Rory McIlroy expressed fears Wednesday that elite men’s professional golf could be “fractured forever” if the leading tour doesn’t become more global in nature.
Speaking ahead of his title defense at the Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy reiterated that his preferred end goal for the talks between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Public Investment Fund is a world circuit that maintains the history and tradition of marquee events in the States while also incorporating some of the top international events as well.
“There’s so much opportunity out there to go global with it,” McIlroy told reporters, “and I’ve said this for the last few months, but golf is at an inflection point, and if golf doesn’t do it now, I fear that it will never do it and we’ll sort of have this fractured landscape forever.”
McIlroy resigned from his post as a Tour policy board member late last fall but has continued to express strong views on what a new partnership could and should look like. Keith Pelley, the outgoing DP World Tour chief executive, seemed to echo McIlroy’s remarks earlier this week when talking to reporters in Dubai.
“The growth of the game is global,” Pelley said. “I think that’s where the focus needs to be. This is a global game. Every business now that is growing wants to be global. What I would like to see is the game becoming more unified with a global strategy. I think the PGA Tour is coming to the realization that global is the key for the growth. They have heard me say it once or twice.”
This season, all eight of the Tour’s new signature events – with its limited fields and $20 million purses – are in the U.S.
Of the Tour’s season-opening event at Kapalua, McIlroy said, “You see the ratings that that did on TV” – it averaged 582,000 viewers, which is down slightly year-over-year but still second-best overall for that event since 2017 – “I would say they were quite underwhelming compared to some of the other events.”
“I think the opportunity here is global,” he continued. “They are still massive events in America, and I think they have huge history and tradition and they need to be kept. But there’s a lot of opportunity elsewhere, and I think with Adam [Scott] being on the board and seeing maybe the bigger picture of things, I think that’s a good thing.”
Scott, the 43-year-old Australian, has played as much, if not more, internationally than any current top player on Tour. Now a member of the policy board for the first time, he said he believes a “better balance can be achieved going forward” between having events in the States and overseas. The younger generation of American stars, he said, would be “very open” to the possibility of traveling more internationally to play some of the national opens.
“I don’t think the players are scared of playing a little more internationally,” Scott said Wednesday. “It’s all about finding the right balance and how we can do this.”
McIlroy said one of the most challenging aspects of this new business model is to “try to get everyone’s interests aligned,” not just from the tours involved, but also the players, sponsors, fans and media partners. He pointed to a country like India as an untapped market with massive growth potential.
“If this global tour somehow comes to fruition in the next few years, could you imagine bringing the best 70 or 80 golfers in the world to India for a tournament,” McIlroy said. “That would change the game and the perception of the game in a country like that. …
“But with how the golf calendar is at the minute – there’s so many different golf tournaments that happen at different times, and it’s going to be very hard for everything to piece together.”