kind of sounds like you're brethren in this ..."
"We're co-workers, right?" DeChambeau interjected. "And we understand each other's pain sometimes."
Speaking of pain, the greens at Club de Golf Chapultepec took a beating Saturday from DeChambeau, and he subsequently took a beating on Twitter for his outburst, reports Nick Piastowski.
Round four highlights from Mexico City, courtesy of PGA Tour Entertainment:
Sat, 22 Feb 2020 17:45:08 GMT
The WGC Mexico City has become a fun opportunity to hear how players adapt to the altitude, while reminding us they can adapt to distance changes (eh em…).
Nice spot by Alex Myers to highlight this McIlroy Legion Tweet of Rory’s adjusted stock numbers, as presumably documented for reference by his bagman Harry Diamond. Also noteworthy: the size of gaps with mid and longer irons. Another reason to roll back the ball!
Sat, 22 Feb 2020 08:34:00 GMT
Friday’s news offered a fascinating juxtaposition of stories unless you live in the 32082.
There is this AP story by Doug Ferguson on Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas all passing up next week’s Honda Classic, even though they could play and sleep at home sweet home.
And despite a pretty compelling second round down at the WGC Mexico City, where Bryson DeChambeau fired 63 and a good leaderboard should make the weekend interesting, look at Golfweek’s homepage:
This was all set against the Premier Golf League’s Andy Gardiner making the rounds: talking to me exclusively here, to Golf Digest’s Max Adler, and most compelling of all, on Rick Shiel’s podcast where you can finally put a voice to the concept.
While I think you’ll get more specific details from the interview I posted, anyone listening to Gardiner talking to Shiels can hear an earnest view about how professional golf’s current schedule and excess of “product” is not working. Gardiner is able to lay out a vision that is strong, refined and ably rebuts some of the more compelling criticisms of the concept.
After the nearly 90 minute chat I was still left with questions about the proposed league’s details, but my ultimate conclusion was unexpected: the Premier Golf League lays out a smart future for professional golf after Tiger.
There has been much focus on whether Woods will commit and a curious glee at the prospect of Rory McIlroy invoking Arnold Palmer to reject the PGL—a curious example given Palmer’s flirtations with disruption in the early 1960s and 1980s.
Yes, both players could make the league take off and Woods could certainly torpedo the PGL’s chances of starting in 2022 by declining. But the vision laid out by Gardiner, and surprising no-shows at events like the Honda, also explains why Woods said last week that he expects regular runs at the PGA Tour model going forward.
He said that because whether it was Gardiner, his agent or just Woods’ overall vision telling him what is becoming increasingly clear: the professional golf model is broken. And when Woods retires, it may recede into a very small corner of the sports universe.
The PGL’s revision of the “tour” model would prevent something like we saw Friday: next week’s non-commitments overshadowing this week’s tournament. Their guarantee of top fields, a January-August schedule and a very intriguing team component bring new life to the pro game, presenting a refreshed vision for the sport long after Tiger has hung up his Nike’s. For that alone, the Premier Golf League is worthy of everyone’s attention.
Fri, 21 Feb 2020 20:45:20 GMT
After conducting their efforts in secrecy for several years, the Premier Golf League’s CEO is speaking publicly about his dream and the various constituencies working to make it happen.
Andy Gardiner spoke to me for 20 minutes while making various media rounds. Among the topics covered: why go public now, Rory McIlroy’s verdict on the league, media rights, timing and financing.
GS: So you’ve recorded a podcast today and are going more public with the Premier Golf League concept? Why now?
Andy Gardiner: The plan was to—and we've been going about our business quite quietly and discreetly—and that was probably the plan to present the opportunity as well as it can be presented.
I'm sure you've been following the sentiment as much as we have, and--delighted is too strong a word-- but very encouraged. It's nice to know that what you've been doing for six years hasn't been a complete waste of time. And I think the debate has been entirely balanced. It's obviously changed a level in the last 48 hours, but in terms of our reading, a sentiment is that it's been as good as we could possibly have hoped for really.
