Premier Golf League: Is the proposed multi-million dollar circuit viable?

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods finished last at the Genesis Open

Poor finishes from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy contributed to a feeling that the PGA Tour's west coast swing has left more questions than answers.

Not only are we wondering about the state of Woods' health and McIlroy's ability to find his Sunday best, questions also persist about the potential viability of the proposed Premier Golf League.

Woods and McIlroy, world number ones past and present, are the two biggest names in men's golf. Both gave cause for optimism at the end of the Californian stretch of tournaments before departing frustrated figures.

Fitness concerns once again dog the 44-year-old Woods, who looked so good in winning all three matches in the Presidents Cup at the end of last year and while posting a top ten in his 2020 opener at Torrey Pines last month.

He seemed imperious last Thursday too, racing to the turn in 31 in the first round at the Genesis Open which is his home-town PGA Tour event but one he has yet to win. Maybe this would be the week?

However, Woods' game slowly fell apart before totally unravelling in weekend scores of 76-77. He finished last among the 68 players to make the cut.

It was clear that his back is still bothersome. Stiffness in his fused spine hampers what has otherwise become the most technically sound version of his swing to date.

The fact that he shot that miserable closing 77, playing the last six holes in five over par sounded alarm bells for his caddie Joe LaCava. "That's kind of a sign that he might have been hurting," the bagman said.

"That's not normal for him. I'm not really concerned with the score, I just want him to be healthy. Because he's certainly capable."

Woods was left seeking positives, pointing to the fact that there was a time when his back was so bad he wondered whether he would ever compete again.

His decision to skip this week's World Golf Championships event in Mexico now makes complete sense, even though he is foregoing guaranteed ranking points from the no-cut tournament.

The fifteen-time major champion's priority is being fit for his Masters defence in April and questions now surround which tournaments he targets in the Florida swing.

The smart money seems to suggest we will not see Woods until the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on March 5, but that would mean playing consecutive weeks if he is to compete at The Players Championship at Sawgrass.

Rory McIlroy
Questions have been asked about Rory McIlroy's final-round performances

McIlroy will be defending champion there and despite his return to the top of the rankings, questions persist over his performances on the final day of big events.

Starting last Sunday with a share of the lead at Riviera, the Northern Irishman found the self-destruct button with a triple-bogey seven out of nowhere on the fifth hole.

Eventual champion Adam Scott suffered a double bogey on that hole but soon righted the ship. McIlroy had been blown ruinously off course.

Yes, it was another high finish, a top five in a tournament that boasted nine of the world's top ten to add to a continuing string of excellent performances, but failing to contend coming down the stretch should rankle the world number one.

McIlroy possesses plenty of perspective and an enquiring mind constantly seeking answers to make the most of a natural but hard-earned talent. But he knows these are questions that need resolving in time for the major season which starts with the Masters in April.

And who knows how the golfing landscape might look by then? Talk of the proposed multi-million dollar Premier Golf League is not going away.

Last week Woods could have killed off the project had he rejected it in his pre-tournament news conference but did nothing of the sort. He confirmed he had been approached and admitted: "We're still looking at it."

Now England's Justin Rose, who like Woods is managed by Mark Steinberg, confirmed that the proposed 18-tournament circuit for 48 elite players remains a major topic of conversation.

"It's increasingly becoming talked about in the locker room," Rose told the Daily Mail. "There are a lot of incentives for the guys to be interested."

The growing number of players who are not instantly rejecting the rebel concept, despite warnings that they would lose their playing rights on the PGA and European Tours, will concern the established authorities.

Whether the British-based World Golf Group succeed remains highly questionable. But a recurring theme from the biggest names is emerging.

"What it boils down to is a redistribution of the economics in golf, the media rights and all that, in favour of the most marketable players," Olympic champion Rose said.

"Format-wise, it would draw all the top players together each time and we'd all like that."

In other words they want a bigger slice of the money they generate and the biggest names want to be playing against each other more regularly.

To fend off the rebel circuit the established tours may need to rethink the structure of the men's calendar.

"Hundreds of questions need answering and right now they're not being answered very quickly," Rose added.

Which is in keeping with the theme of men's golf so far in 2020.


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