Rory McIlroy says players signing up for Super Golf League would be ‘money-grabbing’

Rory McIlroy says any top golfer signing up for a proposed Super Golf League would be “money-grabbing” and believes they should be banned from playing on the European Tour and PGA Tour.

Rory McIlroy during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National in April. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
Rory McIlroy during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National in April. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
Rory McIlroy during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National in April. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

Initially called the Premier Golf League, the planned breakaway circuit has resurfaced this week after it was reported that world No 1 Dustin Johnson and fellow major winners Phil Mickelson Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka had all received offers worth more than $100 million to be part of it.

Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, responded to the renewed talk of the plan, which is being fronted by Majed Al Sorour, the chief executive of Golf Saudi, by warning that anyone signing for the Super Golf League would be immediately suspended and face a lifetime ban from the circuit.

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A message from European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley was equally forceful, with the two main men’s tours in the world now working together through a new Strategic Alliance.

“We are aligned with the PGA Tour in opposing, in the strongest possible terms, any proposal for an alternative golf league,” said Pelley in a statement.

Four-time major winner McIlroy was one of the first players to say he had no interest in being part of the Super Golf League, the initial plan for which was 48 players competing in a Formula One-style team and individual format over 18 worldwide tournaments.

The Northern Irishman has since taken over as chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council and, speaking ahead of an appearance in this week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, he stressed that he is still firmly against the proposal.

“They first contacted me back in 2014, so this is seven years down the line and nothing has really changed,” said McIlroy. “Maybe the source of the money's changed or the people that are in charge have changed, but nothing has happened.

“No sponsorship deals, no media deals, no players have signed up, no manufacturers have signed up. There's been so many iterations at this point.”

McIlroy, an avid Manchester United fan, added: “Go back to what happened last week in Europe with the European Super League in football.

“People can see it for what it is, which is a money grab, which is fine if that's what you're playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. Totally fine, then go and do that if that's what makes you happy.

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“But I think the top players in the game, I'm just speaking my own personal beliefs, like I'm playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. That's why I'm playing this game.

“Look, it's a complicated issue, but I just don't see at this point how it can get going. The game of golf, whether it's a right thing or a wrong thing, is so about history. We still talk about Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen and Ben Hogan and all those guys because that's what this game is.

“It's steeped in history and the legacies that those guys have. If you move further away from that, you're basically losing the essence of what competitive golf is. That's my stance on it and that's been my stance for a long time. I just can't see how it happens.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Saudi Arabia investors behind the proposed breakaway circuit are also bidding to take control of the Asian Tour by significantly outbidding the PGA Tour.

That would provide the Super Golf League with venues for a start planned for September 2022, with other circuits, including the Sunshine Tour, the Australasia Tour, the Japan Tour and the Korea Tour, also believed to be possible targets as part of a plan to shake up the game.

“Well, no, because you have to protect your product, right?” replied McIlroy to being asked if he felt it would be sad if players supporting the proposed circuit lost the right to play on the European Tour and PGA Tour and, in the process, became ineligible for the Ryder Cup.

“You have to protect what you have. It's a competitive threat. And Jay took us through it last night (at a PGA Tour players’ meeting). It's in the bylaws that were written by the members. If I were in charge of the PGA Tour, I would do the same thing.

“Look, you saw what happened last week in the UK and in Europe with the European Super League. The top 12 clubs got together and said, ‘let's keep more of the money for ourselves’, and people didn't like that. It affects competition, it affects the integrity of competition. I just can't see how it works.

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“I think the model that the PGA Tour and the European Tour have, I don't think there's a better model for the game of golf because it gives everyone an opportunity to go out there and have a great week and change their lives.”

“You have the strategic partnership as well between Europe and the PGA Tour and that's only going to strengthen the structure of golf going forward.”

Speaking to The Scotsman in September, Al Sorour said the project was “still in negotiation”, having used the Saudi International last February to make a sales pitch to players including five-time major winner Mickelson, who, apparently, had been impressed by what he heard.

“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.”

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