GS: You're referring to Rory's comments? Were his comments surprising to you or problematic to what you're trying to do?
AG: They weren't actually surprising because everyone's going to have a view. I just saw them as part of the process that we're going through. I've been thinking about them a lot and this is what Rory does, of course. He's an exceptional individual. He's an exceptional golfer, he's compelling in so many respects. When he's playing, I find it hard not to watch him. You can't take your eyes off him because he's capable of truly exceptional things on a golf course, and he's also compelling when he's not on the course because he's a very interesting individual. And I must confess, yes, he caused me to think quite hard about what he said, and there are two bits that stood out to me. One was the thing on the right side of history, and my reaction to that just as a human being is, absolutely.
We all want to be on the right side of history. There have been a few folks that haven't been of course. So that's everybody's desire. I guess that people have different views of history. One thing that crossed my mind was his reference to Arnold Palmer. I thought to myself, different people could have different views on individuals who've been significant in the past. And the first thought when you think about Arnold Palmer for me is obviously, he’s the King, but I actually went straight to my understanding of how the PGA Tour was established. Which was in itself a breakaway from the PGA of America. So on the one hand, you can position him as a stalwart of the establishment. But actually I always thought of Arnold as somebody who took responsibility and led to a significant change in the structure of the sport. Obviously, along with others including Jack Nicklaus. I also read with great interest years ago Deane Beman's book. The chapters that relate to what happened in 1983 and 1984, with those guys where they nearly did it again and that they nearly walked away from that which they had created.
Now, I'd say I've got a slightly different view perhaps than others of Arnold Palmer. I think he's not only been a brilliant golfer and a brilliant individual, but he has moved the sport on. I also think something Greg Norman said in the last couple of weeks, which was when the players were gathered to have the conversation in '94, I understand that Arnold Palmer was in the room and once he realized what the topic of discussion was, he decided to absent himself. But he said, "Guys, I understand that you want to do this", but if I'm right, he was probably 65 at the time. And his view was if you want to do this, by all means, but I'm probably not going to be a part of it.
So he'd done it once. He'd nearly done it twice, and I think what he was probably more focused on at the time was when he created the Golf Channel, which was certainly part of the process in '94, and launched in '95. So it's just, as I say, it caused us to think quite a lot. And the second part of the statement that made me think most was about the autonomy that the players have, their ability to pick and choose. And I know that that is prized amongst the best golfers in the world.
That actually is why we started to do this: as fans of the game and just having a slight flight of fancy thinking, well if you could start again, what would you create? And that's all this began as. I was thinking to myself, the flip side of autonomy is that as a fan, I'm desperate to know where Rory's going to play next week, and I'm desperate to see him play as often as possible. And quite frankly, if you gave me a wish list of who I'd like to watch in the next few weeks, I'd like to see Rory going head to head with Brooks every week right now just because I think it would be incredible entertainment.
So those are the thoughts that I had. You asked, is it damaging or problematic? Time will tell because this isn't about an individual, it's about a collective. And our attitude all the way through this has only been, we will build and we will persevere and we will offer the opportunity for people to make a choice. What we've been doing won't amount to anything unless there is a collective wealth, and that's on behalf of fans. It's on behalf of those who financially support the sport such as sponsors and broadcasters. But fundamentally it's about the best players in the world. And if any one of those three segments were to turn around and say, "We think you're wasting your time", we'd say "Fair enough” and move on. So, as I say, we are simply providing a choice and if the right parties don't want to take the choice then we will do something else.
GS: Where are in terms of timing and on being able to say you are ready to go with a schedule and do players have to commit publicly to the league?
