While golf, like most professional sports in the United States, is on hold as communities respond to the COVID-19 virus, one of its more talked about subplots in 2020 resurfaced on Sunday.
If the Premier Golf League is to get off the ground when sports do resume, and stand as a potential competitor to the PGA Tour, it will have to do so without the current top three players in the world.
World No. 3 Brooks Koepka told the Associated Press that he has decided against joining the PGL, which made waves earlier this year when it proposed a lucrative new team-based, 18-event system designed to lure golf’s best players away from the PGA Tour. “I am out of the PGL. I’m going with the PGA Tour,” Koepka told the AP. “I have a hard time believing golf should be about just 48 players.”
Hours later, Golfweek reported that World No. 2 Jon Rahm is also staying with the Tour.
“I think what I’m going to do is focus on just the PGA Tour,” Rahm told Golfweek. “At the end of the day I’m a competitor. I’m a PGA Tour member and I’m going to stay that way.”
Koepka, 29, had previously said he was in the information gathering stage regarding the PGL while Rahm, 25, had stayed mostly silent. Now, they’ve gone on record and joined the world's top-ranked player, Rory McIlroy, in preferring to remain with the status quo rather than making the jump. McIlroy became the first player to reject the PGL when he said he was not interested at February’s World Golf Championships event in Mexico.
The three rejections to the PGL’s overture—which offered guaranteed-money, three-day events with 48-man fields, but also would require a strict 18-tournament commitment of its members—are likely to deal a significant blow to the venture.
“I get that the stars are what people come to see,” Koepka told the AP of his decision. “But these guys who we see win, who have been grinding for 10 or 15 years, that’s what makes the cool stories. I’d have a hard time looking at guys and putting them out of a job.”
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the PGL had targeted the beginning of 2022 as a potential launch date. Its effort to take on the PGA Tour has been hindered by a lack of players willing to commit to joining the league. Phil Mickelson has emerged as one more open to a move after playing a pro-am with a number of PGL executives in February, but even he has stopped short of any type of commitment.