McIlroy on TGL: It will look more like NBA, not LIV

McIlroy on TGL: It will look more like NBA, not LIV
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A golf league billed as innovative with huge aspirations of growing the game.

Four-player teams complete with names and logos.

Stadium-like atmosphere.

Sound familiar?

Yes, TGL, the technology-infused golf league backed by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, shares some themes with LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed circuit that debuted last year and poached several PGA Tour stars. But as McIlroy pointed out Monday during a press conference at Boston’s Fenway Park to unveil the TGL’s first team, Boston Common GC, which features McIlroy, New England native Keegan Bradley, Tyrrell Hatton and Adam Scott, there is a major distinction between the TGL and LIV.

“This is meant to be complementary. It’s not meant to be disruptive in any way,” McIlroy said during his media rounds. “So, whenever Mike McCarley brought this idea to Tiger and I, I think one of the first things we said, ‘Well, if you’re going to do this, we’re going to have to try to partner with the PGA Tour in some way and really try to make this complementary.’ So, I think that was the first thing. This wasn’t adversarial at all. It was trying to, ‘How can we be additive to the entire system?’”

LIV signed many of its players to lucrative, multi-year contracts and required them to play all the league’s events, even if they conflicted with the PGA Tour’s schedule, and the Tour responded with suspensions. Lawsuits from both sides were quickly launched at the other, and it wasn’t until a framework deal was announced back in June that such litigation was ended.

The TGL has attracted the Tour’s biggest stars as well, including Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. However, the TGL also has the backing of the PGA Tour and has scheduled its season to run from January through March with competitions held either on Monday or Tuesday nights at a 2,000-person, indoor arena in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, which will house a product that will include a massive golf simulator, actual course surfaces to hit from and a putting green that is designed to mimic breaks from whatever virtual hole is being played. Matches will be 15 holes, last two hours and be televised live on ESPN while players will be mic’d up and subject to a shot clock – all while fans sit close by.

McIlroy compared TGL’s concept on Monday not to anything else in golf but rather to professional basketball.

“I think when it’s been branded as simulator golf that does it a bit of disservice,” McIlroy said. “It’s going to be a lot more than that. … We’re trying to bring golf into the 21st century. I think a lot of people will connect with the fact that we’re playing indoors. It’ll look nothing like traditional golf. It’ll look more like an NBA game hopefully. Sort of trying to give people in the arena that court side experience.”

As it relates to LIV, McIlroy added: “I don’t want to sit here and talk about LIV, but I think you can make an argument that they haven’t innovated enough away from what traditional golf is, or they’ve innovated too much that they’re not traditional golf. They’re sort of caught in no-man’s land. Where [TGL] is so far removed from what we know golf to be.”

While McIlroy didn’t seem too pleased to be discussing LIV on Monday at Fenway, he did later touch on the ongoing discussions between the PGA Tour and the Saudi’s Public Investment Fund – and reportedly other private investors, including Fenway Sports Group, whose chairman, Tom Werner, joined McIlroy for the CNBC interview in which the topic was brought up.

“I feel like we’ve got a fractured competitive landscape right now, and I would prefer if everyone sort of got back into the same boat,” McIlroy told CNBC. “I think that’s the best thing for golf. So, you know, I would hope when we go through this process, the PIF are the ones that are involved in the framework agreement. Obviously, there’s been other suitors that have been involved and offering their services and their help.

“But hopefully, when this is all said and done, I sincerely hope that the PIF are involved and we can bring the game of golf back together.”

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