AG: So our attitude has always been any conversation that we have with a third party, I don't feel it's my place to disclose the nature of that conversation because it's really theirs. We haven't asked a single player to make any commitment to us thus far. In terms of Rory, I’ve barely spent any time with him, which probably tells you as much as you need to know. The timing of this is down to the players, and part of the conversation that we've been having over the last several months, in fact, really for the last 12 months, is about how we could best collaborate with other tours, the PGA Tour in particular. That's a conversation that continues because our first press release following your piece was actually that it is our strong desire. I believe that the value that we're creating should flow throughout the whole of golf.
And there is a lot of value to go around, and all we're looking to do is to ideally bring golf together under a stronger structure in the best interest of the game. And that ultimately comes down to: will more people watch our content. The greater number of people who watch it, there should be a correlation with the number of people who will take up the sport. So that's the 30, 50-year view that we take, and I can't see any reason why there shouldn't be a conversation about how we can ensure that the other elements of the game remain entirely robust. That's something that I hope we can achieve. And that's part of the conversation that we're having with those who matter to us.
GS: How would you describe conversations you’ve had with the various tours?
AG: So if you forgive me, Geoff, I won't talk about those conversations. I will say that, and in fact, I think the first paragraph of the letter of the PGA Tour put out to its members in relation to us, they said that we hadn't sought to engage with them directly. And that is true, but it's a timing thing. And there have been several guys who have sought to make an introduction over the last 12 months. The conversation hasn't happened because there was a time and a place, and I believe that we're very close to that time, and we should be able to find a place. I would travel anywhere in the world to have that conversation at any time. What I do want to do is make sure that if it ever comes to pass, then we have a good understanding of how other elements of the game would like that to happen so that we're best placed to make it a successful conversation. But yes, it is our strong desire, and I think that it's achievable.
GS: So what should we as media or fans watching this unfold look for in terms of signs that you're close to launching this?
AG: We are progressed, and I can't be specific on timetable because it's down to, as I say, individuals coming to certain decisions. We are patient but we spent six years building an extraordinarily solid platform which, as I say, gives us the opportunity to facilitate whatever decision is made by third parties. There will be quite possibly more said by individuals. In this case, it will happen in the same time we are ready to make it happen if the right elements of the game want it to happen.
GS: You have a lot of people listed as part of a team because obviously trying to start a new tour from scratch requires a lot of different departments and elements. How do you feel about where you are in that regard?
AG: For two and a half years we've been working with the Raine Group, and in order to maintain a relationship with a group of that quality, obviously, you need to have everything planned down to the finest detail. So in terms of the execution, should we be given the opportunity by the pilots to move this forward, everything that needs to be done in time to ensure a world class product is produced in January 2022, is planned down to the finest detail. We do have an extraordinarily competent, experienced and expert group that have been working together on this for the last four years. We will utilize as far as our plan is concerned, the best of the best in terms of third party service providers, and they will be required to ensure that our product is as good as possible.
The full build out of our entire team will come probably quarter three, 2021, and would be 435 permanent staff. Going back to any form of collaboration with any other tour, you can immediately probably start to look forward and think, well, what's the sensible structure? I guess the answer to your question is we feel as though everything is in place to whichever path is chosen, we're ready to execute.
GS: It seems from the structure that you do not necessarily need to have a media partner locked in as part of your model at the moment. Obviously, that's something that will come if the right individuals commit, is that correct?
AG: I can tell you when we started this process, it started with, as I say, we are fans of the game and we gave ourselves the opportunity to think how good it could be. The next group that we went to were the sponsors of the sport, and we listened to them and their views are reflected in what we're doing. And we appreciate how valuable the sponsors are as do the broadcasters. We then began conversations with the broadcasters in the US and elsewhere, and we listened to them, and we got to the point where we had a fork in the road, we had the opportunity to partner with broadcast, and we decided that it was probably in everyone's best interest to have that conversation only in a meaningful way once the players were secure. So what we did instead was, we went to the top three media buyers in the US sports market, and we partnered with the number one, and that is a group called Omnicom sport, which is a division of Omnicom.
