Opposition to a proposed Premier Golf League has not deterred the Saudi Arabian backers from pushing ahead with the bid to shake up the sport.
“It is still in negotiation,” Majed Al Sorour, Golf Saudi’s CEO, told The Scotsman of the plan by which 48 elite players will compete in a Formula One-style team and individual format over 18 worldwide tournaments.
The group behind the ambitious project used the Saudi International earlier in the year to make their sales pitch to players including Phil Mickelson, the five-time major champion being impressed by what he heard.
The PGA Tour and European Tour both strongly opposed the concept, with Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy sayingthey had no interest in being involved in a breakway circuit. But it was reported in the summer that the Premier Golf League was still on the table, formal letters having been submitted to a batch of top players.
“You will have resistance from different places,” added Al Sorour. “But I think it is a really great idea. It doesn’t have to be bad or good. It is something creative that we think is going to be the new world of golf eventually. We are still thinking it is the right way to go.”
Al Sorour also revealed that the Saudi International, won by Dustin Johnson in 2019 then Graeme McDowell earlier this year, has been “confirmed” for the 2021 European Tour schedule. “We have already been speaking to the players who have played here in the past – Dustin Johnson, Brooks Kopeka, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson,” he said. “I have been speaking with them almost on a weekly basis and we have been doing everything we can do to make people feel comfortable.
“One of the phone calls we had recently was with (new US Open champion) Bryson DeChambeau. He thinks he’s going to be No 1 in the world, which I really hope happens, and he is also hoping to come. We will have a great field.
“The kingdom is opening on 1 January for everyone to come back. At the same time, we have been very careful and conscious of this pandemic. We need to create these ‘bubbles’ where we can make players feel confident and safe.
“Once they are in the city, it will be easy for people to feel isolated as we will have no spectators for this event. We then hope everything goes back to normal with fans in years to come.”
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