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Global Golf: Is Rory McIlroy’s ‘Dream Scenario’ the Answer for PGA Tour-LIV Golf’s $3B Riddle?

Published 01/12/2024, 7:45 AM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

Epiphany, for most, strikes once with a heavy blow. Rory McIlroy, however, seems to be going through a period of recurring epiphanies. Resigning from the duty of defending the Tour to the World has spurred McIlroy to trade his mind free and let his tongue loose. After atoning for his past prejudice against LIV golfers, the four-time Major winner mapped out his “dream [post-merger] scenario,” where a global tour will play a pivotal role along with National Opens in various countries.

McIlroy’s noble idea of returning the National Opens to their former glory is commendable. The 34-year-old himself has the Canadian Open, Scottish Open, and Irish Open, in addition to the British Open and U.S. Open under his belt. Furthermore, the global tour also has the potential to solve a few problems, the PGA Tour’s sponsorship troubles being the foremost. The only outlier is convincing the broadcaster that the global tour is a better product that will rake in more revenue for them.

Nevertheless, a global tour promises a future where it can cash in on the untapped market in Asia and Australia to take itself out of the financial quagmire. Moreover, Phil Mickelson said the host countries are paying “tens of millions of dollars to the upstart league for hosting an event. Throwing more top players into the mix will undoubtedly be more profitable. However, despite looking good on paper, a global tour also leaves many questions unanswered.

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Global golf sells, but who is buying it?

The previous version that came close to McIlroy’s vision was the World Golf Championship. WGC, born out of another Greg Norman threat, was supposed to bring together top players from across the globe more frequently.

Ironically, even with WGC, the ‘global’ part was missing. For most of its existence, a majority of the events were held in the USA. PGAT always struggled to convince players to make a trip across the pond. In fact, Rory McIlroy, too, lamented that WGCs could not become truly global.

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One big reason is that players are independent contractors under the Tour. Trotting globally requires money that not everyone can afford. As is the case with the LPGA Tour, players going through a stretch of poor play often times have to burn their pockets to pay for their staff and cover the travel expenses.

Unlike other major sports, PGA Tour players also don’t have a union that looks after the interests of marginalized players. While the Tour Policy Board, from which McIlroy resigned as a player-director, is there in theory for that purpose, it has long faced backlash for its myopic vision. McIlroy, too, when speaking of global tours, restricted the field size to top 70–80 players like Majors. That might once again vindicate the detractors, further estranging a section of the Tour pros from the ‘mainstream’.

A twice-fractured golf world?

For a player like Rory McIlroy, who hails from Northern Ireland, has lived in Dubai for four years, moved to Florida, and is now building a house in England, the idea of globetrotting might sound thrilling. However, PGA Tour pros have already blasted the hectic schedule the Tour is going with.

Last year, the PGA Tour management made it mandatory for players to participate in the ‘designated’ events. Ironically, McIlroy himself missed two of these last years, costing him $3 million from his PIP bonus. This time, too, the Northern Irish golfer has already said that he is not a big fan of Hawaii and skipped the first Signature event of the calendar year.

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The 24-time PGA Tour winner has kicked off his season in the UAE instead. What if other golfers take a leaf out of his book? From the Dubai Creek Resort, McIlroy floated another idea in the press conference: a player contract. While how open his colleagues will be to the idea is a matter of debate, even without a contract, PGAT players are bound by various clauses that effectively bar them from playing in ‘conflicting’ global events.

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Rory McIlroy’s ‘Brave New World’ Might Slip off PGA Tour’s Plate: From the Nike Exit to the Sponsor Hurdles

If McIlroy’s vision has to become a reality, the PGA Tour, or the new entity that is formed, has to forego its restrictive policies. That, in turn, means throwing itself open to future competitors as well. Interestingly, LIV Golf, in its current contracts, makes it mandatory to play in fourteen events. While the vision of a global tour is laudable, it needs a multifarious perspective from all the sections before forging it into reality.

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Written by:

Parnab Bhattacharya

813Articles

One take at a time

I, Parnab Bhattacharya, am a budding golf writer at EssentiallySports. I am keen on constantly exploring my deep-rooted love for golf through my long-time passion for writing. With a strong knack for storytelling and experience in SEO content writing, I bring a unique blend of fluent writing and technical expertise.
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Edited by:

Sheldon Pereira

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