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Is Global Turf War Looming in Professional Golf?

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For the past few years, there has been continuing talk and speculation of the formation of a global golf tour, encompassing the major professional tours of the world, namely the behemoth PGA Tour and the lesser European Tour. For all intents and purposes, it has just remained as chatter with no one stepping up to confirm or refute the birth of a super global tour.

In the last few months, however, there seems to have been some stirring, and whether this is related to the start of a global tour cannot be confirmed. This has been brought about primarily due to both tours bulking up their presence, particularly in Asia where there is room for growth insofar as the professional game is concerned.

With the shrewd and wily Tim Finchem no longer at the helm of the PGA Tour, a younger commissioner in the form of Jay Monahan will be a good bet to bring about change. The Americans have beefed up their presence and geographic footprint in Asia. The PGA Tour has an established beach-head in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and a rich tournament in the US$7 million dollar CIMB Classic, which has now been extended till 2020.

The next market is South Korea where the PGA Tour is growing its presence. It has teamed up with the CJ Corporation and has announced the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, an event with a $9.25 million purse that’s scheduled for October 16-22, 2017 in Korea.

In making this official, Monahan said, “This announcement is a historic landmark for the PGA Tour as we add another tournament in Asia. We had such a phenomenal experience in Korea last year at The Presidents Cup, and we hoped an official, permanent event in this great country would be the result of that success.” He went on to add, “Partnering with a respected business leader like the CJ Corporation means this tournament will be on the Korean sports landscape for years to come.”

“The addition of the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges to our schedule gives us three strong tournaments in consecutive weeks in Asia, and they will play a significant role in shaping the early part of the FedExCup season and the FedExCup chase overall,” Monahan continued. Footnote: The tournaments are the World Golf Championship in Shanghai, CIMB Classic and the Korean tournament.

In 2016, 20 players from Korea had membership on either the PGA Tour or Web.com Tour. On the PGA Tour’s international-player roster, the 12 Korean members for the 2016-17 season is exceeded only by the 15 from Australia.

Completing the “Asian Swing” is the establishment of the PGA Tour’s Champions and the Japan Airlines Championship, the first ever PGA Tour-sanctioned event to be held in Japan to be played at Narita Golf Club in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, Japan the week of September 4-10, 2017.

One of the PGA’s early beach-heads in Asia was in China, but that relationship which was brokered by Finchem back in 2014 seems to have turned sour. The PGA Tour was partnered with the all-powerful China Golf Association, which operates the China PGA Tour. With this partnership in limbo, China is off the table temporarily.

In recent weeks, the PGA Tour flexed its muscles by opening a base in England. This is a strong affront to the European Tour, although the Americans have been quick to point out that its London office’s “prime focus will be on media rights and tournament sponsorship.” If this does not point to the PGA Tour flying solo, what else can it be?

The move toward the globalization of golf does not stop at the thrust toward Asia. In 2016, a strategic alliance was formed between the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour. This agreement is designed to further promote the growth of golf and the partnership between the leading men’s and women’s professional golf tours and it will include areas such as schedule coordination, joint marketing programs, domestic television representation, digital media, and exploring the potential development of joint events.

Commenting on the strategic alliance, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, “We look forward to working with the PGA Tour team to deliver a positive impact for our sport.” This is a dynamite partnership and it will be a tough act to follow and to beat!

What sort of a conclusion can we draw from all this activity in Asia? The answer really is simple – there is absolutely no doubt that the PGA Tour has taken off big time in Asia, and from all indications, it looks like the Americans are going it alone in their initiative to start up a global tour.

Speaking for Asia, we welcome this development because it only means that good things can happen for the game of golf. The PGA Tour has deep pockets, a tremendous depth in its field of players, and it has powerful media in tow. No one can do a better job than the PGA Tour when it comes to growing the game of golf and expanding its influence on a global scale. Remember that slogan that the PGA Tour used to use some years ago to promote its tour: THESE GUYS ARE GOOD! Well, you better believe them; they are darn good!

So, where does that leave the European Tour insofar as their dream to start a global tour is concerned? Well, Keith Pelley, the tour’s chief executive officer, has not been idling all this time. He has been actively dreaming up plots of his own to expand and take a hold of the global game. In his bid to “conquer” the world, he has sought to be allies with the PGA Tour of Australasia (what a silly term, you are either Australia or Asia but not Australasia!), and the “baby” of the alliance, the Asian Tour, which incidentally has problems of its own.

