The PGA Tour has sternly refused to grant its membership the ability to play in the inaugural event of a rival Saudi-backed golf tour, which will make its debut next month outside London. The move, announced in a memo to tour members Tuesday night, was hardly a surprise — the PGA Tour is protecting its business — but in the most gentlemanly of sports, it exposed uncharacteristic rancor.
It is also pressuring the world’s best men’s golfers, who are highly paid entrepreneurs, to choose sides over where they will collect their millions of dollars in compensation. And not inconsequentially, the focus of the dispute is often the source of the alternative golf circuit, LIV Golf, whose major shareholder is the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.
The overwhelming likelihood is that only a small number of players with little standing on the established, American-based PGA Tour — plus a handful of golfers past their prime — will jump to the new golf series, which may not lack for money but currently lacks prestige, or even a TV contract.
But if the start-up tour perseveres for years — also not a certainty — and keeps its promise to dole out purses that overshadow those on the PGA Tour, it could sow unrest down the line in a future generation of young pros, especially those raised outside the United States whose focus is not so centered on the PGA Tour.