We went to Omnicom because as I say, two and a half billion dollars a year is spent by Omnicom on behalf of some of the biggest brands in the world. And certainly the brands that you in the US would recognize when you watch live sports. Now, we went with those guys because they are ultimately the ones who are spending the cash, the cash that obviously gives the broadcasters the ability to buy the rights. They've been alongside us for the last 18 months, and every material conversation we've had about media. So the other thing that we then did was to look to provide the players with the comfort that they might require in terms of our ability to generate the purse. And we've also done that by securing a purse guarantee from a very well known insurance group. So I think we have everything that we should have in place. And quite frankly, the answer to the broadcast is I would much rather be in a position of offering the product to that market and allowing the market to then decide its value.
GS: In terms of financing and reports regarding involvement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is that something you can address?
AG: Yes, I can. So we have a diverse shareholder base, and when I say diverse, there are a large number of shareholders. We've been very careful in our selection of our partners. As I mentioned, a two-and-a-half year relationship with the Raine Group, which is one of the most impressive and powerful investors in sports and media around the world. And I'm sure you've been able to go onto their website and see the deals that they've done, and part of our group is yes, probably the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. And I can say that is the public investment fund of Saudi Arabia. Their passion for the sport is what enabled us to form the relationship because they are truly passionate, and I think that will become clear in due course.
Fri, 21 Feb 2020 20:23:02 GMT
The Rick Shiels Golf Show Podcast has landed Andy Gardiner, CEO of The Premier Golf League and whose team has since joined forces with The Raine Group.
I’ve also just gotten some phone time with Gardiner and while I finish transcribing my interview, will be listening in on this too.
Fri, 21 Feb 2020 05:26:03 GMT
The headline on this Will Gray GolfChannel.com piece suggests PGA Tour journeyman Charley Hoffman was extremely critical of the proposed Premier Golf League when talking to Matt Adams on his Fairways of Life show. But Hoffman’s quotes seemed to be a mix of cynicism, understanding and veteran wisdom.
From Gray’s report:
"I think it's intriguing that another group of people are willing to dump a bunch of money and try to guarantee us money, get some of the best players in the world to come over and play. I just don't think there's any sustainability or really any traction, personally," Hoffman said. "I haven't dug deep enough into any of that to see if it is. I don't know if I would like to be owned by some Saudi money over there, but if something was a life-changing amount of money they offered me, you'd have to look at it as an independent contractor. Because there's no guarantees that I'll have a PGA Tour card in three or four years."
Hardly a rip job there.
This was an intriguing notion that I genuinely wonder many fans think about.
"As an athlete, any guaranteed money is very intriguing," Hoffman said. "But I've grown up playing this game that there is nothing given to you, and you earn every penny of it. And I think that a lot of golf fans really enjoy watching that."
More surprising is Hoffman’s take on the USGA and R&A, makers of golf’s rules that are mostly played by on the PGA Tour. Given that Hoffman sits on the PGA Tour Policy Board and chairs the Player Advisory Council, I thought he might be more open to the governing body efforts.
After the usual stuff about athletes, technology, everyone loving hit it “further”, no big deal if you just have to add a few tees, etc… Hoffman suggests he’s already one vote opposed to doing anything.
“I am not really for whatever the USGA’s trying to prove or do.”
So much for an open mind to the Distance Insights Study! Certain golf hats do have a way of altering perspectives.
Fri, 21 Feb 2020 04:45:27 GMT
Social media funnyman and announcer-we-all-wish-we-had Bob Menery vowed to bring his act back to golf after multiple PGA Tour takedown notices. He did so with a fun post of Genesis Invitational highlights and it got taken down again after Menery’s various social accounts were served an unfriendly notice.
In a world where the PGA Tour is eager to add young viewers, the focus on Menery’s efforts is surprising. He has 2.3 million followers, including Justin Thomas, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Matthew Wolff, Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Luke Donald, among others. Not to mention some of the biggest names in sports who don’t mind Menery’s roasting of both athletes and announcers.
The post, as of this post, has received nearly 3,000 comments. Good engagement!