After some months of relative silence, Pelley seems to have emerged from a deep winter slumber to announce a “game changer.” The head honcho of the European Tour generated some tremors on the golf landscape with the announcement of a new format for the professional game, “GolfSixes”, which made a successful debut at the Centurion Club north of London on May 6-7. This format featured two-man teams from 16 different countries competing for a prize fund of $1.06 million.

What Pelley has done represents a part of the European Tour’s aggressive move to introduce innovative formats to broaden the appeal of the sport. As stated earlier, in trying to bring about change, Pelley has started a romance with new bedfellows: the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour. Both these tours have bought into the new format lock, stock, and barrel.

Pelley wants to “emulate the national fervor” of the Ryder Cup in GolfSixes, which will feature amphitheatre-style stands around the tees and greens, music and pyrotechnics on the first tee and at various points around the course, and all players will be miked up. Sounds like a great deal of fun and this is precisely what golf needs to grow spectator support.

In an interview, Pelley said: “It is not about wholesale changes in the game. We need to be more entertaining for the younger generation so they can experience the wonderful game and the great athletes.”

Well, it looks like Pelley has something with which to go after a global golf tournament. Maybe, there’s a special “Sixes” global golf tournament league in the offing and perhaps this is what Pelley hopes to use as his thrust toward occupying the global game space. It’s anybody’s guess right now because amid all of this activity, there seems to be some clear battle lines emerging. The European Tour with its allies is going one way, while the PGA Tour seems to be the quiet 1000-pound gorilla in the arena. There has been no word or reaction from the PGA Tour on Pelley’s new “Sixes” format.

Another measure of the adversarial status between the PGA Tour and the European Tour relates to the relative attraction of the PGA Tour to many of the European Tour’s top stars. Because of the massive purses that are involved, there has been a migration of Europe’s top stars across the Atlantic in search of greener pastures. It goes without saying that star quality is very important in any professional sport, and Pelley has been very concerned about his tour becoming a secondary tour with a whole bunch of journeymen playing for second-rate rewards. He swung into action and cut a deal with Rolex to fatten up the purses for some marquee European Tour events in a bid to keep his top players on home soil. The European Tour’s Rolex Series, will mean enhanced prize funds for certain tournaments, which kicked off with the recent BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

All indications point to both the tours being intent to gain more traction on the global scene, but there seems to be no signs of working together to bring about the realization of a true global tour. Both sides have their own agendas, and the PGA Tour is very active in Asia looking for new sponsors to support new tournaments. The same is true of the Europeans and with this go-it-alone posturing, one can only conclude that each side has resolved to fight for market share and dominance on its own strengths and merits.
It doesn’t take rocket science to figure which side will win in this show-down. The PGA Tour just has too much fire-power in its arsenal in terms of cash, corporate clout, media exposure, and player quality. For the Europeans, it would be like going up against Goliath, ill-armed to do battle.

Whatever the case, let us all hope that the two tours can find some common ground to come together and work together for the greater interest of the game. Pipe dreams? Probably, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed nevertheless.

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Mike is the owner and publisher of ASIAN GOLF, published by the Asia Pacific Golf Group headquartered in Singapore. It is the only English language golf magazine that is pan-Asian in its distribution and readership. He is also the owner and producer of the Asia Pacific Golf Summit, the region’s top conference on the business of golf and the highly prestigious Asian Golf Awards, widely recognised as the “Oscars” for the Asian golf industry. e-Mail: mike@asiapacificgolfgroup.com Web site: http://www.asiapacificgolfgroup.com

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Rano

    Aug 8, 2017 at 8:17 am

    “what a silly term, you are either Australia or Asia but not Australasia!”

    What a silly and ignorant comment to make. New Zealand (among others) isn’t in either Asia or Australia. It’s in Australasia.

  2. CB

    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:27 am

    @ John: Thumbs up.
    @ Mike Sebastian: D- for Geography.

    “Australasia, a region of Oceania, comprises Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. Charles de Brosses coined the term (as French Australasie) in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes[1] (1756). He derived it from the Latin for “south of Asia” and differentiated the area from Polynesia (to the east) and the southeast Pacific (Magellanica).[2] The bulk of Australasia sits on the Indo-Australian Plate, together with India.” Wikipedia.

  3. CB

    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:22 am

    The PGA Tour is American – which americans benefit from a global tour?
    The European Tour is European – which europeans benefit from a global tour?

    The fans not – bad viewing times on TV and can’t watch the tournaments live
    The players not – agonising travel and jet lag

    I smell greed in the boardrooms of the tours…

  4. John

    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Australasia refers to “Oceania” or, nations like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and other surrounding countries. Calling it the Australian tour could be insulting to the other countries’ tournaments. A PGA TOUR event at Royal Melbourne annually would (with the right purse) be a massive boost to the region as the hilariously tiny purses on the Australasian Tour aren’t attracting any players.

