A small contingent of the biggest names in golf is in a tropical resort at the end of the season, just like 27 years ago.
There are differences between now and then, one in particular: No one should expect a contract promising riches to slip under their doors in Mayakoba this week along the Gulf Coast of Mexico.
Greg Norman is not that far away with his latest venture.
In fact, no one is quite sure what to do with LIV Golf Investments except that it is primarily backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and the shark is running the show.
“This is just the start,” Norman said, leaving the golf world to speculate on the middle and the end.
One thing must be clear. When the conversation turns to the concept of a global golf tour that would attract the best players in the world to compete more often in the hopes of expanding the game into untapped markets, it’s mostly about the money.
Different versions of a rebel league of any name have focused on four-man teams with the alpha player pledged over $ 50 million.
So far, Norman has announced just last week that his new company will inject $ 200 million into the Asian Tour for a series of 10 tournaments as part of a 10-year commitment. He also said that LIV Golf Investments had secured significant funding for “additional new opportunities” around the world.
Norman has taken this route before, most infamously in 1994 with his idea of a World Golf Tour. He thought he had enough support from the players until he realized he didn’t, let alone Arnold Palmer. The king had weight.
When contracts slipped under the doors of elite players at Tryall Resort in Jamaica during the Johnnie Walker World Championship, it was then too late.
Norman remembered this failure when Rory McIlroy spoke out against the Premier Golf League project 18 months ago. “I’d love to be on the right side of history with this one, kind of like Arnold was with the whole Greg Norman thing in the ’90s,” he said.
And now ?
Norman, in an interview with Golf Digest on Monday, explained how he and Seve Ballesteros once kept separate schedules while sharing the same passion.
“It was the competition that we loved and wanted to be involved in on a global scale,” he said, omitting this not-so-small issue as the money looks. “We have treasured and enjoyed every tournament we have participated in. It stimulated conversations with other players: “What if we could do this? “”
This concept exists today. It’s called the PGA Tour, which feels threatened.
The top 50 in the world rankings come from 13 countries on the six continents where golf is played, and the 50 are all members of the PGA Tour. They don’t compete every week, but with the majors and invites and limited fields, they’re together a dozen times.
Money is not guaranteed, minus a few cocktails that some sponsors have used to get around the money in appearance.
But the cash prize, backed by a new media rights deal that began this year, averages around $ 8.5 million per event. This does not include the four majors, the $ 10 million bonus pool for the top 10 regular season players or the $ 75 million bonus pool for the FedEx Cup ($ 18 million for the winner) .
More is on the way beyond $ 40 million for the Player Impact Program. The PGA Tour envisions a “World Series” in the fall with big purses, no cups and appearance money based on a player’s FedEx Cup ranking. He is studying another bonus program for the top five entering the circuit championship.
There is a greater movement not only to identify its biggest stars, but to reward them with everything from bonus pools to sponsorship deals with marketing partners.
Even for a PGA Tour that has been around for over 50 years under its current name, and with a logo as powerful as any in golf, it’s still about the money.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has already drawn battle lines against a super league by telling players they can choose one circuit or another. Now he must decide whether or not to grant releases to anyone who wants to take advantage of the new tournaments Norman has in mind.
Norman was smart about it. Instead of starting a new tour, he is picking up an Asian tour that is part of the International Federation of PGA Tours, with a main seat at the official world golf ranking table.
(Ranking points are important but will be considerably lower than what’s offered on the PGA Tour no matter who or how many play the Asian Tour series. And that’s not the motivation, anyway. That’s a question. silver).
We must not forget the source of funding. The Public Investment Fund is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the U.S. Secret Service has determined to have approved of the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi politics.
For now, Norman has a vision. He might even have a score to settle.
What he doesn’t have are players.
At some point, he will know how many are willing to follow him and at what cost.