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Top players considering lucrative ‘World Tour’ proposal that would rival PGA Tour and European Tour

James Corrigan
Eddie Pepperell tees off from the ninth during the second round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic - Getty Images Europe

Revolutionary plans for a global golf circuit are back on the table, with Tiger Woods and some of the sport’s other top players sizing up ­proposals to appear in 18 events a year, worth at least $10 million each, as well as huge signing-up fees.

The concept of a “World Golf Tour” has been mooted for more than two decades, with former world No 1 Greg Norman unveiling his ambitions in 1994, but failing to get those plans off the ground. 

At the 2018 Open at Carnoustie, it emerged that an organisation calling itself the “World Golf Group” was seeking out some of the game’s biggest stars with a Formula One-like plan. Yet despite many of the big management companies expressing tentative interest, the audacious scheme suddenly went silent. Now it is once again a fevered talking point on the range.

A statement released on behalf of Premier Golf League Limited, claiming to be a subsidiary of World Golf Group Limited, was released to Telegraph Sport late on Friday night, saying: “There has been significant speculation relating to our plans to launch ‘The League’, a new professional golf format that will be comprised of 18 events per season…. While we do not wish to comment further at this time, we would like to say that it is our intention to work with, rather than challenge, existing tours for the betterment of golf as a sport, pastime and media property, and we have partnered with the Raine Group to help make this vision a reality. 

“We appreciate the interest and look forward to providing everyone with further details.”

The Raine Group describes itself as an “integrated merchant bank advising and investing in high growth sectors of technology, media and telecom”. Among others, it is connected with the UFC  and the LA Dodgers and gives the potential bid some credibility. 

Mark Steinberg, Tiger Woods’s agent, told GeoffShackelford.com: “This seems to resurface at different times. We’ll see if they take it to the next level. 

“As long as there is talk this grand, what it might be, you have to at least tell your players what you’re hearing because you don’t want them to hear it on the first tee or in the media. To me, its just been a comment I’ve made to the players we work with, and that’s literally all that’s been so far.”

The proposal apparently involves franchises owned by top players such as Woods and Rory McIlroy and was discussed at this week’s PGA Tour player meeting at the Farmers Insurance Open, where commissioner Jay Monahan spoke to players about the pitfalls of the concept.

Asked on Friday if he was concerned about the potential threat to the European Tour, chief executive Keith Pelley replied to PA: “No. We’re not in the habit of talking about the business of other tours, whether they are true or fictional.”

Meanwhile, at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, McIlroy shot a 73 to fall back to four-under, six off the lead set by the American Ryan Palmer. McIlroy requires the win in San Diego to replace Brooks Koepka, who is not playing this week, as No 1. Woods is on the same mark, following a battling 71.

At the Dubai Desert Classic, England’s  Eddie Pepperell fired a second-round 67 to lead defending champion Bryson DeChambeau by one shot.

With lighter winds making for easier scoring, Pepperell carded seven birdies and two bogeys to get to eight under in the morning and set a target that would not be passed. American DeChambeau is alongside South African Dean Burmester and Swede Robert Karlsson on seven under. England’s Tommy Fleetwood carded the lowest round of the week so far with a 65, to move to four under.