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PGA, investor group to tee off versus each other in new golf 'league'

Shawn M. Carter

For 90 years, the Professional Golf Association Tour has dominated the world of golf, but now the upstart Premier Golf League is looking to tee off against storied organization.

The World Golf Group -- reportedly backed by the global investment house The Raine Group -- plans on creating a new 18-even global tour in 2022. “If you want the world to watch, you showcase your best product, week-in-week-out. Golf doesn’t do that currently,” the WGG said in a statement. “If you had the chance to start again, you wouldn’t create professional golf as it exists today. The league is that chance.”

Raine is no stranger to sports investing and disruption. It is a backer of the Premier Lacrosse League and the sports fantasy/betting concern, Draft Kings as well as Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville licensing company and Ron Howard's film and television company, Imagine.

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The proposed league will feature an eight-month season and host 10 events in the United States. One difference planned is that a tournament's winner will be decided after 17 rounds while the 18th will be as a team playoff match. Selected players would be awarded part-ownership of a team/franchise, in turn, this would give golfers a chance to share in the PGL's equity.

The world's number two ranked golfer, Rory McElroy was not immediately embracing the new league. "Those guys have been talking to a few of us for years. They approached me at the end of 2014. It's a hard one," the Northern Irish native told the New York Post, "I certainly wouldn't want to lose what's been built in the last 40 or 50 years."

Longtime golf superstar Phil Mickelson told ESPN that the PGL sounded "intriguing" and said he would "hope to learn more"

Still to be determined if the PGL has pursued a rights deal with a media company. The Raine Group has placed investments in media companies in the past such as Vice and Cheddar, the latter of which is now owned by major cable player Altice USA.

Meanwhile, the PGA Tour, as other established sports organizations have done in the past, feigned a lack of interest. “We don’t comment on the business of other tours, real or hypothetical,” a PGA spokesperson told Reuters, "We’re focused on our business.”

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But with golf estimated to be an $84 billion industry in the United States alone, it is unlikely that the PGA behind closed doors will just brush off the upstart PGL.

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No matter the obstacles of starting a new pro sports undertaking -- just ask the Alliance of American Football which collapsed before its season ended last year -- the WGG remains optimistic: “We’ll succeed because the league is what fans, sponsors and broadcasters want — and the best players deserve. It will revitalize the sport for this and future generations,” it said adding that it’s focused on the growth of its brand.

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