  5. Joe

    Aug 7, 2017 at 12:11 am

    I wonder if Mr. Sebastian actually read the “Goliath” account. Goliath lost.

    So now I’m left scratching my head. Either he didn’t understand his own metaphor, or meant it to mean that he is pulling for the European Tour (and not the PGA Tour) to be the ones to be successful.

  6. Bert

    Aug 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    +1 Tom1

  7. xzx

    Aug 6, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Terrible idea for us who watch PGA every weekend in the evening UK hours 🙂

  8. H

    Aug 6, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    This articles says so much without saying anything at all.

  9. Chris B

    Aug 6, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    The European Tour has basically been a global tour for years. The problem for it now is that the PGA Tour is trying to tap in to other markets.

    You can see the attraction of playing the PGA Tour because the ease of getting from one tournament to another. It also has a massive advantage of hosing 3 of the majors.

    Years ago Greg Norman tried to get a world tour going, it never happened. The players will have to be happy to travel. Money talks so it’s possible.

  10. Tom1

    Aug 6, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    connect the dots and complete the picture. Golf is a global sport with competitors from all over the globe. It’s a good thing.

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Opinion & Analysis

15 hot takes from Greg Norman on our 19th Hole podcast

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Our Michael Williams spoke with the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman, for GolfWRX’s 19th Hole podcast. Not surprisingly, the two-time major champion had no shortage of hot takes.

While you’ll want to check out the full ‘cast, here are 15 takes of varying degrees of hotness, from Norman’s feelings about bifurcation to whether he’d pose for ESPN’s Body Issue.

1) He wants bifurcation immediately, rolling back technology for the pros, rolling it forward for amateurs

“I would instigate a bifurcation of the rules. I would roll back the golf ball regulations to pre-1996. I would roll back the technology that’s in the golf equipment for the professionals. And I would open up the technology and give it to the masses because the pros who developed the maximum club head speed of 118, 120 are the ones who maximize what technology is in that piece of equipment. So the person who’s under 100 miles an hour does not hit the ball an extra 30, 35 yards at all. They may pick up a few yards but they don’t get the full benefit of that technology…I would definitely do that because I think we’ve gotta make the game more fun for the masses. “

2) He has no relationship with Tiger Woods and doesn’t plan to watch him play golf

“And this might sound kind of strange. What I’ll say is … I really, in all honesty, I really don’t care what Tiger does with golf. I think Tiger is, golf probably needs him to some degree but golf doesn’t need him, if you know what I mean, because there’s so many other incredibly talented great young players out there, probably a dozen of them, maybe even more, that are equal, if not way better than Tiger, and they can carry the baton of being the number one player in the world. So, I get a little bit perplexed about and disappointed about how some of these guys get pushed into the background by the attention Tiger gets. I hope he does well. If he doesn’t do well, it doesn’t bother me. If he does do well, it doesn’t bother me.”

3) He plays almost no golf these days

“I really don’t play a lot of golf. I played with my son in the father-son at the end of last year, had a blast with him. Played a little bit of golf preparing for that. But since then I have not touched a golf club.”

4) He doesn’t enjoy going to the range anymore

“To be honest with you I’m sick and tired of being on the driving range hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls. That bores me to death now. My body doesn’t like it to tell you the truth. Since I’ve stopped playing golf I wake up without any aches and pains and I can go to the gym on a regular basis without aches and pains. So my lifestyle is totally different now. My expectations, equally, is totally different.”

5) It took him a long time to get used to recreational golf

“But I’ve been in this mode now for quite a few years now so the first couple of years, yes. My body was not giving me what my brain was expecting. So you do have to make those mental adjustments. Look, there’s no difference than when you hit 40, you’re a good player or not a good player. Things start to perform differently. Your proprioception is different. Your body is different. I don’t care how good you are and how great physical shape you are. Your body after just pure wear and tear, it eventually does tend to break down a little bit. And when you’re under the heat of the battle and under the gun, when you have to execute the most precise shot, your body sometimes doesn’t deliver what you want.”

6) He’s a big Tom Brady fan

“I’m a big fan, big admirer of his. He gets out of it what he puts into it obviously…But he’s also a role model and a stimulator for his teammates. No question, when you go to play Brady and the Patriots, you’d better bring your A game because he’s already got his A game ready to go.”

