PLANS for a breakaway “super tour” appear to have heralded a major move to create a strategic alliance between the European Tour and the PGA Tour.
In a bid to fend off moves by the The Raine Group – reported to be backed by Saudi Arabian money – the European Tour and PGA have signed a partnership agreement.
And 2021 is set to see changes to the playing schedules on both sides of the Atlantic as a result.
The Tours said on Friday they will work in partnership on a number of areas including global scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities for their respective members.
In today’s announcement, both tours have agreed to “explore all facets of collaboration, working together on strategic commercial opportunities including collaborating on global media rights in certain territories.”
The PGA Tour has already taken a minority stake in European Tour Productions (ETP), the media production company, which produces and distributes content internationally.
Further details on the other areas will be announced in due course, the European Tour said in a statement from its Wentworth HQ.
But the most likely outcome is FedEx Cup points will be available for American players – and those Europeans with status in the States – at the European Tour’s lucrative events between September and November.
Commissioner Jay joins ET board
The European Tour statement added: “One element of the partnership which can be confirmed is the fact that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will take a seat on the board of the European Tour.”
Before the European Tour launched the UK Swing in July – after a three-month break in tournaments because of the COVID-19 crisis – its head Keith Pelley warned players the days of large multi-million prize funds, and many of the players’ perks of a luxury lifestyle on Tour, were under serious threat from the economic effects of the pandemic.
Speculation has been rife since March that the Tour was short of cash, and may have been looking for an injection from, or possible merger with, the PGA Tour.
Without the cash generated by the Rolex Series, which was reduced from eight to just four events in 2020, this year’s prize funds represented a major step backwards, with a huge gulf between a winner’s cheque on the PGA Tour and a European one.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: “This partnership is an historic moment for the game of golf, and is a fantastic opportunity for both the European Tour and the PGA Tour to explore ways to come together at the very pinnacle of our sport – and work in unison for the benefit of the men’s professional game.”
Mr Pelley added that the announcement was the formalisation of a closer working relationship between the two Tours in recent years.
He added: “It was one which was crystalised earlier this year when both Jay and I were part of the working group containing representatives of the four Majors and the LPGA, a group which helped shape the remainder of the golfing calendar for 2020 during unprecedented times.
“We shared the challenges of working through a year neither of us could have ever imagined and we found definite synergies in many areas of our respective Tours. That gave us the impetus to move forward together and arrive at this momentous announcement we are making today.”
Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, said, “We are thrilled to announce this further strengthening of our partnership with the European Tour.
“We look forward to working together for the benefit of the men’s professional game and for golf fans around the world.”
Why world’s top three declined PGL approach
EARLIER this year the world’s top three players all came out publicly to state they would not back plans for a Premier Golf League, reported to be touting for the world’s top 48 players to create a breakaway tour.
Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka all pledged their loyalty to both America’s PGA and European Tours – with McIlroy saying he was unhappy at the prospect of Saudi money being linked as a backer of the Raine Group plan.
Koepka, who rang Rory to discuss the move, also voiced fears that it was wrong to limit the highest and most lucrative level of the game to just 48 players.
Rory said in March: “I think one of the great things about golf is the fact that there are these story lines of the underdog – and the fact that anyone can really qualify for the US Open and have a great tournament, and have a chance to win.
“Those are the wonderful things about golf. For this league to sort of take that narrative away, and as Brooks said, he’d have a hard time looking at some of those guys in the eye that don’t make that top 48.
“The top players going to this other league it basically, not puts these other guys out of a job, but it definitely diminishes what they’re playing for and what they could earn on Tour.”
The new tie up also poses question marks over the future of the Ryder Cup.
The Ryder Cup is jointly owned by the European Tour and the PGA of America – the body of thousands of ordinary club professionals in the USA.
Any future merger between the PGA Tour and the European Tour would shift the power balance Stateside, and give it a share in sharing the spoils of the huge revenues the worldwide sporting event generates.
One seasoned golf industry executive said after the agreement was announced said: “If you’re the PGA Tour, why wouldn’t you want to flip those economics in your favour?”