Phil Mickelson said at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open that he was “intrigued” by the idea of the Premier Golf League, an upstart rival circuit to the PGA and European tours, but remarked he didn’t know much about the venture. However, Mickelson prefaced his remarks, noting he didn’t know much outside the general concept.
Overnight, New Zealand time, Mickelson sounded more enlightened after playing in the Saudi International pro-am with the reported backers of the PGL.
“I had the chance to spend time with and play with the gentlemen in charge of trying to start a new premier league,” Mickelson told a group of reporters at Royal Greens Golf Club in King Abdullah Economic City, according to the Scotsman. “It was fascinating to talk with them and ask some questions and see what their plans are. Where they started, how they started, why and just got their background, which was very interesting.
“I haven’t had the chance to put it all together and think about what I want to say about it publicly, but I do think it was an informative day for me to have the chance to spend time with them.”
The Scotsman identified three of the individuals: Majed Al-Sorour, chief executive of the Saudi Golf Federation, Colin Neville of the Raine Group, and Andrew Gardiner, a director at Barclays Capital. The Raine Group has been announced as one of the PGL partners, and Neville has orchestrated past sports transactions like the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s $US4 billion sale and Manchester City’s deal with a group of Chinese investors.
According to an e-mail from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to players, the PGL is backed by “Saudi interests”.
It’s not surprising the new enterprise is keen on Mickelson, one of the more popular figures in the sport. Conversely, the five-time Major winner is falling in the world rankings (86th entering this week) and would be 51 or 52 by the time the PGL debuts (current target date of 2022).
Mickelson said he needed more time to weigh the proposal, saying he wants to know how it will affect fans and the game, but came away impressed by the group’s proposal.
“I asked a lot of questions today and there are some very interesting ideas and it seems very well put together,” Mickelson said.
In his e-mail, Monahan warned of the ramifications of joining the breakaway tour. “If the Team Golf Concept or another iteration of this structure becomes a reality in 2022 or at any time before or after, our members will have to decide whether they want to continue to be a member of the PGA Tour or play on a new series,” Monahan said.