Padraig Harrington was laughing and rubbing his hands together at the thoughts of competing on a $US2 billion tour.
The three-time Major winner had just posted a two-over par 72 on the opening day of the Honda Classic, one of three events he’s captured twice in his career, to be trailing six shots behind the leading duo of England’s Tom Lewis and American Harris English at four-under par on the PGA National course.
After speaking of his disappointment in managing just two birdies in his round, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain was asked his reaction to fellow Irishman Rory McIlroy’s comments last week in Mexico on the release of further details of a proposed Premier Golf League (PGL) breakaway Tour.
“I can’t see it happening but I like the idea of it and if someone has $US2B and they want to put it into golf, I like the idea,” Harrington said smiling and rubbing his hands with glee.
“That’s guaranteed money for 20 events and we could do with a new two billion dollar venture coming into golf and you have to be happy about that. It may not happen now but in 10 years it could be hard for players to differentiate themselves as the standard gets deeper and deeper.
“You will have the TV fans not watching golf as they don’t know who’s winning whereas if you had team events you can follow your team.
“There will be the four Majors and we will continue to contest them even if there was no prize-money on offer while the main team events like the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and the Olympics will remain unchanged.
“The thing is also, if the players turn-up wanting to play these new events then they are events that should get the World Ranking points and if the ‘silly season’ events now count toward World Rankings points, then I see no reason why a new tour would not count.
“For my own sake, I just hope that some of the $US2 billion will trickle down to all of us (smiling)”.
Regardless of whether or not the PGL takes off, Harrington also urged for more ‘team’ competition to help boost TV interest in the ancient club-and-ball game.
“How good would it be if the European or PGA Tour decided to conduct a team event over 15, 20 events a year so they would have a league format and then a cup,” he said.
“You could tune into the TV and watch your New York team, your Florida team, your Irish team, your English … well maybe not watching the English team (laughing) but I like the idea of more team competition.
“It would also be like Formula One where you compete in the 20 or so races and that would be the role model as I see it for say any new golf tour.”
Harrington indicated he has not been approached nor spoken to anyone representing the PGL breakaway tour.
And when asked if he thought the PGA Tour may change as a result of the establishment of PGL, the three-time Major winner said: “The Tour is already changing because they keep increasing the prize-money.
“Look, there is not enough professional tours in the world as it is and having another tour out here is not going to strangle us in terms of players because there is plenty of players out there, and the pool of talent is only getting deeper.
“We’re professional sports people, so we’re in showbusiness (smiling)”.