Breakaway league can go ahead with or without Woods & McIlroy – Norman

Bernie McGuire
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Breakaway league can go ahead with or without Woods & McIlroy – Norman

Greg Norman (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

It somewhat comes as no surprise that Greg Norman is backing plans for a breakaway Premier Golf League.

Rewind to late 1994 and Norman attends the Media Centre at the Australian Open at the Royal Sydney Club in Sydney.

The player known as the ‘Great White Shark’ has rocked the golfing establishment to its collective foundations with talk of a 10-event World Championship Series.

Tim Finchem is at the helm of the PGA Tour and he and Norman never really saw eye-to-eye, so it seemed relatively easy for Finchem to declare a capital ‘No’ to Norman’s plans.

Fast forward to mid-afternoon in the final round of the European Tour’s Saudi International and Norman has ventured out to the far reaches of the course, and to the 16th hole overlooking the Red Sea.

He’s not admiring the view overlooking the aqua-blue foreshore but he’s watching two European Tour stars in the later stages of their rounds.

Norman seems to be in one of his moods. We hear he is being reluctant to venture some 25-yards from where he’s standing and walk-up a small flight of stairs to a corporate enclosure where some 10 journalists have been arranged to meet the former long-time No. 1.

The chap who is in Norman’s ear seems to be having a little trouble convincing Norman to budge. After a trip back up the stairs to advise the media that Norman is playing ‘silly buggers’, he heads back down to again be standing by Norman’s side to ask if he could make his way to meet the media.

Norman finally agrees. He walks upstairs and is pleasant enough before sitting down to find the media going straight for the jugular in seeking Norman’s view of a golf proposal that more than 25-years ago, he had also sought to convert.

“I think they all had a chance. It’s just a matter of getting all the right components together, whether players stay together,” he said when asked if the PGL had a chance of coming to fruition.

“With my original concept, some players loved it and others didn’t like it. I had corporate, I had television but you need 100 percent of the pie to be together before we can bake it.

“From what I’m seeing here this one has every chance of getting off the ground.

“The PGA did it, Formula One did it, tennis has done it, soccer has done it and so has cricket. I saw it 25 years ago but maybe the time is right now.

“It was pretty much the PGA Tour that stopped it. You’ve got to remember back in my day, the players were looked on a little bit different.

“Seve (Ballesteros), Jose (Maria Olazabal) and I were trying to tell everybody we were independent contractors who could go and play anywhere in the world we want.

“Today is that way for sure now. Restraint of trade is not as prevalent – you can’t do it basically in this day and age – so that’s why this one probably has a little more legs.

“Management rallied against me a little bit because at the time they owned a piece of the golf tournaments. So, the confluence of everything has to come together to make sure it works.”

Norman, now very much at ease in speaking of the new concept was asked does PGL need to have Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy on board if this breakaway tour is to cement its standing in global golf.

“Not necessarily because Tiger and Rory are not going to be around forever, the concept has to have longevity that will stand the test of time,” said Norman.

“The proposed start of January 2022, the players are going to be two years older so you’ve got to look at the young generation who are out here playing.

“We don’t know who it is but they’re out here playing at the moment and they’re going to be the ones carrying it then, so you need to have them looking at it saying, ‘I want to be on that Tour’.

“You are building a tour for longevity, not for just two or three years.”

And can both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, as the two biggest tours in golf, survive if the PGL concept takes off?

“The two tours, yes they can survive,” said Norman.

“You’ve got to have a hub for kids to come through.

“It might accelerate conversations between the PGA Tour and European Tour about joining forces now, which has been talked about since 1994.

“I’ve always thought there was room to have the best players travel the world in a true World Tour.

“The way the game has changed from my era to today – 25 years ago we’d never be in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam or even considered Cuba. Now I’ve built golf courses in Jordan, Oman, Dubai and now I’m out in Saudi.

“You’ve got to look forward to where we are headed and take the important next step.

“The thing is, everybody from Tours to management companies, TV and sponsors, they all see benefit in some degree but all of them can only be successful for one reason – the players.

“But the players all have a manager so there are a lot of different conversations happening behind the scenes for everybody to feel comfortable for signing up.

“In my day I didn’t have a manager, I just wanted to do what I thought was best for the game. It wasn’t even for me because I was giving up equity in the business because I wanted to share what I knew about the game of golf with places around the world that was never getting to see it.”

Norman then turned interviewer and sought from the media present asking: “So, who are the two biggest companies in bed with the Tours?”

Norman answered saying:  “Who is one of the biggest companies in the world right now with a trillion dollar business? Apple. And Amazon. Streaming is the future.

“I was just live streaming the Australian Open tennis before I came to speak to you.

“Everybody is out for this real time, 5G, 6G, instantaneous coverage. Boom here it is, no matter where we are in the world.

“Why not stream golf on Apple, why not on Amazon? Get out of the box. There are opportunities out there that are far greater than even I could have contemplated back in my day.”

 

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