Many of golf’s biggest names including world No 1 Dustin Johnson and England’s Justin Rose have received contracts worth up to $100m to take part in a breakaway ‘World Tour’ that has forced them to choose between Saudi money and the PGA Tour and perhaps even The Masters and Ryder Cup.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monagan on Tuesday night warned the would-be rebels that they face an instant suspension and a lifetime ban. The mandatory players meeting here at Quail Hollow fell silent as the audience took in the seismic consequences.
While the majority considered the Premier Golf League to be dead in the water after significant Tour efforts to kill the idea, Telegraph Sport can reveal that formal offers worth $30m to $50m up front are being mulled over by 11 players, including - alongside Johnson and Rose - Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler.
Phil Mickelson has purportedly been offered $100m as the de facto head of the rebels.
So, despite the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy - the Northern Irishman who last year declared his opposition to the F1-type scheme - the Saudis are not taking “no” for an answer and have indicated they are intending to start their circuit in September 2022.
Similar to the Super League and European football, the news has caused huge shockwaves throughout a sport that believed Monahan had already effectively blown away the proposed revolution.
Last autumn, when the PGL went to the European Tour with what Keith Pelley, the Tour chief executive, described at the time as “a very compelling offer to take the Tour to another level but in a different direction”, Monahan moved quickly and supposedly decisively.
A “strategic alliance’ was formed with the PGA Tour buying an estimated $90m stake in the media arm of its European counterpart. Monahan also set up an annual $40m “Player Impact Program” which does not reward the pros for results inside the ropes but rather for how much positive publicity they garner in the media and through social media. The top players had thus been assuaged in their belief that they were due a bigger slice of the pot than the rank and file.
Yet, it seems, the demise of the PGL has been greatly exaggerated. It is thought that as well as an initial fortune, the contracts offer half a share in their “teams”. Each of these team leaders would be joined by three other players in the 48-man fields and the prize money would be, in the words of one insider, “astronomical” in the 18 worldwide events.
However, Monahan, when he addressed the players here on the eve of the Wells Fargo Championship, empathically re-emphasised that it would come at a seismic cost to their careers.
He has previously declared that any player who signs up will no longer be a member of the Tour and with the European Tour onside it is easily possible to envisage a situation when they would also be excluded from the Ryder Cup. It would remain to be seen how the four majors would react, although as one well-known veteran pro pointed out on Tuesday night that a Masters official has a place on the PGA Tour board. “The Tour has most, if not all the angles covered,” he said.
Nevertheless, the Saudi team of negotiators - which apparently no longer includes The Raine Group, the highly-regarded US venture capitalists - have set up camp in Jupiter, South Florida, where many of golf’s heavyweights reside, and are demanding decisions imminently.
That means this affair could even affect the Ryder Cup in September and, if that was the case, the Kingdom, in its ever increasing mission to ‘sportswash' its reputation, could see the plan badly backfire.
“This will all kick off in the next few weeks, starting with this meeting tonight,” a source told Telegraph Sport. “It will be fascinating to hear how aggressive Monahan was with his language to the big names. The Saudis believe the Tour can’t expel members and it could end up in a big legal fight.”
After Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed that the Saudis were pressing on regardless, Colt Knost, the former Tour winner, revealed he had spoken to Johnson’s agent. “He told me, 'it's pretty crazy - they mean business,” Knost said on Sirius XM.