The game of golf is slowly changing behind the scenes as alternatives to the PGA Tour have begun popping up here and there over the last few years. None of these startup golf leagues have managed to make big waves, but there are some real big numbers getting thrown around as those in charge attempt to lure brand names away from the PGA.
The latest newcomer to this particular game is the Super Golf League, a Saudi-backed endeavor that has reportedly tabbed Greg Norman as its new commissioner. There's a lot of money at stake here, as Bryson DeChambeau is being offered $135 million to join and the pair of Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson are reportedly being offered $30 million each to leave the Tour to join the SGL. It will be a topic of conversation this weekend while the Tour is in Saudi Arabia for the Saudi International tournament.
Phil Mickelson was asked about the possibility of the SGL stealing golfers and the Tour's various threats to prevent it from happening and blew up about the PGA Tour's "obnoxious greed" in a series of fiery quotes. Per Golf Digest:
“There are many issues, but that is one of the biggest,” he continued. “For me personally, it’s not enough that they are sitting on hundreds of millions of digital moments. They also have access to my shots, access I do not have. They also charge companies to use shots I have hit. And when I did ‘The Match’—there have been five of them—the tour forced me to pay them $1 million each time. For my own media rights. That type of greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious.”
Mickelson also revealed that no golfers would make any money from the upcoming Netflix docuseries that's coming later this year in the style of the Formula 1 show that has become so popular.
“Why hasn’t golf had cameras and microphones on players and caddies?” he asked. “Because the player would not benefit, only the tour [so players resist wearing them]. Take this Netflix project that is underway. None of the players are getting paid. But the tour is getting paid a lot of money. As is Augusta National. As is the USGA. But if the players had their own channel, maybe they put up their own content and we start to see golf presented a bit more intimately.
While Mickelson is undoubtedly voicing the opinions of many frustrated golfers, it's not like the complicated rights issues he's speaking about has affected his pocket too much as one of the most successful golfers in PGA Tour history. But it is these same issues that could possibly drive golfers to join a league where they own more of their own media rights and can capitalize on them.
The grass is always greener, though. We'll see if the landscape of golf truly changes.