Gary Player bemoans greed in modern game amid reports of breakaway Premier Golf League

Proposed event threatens to disrupt the game with its total prize fund of $240 million

Gary Player hits out of a bunker onto the seventh green during the first round of the Father Son Challenge golf tournament Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
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Nine-time major champion Gary Player says there is too much greed in modern golf as reports of a breakaway Premier Golf League gather steam.

The new concept, understood to have been put together by British-based World Golf Group and global merchant bankers The Raine Group, has caused ripples throughout the game, since it proposes 48 players contesting 18 tournaments around the world in an individual and team format across January to September.

Each event would offer $10 million (Dh36.7m) purses, with the total prize fund, including a $40m team bounty, set at $240m. It has been suggested the new format, which targets the sport's premier players, could begin as early as 2022.

Speaking on the eve of this week’s Golf Saudi Summit in Jeddah, Player said: "The one thing I learned as a young person was loyalty and gratitude. We are so blessed and so lucky in this world.

“We never thought athletes across the board would be making the kind of money they are making; it’s beyond anyone's comprehension. Now someone wants to come into golf with a lot of money and ruin a tour or take over a tour where these players have been so fortunate and so lucky.

“These players have signed an obligation [with the PGA Tour]. If you start talking to another tour when you've done that, you're looking for trouble.

"I find a lot of greed in the sport now,” Player added. “When someone comes along like this, what do you do? Do you discard the PGA Tour where you've played all your life? Are you just going to say ‘to hell with you now?’ I don't like that. It is crazy to say you don't like money, but it's not as though they are struggling.

"I think Rory McIlroy made $23 million last year without even taking in his contracts. How much money do you want? Loyalty to me is very big."

World No 2 McIlroy has urged caution, saying he “loved” the PGA Tour and that the idea could even be a “catalyst for change” for golf’s main circuit. Early last week, tour commissioner Jay Monahan sent an email to players implying they would have to choose between the PGA Tour and the Premier League, should the latter materialise.

World No 1 Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson both said at this week’s Saudi International that they had been approached, but would need more time to assess the new concept.

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson confirmed on Wednesday he had discussed the Premier League while playing the tournament Pro-Am with leading figures behind the move.

Player said: "I don't know all the intricacies, but I'd say it is not for me. It might happen, but it doesn't mean to say it is right. I hope it doesn't come to this as I don't want to see a tour with just 48 players.

"Why are we getting so selfish that it is down to 48 players? Next, some guy will come in and make it 20. What we have just now with 125 players is not enough."

Greg Norman, a two-time Open champion and former long-standing world No 1, proposed a “World Tour” 25 years ago.

Asked on Sunday in Jeddah about the Premier League’s potential, the Australian said: “It’s just a matter of getting all the right components together, whether players stay together.

“With my original concept, some players loved it and others didn’t like it. I had corporate, I had television, but you need 100 per cent 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, football has done it and so has cricket. I saw it 25 years ago, but maybe the time is right now.”

Norman, a keynote speaker at the summit, said the Premier League wouldn’t need to rely on McIlroy and Tiger Woods – the pair would be expected to form two of the four team captains – and that the proposal would not necessarily signal the end to the PGA Tour and European Tour.

“They say yes they can survive,” Norman said. “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.”