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‘Going global’ continues to be the rage among players looking at pro golf’s future

January 17, 2024
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Bradley Kanaris

DUBAI — More often than not, pre-tournament press conferences are dull affairs. High-profile players are wheeled in to answer questions that tend to revolve around a) their current form, b) the state of the course and c) any other routine business. But there are exceptions. While there was a bit of a), b) and c) on the eve of the DP World Tour’s 35th Dubai Desert Classic, another theme soon emerged, which was predictable, given that it has been the biggest point of discussion in the professional game since the start of the year.

Yes, we’re talking “global golf” amidst the on-going talks involving the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the Strategy Sports Group. Predictably, Rory McIlroy had something to say on the subject. Not too far removed from his resignation from the PGA Tour Policy Board, the four-time major champion was asked if he was worried about the subsequent lack of European representation on such an influential body. Especially at a time when golf’s biggest tour is—whether it likes it or not—being forced to look seriously beyond the borders of the United States.

“We do have Adam Scott as an international representation, which I think is important,” McIlroy said on Wednesday. “The opportunity here is global, and I think you'd be very naïve to not think that way. Look at the event at Kapalua a couple of weeks ago, which is supposed to be one of the big signature events. The TV ratings were quite underwhelming compared to some of the other events. So the opportunity here is global. There will still be massive events in America. They have huge history and tradition, and they need to be kept. But there's a lot of opportunity elsewhere. So it’s a good thing Adam is on the board and seeing maybe the bigger picture of things.”

Over to you Adam.

“Yeah, I think it is important that there is an international voice in that [Policy Board] room,” said the Australian. “Obviously, the PGA Tour has led the professional game for quite a while, but they are in partnership with the DP World Tour, and other tours around the world are in partnership with the DP World Tour, including Australia. So it's important that there's a voice representing the rest of the world and that it is more than just the United States. Hopefully, I can express that well at the board level and have some influence on decisions when it comes to golf outside the United States and how important it is not to ignore it.”

Quizzed on what he feels would be the ideal scenario coming out of the high-profile talks currently taking place, Scott had seen McIlroy’s suggestion that a “world tour” emphasizing the historic national Opens around the world is the way to go. That, he felt, would be “ideal,” but maybe “not realistic” in a game where changing American attitudes is “one of the biggest hurdles going forward.” Although, in mitigation of that point, the former Masters and Players champion did paint a more optimistic picture when speculating that the next generation of American players are likely to be more open to using their passports than some others have been in the past.

“Hopefully, guys are open-minded enough to kind of look at these opportunities from a playing point and get experience of traveling around the world and spreading the good word of the game and keeping people excited,” said Scott, citing by way of example the experience Max Homa enjoyed when winning the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa late last year.

“The way the professional game has been shaped over the last 20 years, it's been very important to be playing in America,” Scott continued. “But I think a better balance can be achieved going forward. To be fair to the younger American players, they are enjoying their international experiences as well. The events that they have played when they have travelled means they are very open to the possibility of traveling to great venues around the world to play some great tournaments.”

One American who is doing just that this week is Open champion Brian Harman. At age 36, the Georgia-native is taking advantage of his still fresh (and surely lucrative) major-winner status to play in places other than the United States. But, as he admitted, international travel is not something he has given much thought to during his professional career. Why would he when there was so much money to be played for close to home?

“I don't necessarily disagree with that at all,” he said after being asked if his compatriots are ready to embrace a brave new international world. “I'm open to all those ideas. I think the more exposure that we can get across the globe, the better. There's a place for golf all over the place. Anywhere willing to spoil us like we are this week, they deserve to have a good field.

“There's some golf-starved areas of the world, and I was just thinking about how cool it is that we can use this game as an avenue to go see places that you wouldn't otherwise get to see,” he continued. “This is really the first big opportunity I've had during our normal tour schedule to take some time and go somewhere else. And I’m very happy to do so.”

Where Harman wasn’t prepared to go was to admit that the biggest “road block” to a global schedule of elite events has always been the inward-looking attitude of those running the PGA Tour.

“I don't know,” Harman said. “I'd have to think about that. But I never really felt like I had a choice. I was a PGA Tour player. There was no demand for me to go anywhere else. I didn't really have any opportunity to go play across the globe.”

Well, now he has. And the way things look like they are going, he better make sure his passport remains up to date. Ask just about anyone.