Els talks about Norman’s vision of a World Tour

Funny how the world golf wheel turns…it’s nearly 30-years since World No. 1 Greg Norman rocked the golfing world by announcing a proposal to create an 8-event championship tour of the world’s top golfers.

In fact, it was on the eve of the 1994 Australian Open at Royal Sydney with Norman revealing a vision to establish an elite golfing series that would provide an alternative to the PGA and European Tours.

Ernie Els Ernie Els (Credit: www.golffile.ie)

Norman’s dream of a World Golf Tour (WGT) was ground-breaking and very forward thinking for the player who would win 88 tournaments around the golfing globe.

He suggested the eight events would carry a combined purse of $25m and be played in the US, Canada, Scotland, Japan and Spain.

The winner of each event would have received $600,000 while the last place-getter was guaranteed $30,000.

The player of the year would have received a $1m bonus and each player who signed up for the series would have received a $50,000 travel allowance.

Tim Finchem was the then PGA Tour Commissioner and his response was a swift ‘slam the fist on the table’ NO!

Norman was lambasted by the Tour in trying to turn it into a secondary tour, devoid of the world’s best players.

The golfer known as the ‘Great White Shark’ argued that he only wanted the top 30 or 40 golfers to compete against one another more regularly all over the globe.

Finchem and the PGA Tour bitterly opposed the concept and even threatened to expel any card-carrying PGA player who partook in the tour.

Then six years later, with Norman having won the last of 20 PGA Tour victories, the newly-formed International Federation of PGA Tours, and with Finchem still at the helm, announced the creation of the World Golf Championships as we know them today.

Now in the fourth week of January 2020 we are learning PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monohan is no doubt slamming his hand of the table of his Ponte Vedre office saying NO!

‘No’ it is understood to any PGA Tour member who signs up for the Premier Golf League (PGL), a proposed being set-up by the UK-based World Golf Group to contest 18 events annually with just 42 players competing.

The nuts and bolts of the PBL are not known but Monahan has emailed all PGA Tour members on the understanding that those who sign with PGL have no road back to re-joining the PGA Tour.

Ernie Els was one of those approached by Norman back in 1994. Ernie was a very young South African who had burst onto the scene in June in capturing the US Open at Oakmont.

It would be the first of four Majors for Els.

And now as the golf world seems to be heading yet again into damage control mode, Els has spoken of being approached by Norman to join his ‘world tour’.

“I was right in the middle of it and I remember looking at my future knowing that if I was going with Greg – which sounded brilliant – if anything happened there was no way back for me on to the regular tours,” he said ahead of this week’s second Saudi International.

“So, I said to Greg that for him at that stage of his career he could probably afford to do it but I couldn’t because I would never be able to play again if it went wrong.

“I didn’t have to ask the Tour. It was pretty clear then that the Tours weren’t going to be playing ball with the new regime and it was a breakaway tour so it wasn’t going to work.

“It could be the same all over again as I’m reading that they want to work with the Tours but that would be very difficult to do. There’s a lot of factors but I think it’s very intriguing having heard the way they want to do it.

“But it’s a difficult one for the players because if you breakaway you’re probably going to be away for life.”

Nearly 30-years on and Els now warms to the notion of the setting-up of the Premier Golf League.

“I love the idea because they were bringing in the Formula One model where you have a team owner with four players who are competing individually but there’s also an element of team golf as well – the Constructor’s Championship so to speak,” he said.

“So, it would be very different and obviously great for the punters. You can support a team as well as an individual. There’s a lot of really great positives about it but they’re going to have to figure out how they work with the existing tours.

“I do think it has a chance. If the players support it then it’s a done deal. If you have the top players in the world supporting an adventure like this it will go because that’s where television will go and the fans will follow.

“So, it’s really up to the existing top form world players.”

One wonders what Norman will think of this new breakaway move.