European Tour’s next move poses ‘biggest danger’ to PGA Tour, says Mike Clayton

The PGA Tour could come under fire from Greg Norman’s Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf, but it’s what another Tour is doing that could pose the “greatest threat” to the status quo.

That’s the view of Mike Clayton, one of Australia’s most respected voices, who says European Tour boss Keith Pelley’s next move will be intriguing.

Clayton, himself a former European Tour winner, believes a possible connection between Pelley’s DP World Tour and LIV Golf would spell trouble for the “smug” and “lazy” PGA Tour.

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So far, Pelley has been relatively quiet on the matter, certainly compared to his PGA Tour counterpart Jay Monahan. While Monahan has suspended PGA Tour players who have signed with LIV Golf, the European Tour has taken a more wait-and-see stance amid proposals for some sort of partnership with Norman’s league.

To make matters worse, the Premier Golf League, due to start next year, features an 18-event tournament that will include both individual and team events.

“The biggest question I see right now is what alliances will be formed,” Clayton told Wide World of Sports.

“They have the European Tour and Keith Pelley, I guess their players are very pushy to get into the proverbial bed with the Saudis.

“Then you have the Premier Golf League. Do you work with the PGA Tour? That could be a scenario playing out.

“It’s fascinating to watch from the sidelines. It’s Game of Thrones stuff. It’s all self-interest.”

Clayton noted that Monahan failed to mention Pelley in a media briefing on Thursday, which may be an indication that the Europeans are considering a link with the Saudi tour, which will then see players like Rory McIlroy and recently crowned US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick the door to surrender opens the PGA Tour.

“Nobody knows how this will turn out,” he explained.

“One of the consequences could be that golf is in a better place because it could blow up the PGA Tour and force them to look outside the United States for once.

“It’s all play, it’s riot, but something good could come out of riot. We won’t know for maybe ten years.

“It is the biggest threat to the PGA Tour that LIV jumps to bed with the European Tour. You would probably end up with the greatest tour on earth.

“That would give McIlroy and Fitzpatrick the green light to go back and play in Europe. Instead of having to sell the fact that they’re playing for the Saudis, they can just say they’re going to play at home again.”

Monahan spoke of the PGA Tour not being able to compete with the Saudis in an “arms race” if cash was the weapon of choice, a statement Clayton agrees with.

“He’s right. The Saudis have no rational business case,” he noted.

“You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. There is no TV contract that obliges them to deliver ratings. As far as I can tell there are no sponsors who want ratings and want people to buy what they are promoting.

“It’s nothing but Saudi Arabia and I don’t know what their motives are. Is it sports washing? Should it try to create a post-oil economy where maybe people want to go there as tourists and play golf?

“A properly funded world tour that would live up to commercial expectations would be the greatest thing golf has ever seen,” he added.

“Great events rated on TV would be something the big companies would see value in.

“If Greg Norman had gone to the top 30 companies in the world and said he wanted to create the Formula 1 of golf, a great circuit that would go around the world and hold the National Opens and the National PGAs on the very best courses, like Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath, that would have been the best thing that could have happened to the sport.”

Clayton, now a leading course designer who has won six times on the Australasian Tour during his career, said the PGA Tour is in dire need of an overhaul.

“The PGA Tour survived because they had the best players and the most money, but they’re incredibly complacent,” he said.

“Your product is very old and tired, it’s the same week after week.

“One of the unintended consequences of the PGA Tour going into its round season, which begins in October, is that it killed the Australasian Tour. Now no one cares about our tour except us. It’s not the PGA Tour’s job to look after us.

“But the PGA Tour just serves more of the same. No mixed events with the women they should be doing at least a few times a year, mediocre golf courses, outdated formats, no team events. It’s the same every week and I think people are losing interest.

“If they lose me, they all lose because I love watching golf.”

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