Premier Golf League CEO finds McIlroy’s stance fascinating

Bernie McGuire
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Premier Golf League CEO finds McIlroy’s stance fascinating

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The controversial breakaway Premier Golf League (PGL) has finally shown its hand.

After weeks of speculation and hearsay, PGL’s Andrew Gardiner, a London-based attorney who’s also director at Barclays Capital, went public in lengthy interviews on both sides of The Pond – speaking with Golf Digest’s US magazine and also Rick Shiels, a British-based professional who now dabbles in podcasts.

Yes, we already know a number of PGL’s concept proposals such as aiming to launch in January 2022 featuring 48 players competing among 12 four-person teams in 18 hole, no-cut, 54-hole tournaments boasting purses of $10 million each.

The events will be played in four continents: 10 in the U.S., four in Asia, including one in the Middle East, three in Europe and one in Australia.

We spotted Gardiner, competing alongside Phil Mickelson last month in the Pro-Am at the Saudi International, and now Gardiner has been identified as CEO of PGL – hence we officially now know it will be Saudi Arabian money backing the PGL.

“Well, if you’re referring to the financial support we have, our shareholder base is extraordinarily diverse, just north of 60 partners, and we’ve been very selective about each. The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is incredibly passionate about golf and its future, and I’m delighted to have them involved,” said Gardiner.`

Of course, Rory McIlroy is now on record that he’s not interested in joining the breakaway tour and Gardiner was asked his reaction to the World No. 1’s comments earlier this week in Mexico City.

“I found it fascinating, and it really made me think because I’m no different than anybody else,” said Gardiner.

“Rory speaks and lots of golf fans tend to listen and that’s because of who he is.

“He is exceptional on the course, he’s compelling, you know when you see him going on a run, you can’t take your eyes off it, but he’s also exceptional as an individual. So, I listened and thought, OK, that’s very interesting.

“It’s interesting from a couple of points. He talked about being on the right side of history, and I thought to myself, yeah, we all want to be on the right side of history, and that’s what we spent the last six years hoping we might become.”

Gardiner said much the same about McIlroy in his interview with Golf Digest but drawing on a famed quote by Mark Twain, better known as Samuel Langhorne Clements, author of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer in saying:

“It brought to mind the Mark Twain quote, ‘Rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated,’ as if this were some fatal wound.”

After listening to Gardiner during his 1 hour, 26-minute and 7 second podcast with Shield, and his mobile phone fiddling side-kick, Guy, I came away wondering where was the harder, deep-delving ‘journalist-type’ questions.

Questions such as how can the PGL proposal go ahead if the PGA, European, Asian and other tours get their heads together to slap lengthy membership bans or even ban the players altogether should they decide to jump aboard PGL. Surely, such a threat would deter even the game’s best?

Also, how will those hosting the Masters, US Open, PGA Championship, The Open and Ryder Cup react, and also how will individual tournament sponsors such as Omega deal with McIlroy being banned from both the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Omega European Masters should he decide to join PGL, though we now know McIlroy intends on staying put.

All Shield got from Gardiner, clearly one of the most delicate aspects in all of this talk of a breakaway tour, was the following:

THE MAJORS?

“We’re fans — we appreciate what the majors are to the game,” Gardiner said. “The term I’ve used in the past is they’re sacrosanct — they don’t need me to tell anybody how special they are.”

THE EXISTING TOURS?

“The first official release we put out said we just want to clarify one thing — we intend to work with and collaborate with other tours. I know the reaction to that was yeah, whatever, of course they’ll say that, but we’re creating a lot of value; the value can be shared,” Gardiner said.

“Our view is that we would like everybody to be involved with this.”

Still so many questions to be answered and with rumours surfacing, there will be a PGA Tour meeting of players, including McIlroy and Tiger Woods, at this week’s Honda Classic, even though McIlroy and Woods will not be contesting the event.

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