7) He believes we’ll see 50-plus-year-old winners on Tour

“I said this categorically when Tom Watson nearly won at Turnberry in his 50s, when I nearly won at Royal Birkdale in my 50s….if you keep yourself physically in good shape, flexibility in good shape, as well as your swing playing, and your swing. Yeah, maybe the yips come in maybe they don’t, that depends on the individual, right? But at the end of the day, my simple answer is yes. I do believe that’s going to happen.”

8) The Shark logo has been vital to his post-golf success

“But I realized very early on in life too that every athlete, male or female, no matter what sports you play you’re a finite entity. You have a finite period of time to maximize your best performance for X number of years. And with golf, if you look at it historically, it’s almost like a 15 year cycle. I had my 15 year run. Every other player has really has had a 15 year run, plus or minus a few years.”

“So you know you have that definitive piece of time you got to work with and then what you do after that is understanding what you did in that time period. And then how do you take that and parlay it? I was lucky because I had a very recognizable logo. It wasn’t initials. It wasn’t anything like that. It was just a Great Shark logo. And that developed a lot of traction. So I learned marketing and branding very, very quickly and how advantageous it could be as you look into the future about building your businesses.”

9) He’s tried to turn on-course disappointments into positives

“We all … well I shouldn’t say we all. I should say the top players, the top sports men and women work to win. Right? And when we do win that’s what we expected ourselves to do because we push ourselves to that limit. But you look at all the great golfers of the past and especially Jack Nicklaus, it’s how you react to a loss is more important than how you react to a victory. And so, I learned that very, very early on. And I can’t control other people’s destiny. I can’t control what other people do on the golf course. So I can only do what I do. When I screw up, I use that as a very strong study point in understanding my weakness to make sure that I make a weakness a strength.”

10) Jordan Spieth is best suited to be the top player in the world

“I think that Jordan is probably the most balanced, with best equilibrium in the game. He’s probably, from what I’m seeing, completely in touch with the responsibilities of what the game of golf and the success in the game of golf is.”

11) His golf design is built on two pillars

“Two things: Begin with the end in mind and the least disturbance approach. I think we, the industry of golf course design industry, really did the game of golf a major disservice in the 80s and 90s when everybody was leveraged to the hilt, thought they had unlimited capital, and thought they could just go build these big golf courses with big amounts of money invested in with magnificent giant club houses which weren’t necessary. So, we were actually doing a total disservice to the industry because it was not sustainable.”

12) He’s still not happy about having essentially invented the WGC events and not getting credit

“I’ll always be a little bit salty about that because there’s a saying that I keep telling everybody, “slay the dreamer.” I came up with a pretty interesting concept where the players would be the part owners of their own tour or their own destiny and rewarded the riches if they performed on the highest level. And quite honestly, Michael, actually a friend of mine sent me an article, it was a column written, “Shark and Fox Plan to Take a Bite out of the PGA”. And this is written in 11/17/94 and I literally just got it last night. And I’m reading through this article and I’m going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I was ahead of my time!” I really was ahead of my time.

So, it was very, very kind of like a reflective moment for me. I read it again this morning with a cup of coffee and I did sit back and, I’ll be brutally honest with you and your listeners, and did sit back and I did get a little bit angry because of the way I was portrayed, the way I was positioned.”

13) He was muzzled by the producer at Fox

“I’m not going to dig deep into this, I think there was just a disconnect between the producer and myself. I got on really well with the director and everybody else behind the scenes, some of my thought processes about what I wanted to talk about situations during the day, and it just didn’t pan out. And things that I wanted to say, somebody would be yelling in my ear, “Don’t say it, don’t say it!” So it became a very much a controlled environment where I really didn’t feel that comfortable.”

14) Preparation wasn’t the problem during his U.S. Open broadcast

“I was totally prepared so wherever this misleading information comes saying I wasn’t prepared, I still have copious notes and folders about my preparation with the golf course, with the players, with the set-up, with conditioning. I was totally prepared. So that’s an assumption that’s out there that is not true. So there’s a situation where you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

15) He would do ESPN’s Body Issue

“Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir…And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Don’t forget to listen to the full podcast here!

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TG2: “If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” (Part 2)

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“If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” Brian Knudson and Andrew Tursky debate their choices in part 2 of this podcast (click here in case you missed Part 1). Also, TG2 welcomes special guest and GolfWRX Forum Member Ed Settle to the show to discuss what clubs he has in the bag.

Listen to our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Greg Norman on why he won’t watch Tiger Woods this week at the Genesis Open

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Greg Norman, Hall of Fame golfer and entrepreneur, tells us why he won’t watch the Genesis Open this week even if Tiger is in contention. He also discusses his ventures and adventures on and off the course, and shares the thing about the PGA Tour that still makes him angry.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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