The PGA Tour is dead, long live the World Golf Tour. Well not quite, but nearly. This is probably a good time to tell you that the World Golf Tour (WGT) is something I have just made up, but it’s something that we should all aspire to watch one day.
There are so many truly spectacular golf courses in the world and yet for the majority of the year, if you want to watch the best golfers, you are most likely going to be watching them play in either California or Florida. Why is this? because the PGA Tour has all the money and we all know that when it comes to professional sport, money talks. Don’t get me wrong, I love the PGA Tour and watch it every week. However there does become a time, post majors each year, where the tour really does stagnate due to weaker fields and less desirable purses. We are faced with the Sanderson Farms Championship – shout out Sergio Garcia, and other similar events which sadly fall a bit flat. So what can be done about this? Great question. My proposal would be a formula 1 style world golf tour; not a destruction of the PGA Tour just wholesale alterations to its format, and I am going to explain in detail how this would work.
Before I go into detail about the ins and outs of my proposed new tour it is worth mentioning that something similar might actually be in the pipeline. The Premier Golf League, backed by Saudi money, has been lurking in the shadows for quite some time now, and promised an alternative to the PGA Tour featuring an 18 event season with the top 48 players in the world and a team event woven into the season. The PGL has been met with mixed reviews, some saying it takes away players power of scheduling, while others felt uncomfortable being owned by Saudi money. Either way, it appears to be on the back burner for the time being and we have been left in peace to watch Jim Herman attempt to reclaim the Barbasol Classic, sigh.
Who is playing?
The WGT would include the top 100 players in the world based on the official world golf ranking. Places on the tour could be won and lost year by year similar to the way in which the PGA Tour currently works. By keeping the field relatively broad we would do away with the exclusivity stigma of the WGC events currently held on the PGA Tour, while still making sure that if players do decide to drop out of particular events we are still left with a strong enough field week to week.
How many events are there?
Nobody wants to live in a golfing world without the four majors so they qualify automatically, no brainer. I have also included the Players Championship as I personally think it’s already a better tournament than the PGA, and Sawgrass deserves to be seen by the world on a year to year basis. So this is where it gets a little more interesting. The remainder of the season is run in the same way as the Formula 1 season. Each country has its own “Grand Prix” and this can be moved around within the country at the discretion of organisers. This means we are likely to witness Royal Melbourne one year and Kingston Heath the next. There are obviously some tournaments in the PGA Tour calendar that are too good to drop so there will be a US swing involved in the tour.
Here is a mockup I made of what the 2021 Schedule could look like:
Sentry Tournament of Champions – Kapalua
Genesis Invitational – Riviera Country Club
Arnold Palmer Invitational – Bay Hill
Phoenix Waste Management – TPC Scottsdale
Players Championship – TPC Sawgrass
Mexican Open – Diamante Dunes Course
Australian Open – Royal Melbourne
South African Open – Links Fancourt
Indian Open – DLF Country Club
Chinese Open – Mission Hills
Japanese Open – Hirono
UAE Open – Jumeirah Earth
Saudi Open – Royal Greens
Spanish Open – Real Valderrama
French Open – Morfontaine
English Open – Wentworth
Scottish Open – Royal Dornoch
Irish Open – Royal Portrush
The Masters – Augusta National
US PGA – Kiawah Island
US Open – Torrey Pines
The Open – Royal St George’s
Why would this be better for the spectator?
The best golf courses in the world deserve to be seen with the best players on them. There are too many courses in the world which offer up a unique test for the world’s best, but which don’t get seen often enough. Think of how many times we have seen motorway-like fairways on the PGA Tour where the longest in the game can cut loose without fear of punishment, then chip onto an incredibly soft green and tap in for birdie. Obviously, this doesn’t happen every week but it does happen often enough for it to become a fairly homogenised viewing experience. Now think back to tournaments we have witnessed over the years at courses like Royal Melbourne and Royal Portrush. These are courses that truly test every aspect of a golfer’s skill set, not just the bomb and gouge we have become so used to. The Presidents Cup in 2019 provided some of the best spectator golf I have seen in years and it did so because the course made the players have to think their way around.
Watching Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods shape their irons and play tactically to slopes on the green made for excellent viewing, similar in some ways to what we saw at Riviera last week. By broadening the scope of the PGA Tour, we, as viewers, would be able to witness the best golf the world has to offer, not just America. I want to see more of what Europe has to offer and I want to see the best players doing it. Scotland has probably got the best golf courses in the world and yet we are lucky if we see two tournaments there a year with top fields.
For too long the golfing power has been in America and I think the game of golf would be better served stretching its legs across the globe. We are constantly told by the powers that be that they want to grow the game. Well, this would be a good place to start – get the best players playing around the world and see if that makes a difference. The PGA Tour is too powerful to take down but if it could somehow diversify itself then it would be a good place to start.
Now obviously this plan is one that is fairly bare-boned in structure and planning. Undoubtedly people would be able to pick holes in this plan, however, it is the ethos behind the idea which I believe has the power. The idea that golf should be a more global sport is one I think even the players wouldn’t argue with. And what better way to do it than to take the tour on the road. We’ve seen how well it works with F1 so why not try it with golf?