Why The World’s Best Are Turning Their Backs On Rumoured Saudi League

Some of the biggest names in golf have already said they won't be tempted by any rumoured breakaway league. Here's why...

Why The World’s Best Are Turning Their Backs On Rumoured Saudi League
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The landscape of the men’s professional game stands on the brink of change. How big a shift it might be remains to be seen, but where hordes of cash is involved, nothing can be ruled out. 

With a war chest rumoured to be in the region of $1.5 billion, don’t be surprised to find the prospective Saudi-funded Super Golf League makes a considerable splash for the duration of its existence. But despite that, there’s no getting away from the fact there have already been some setbacks. 

While certain players have expressed varying levels of interest in the new concept that takes inspiration from Formula 1, the world’s best haven’t exactly been queuing up to lead or join the revolt. In fact, as it stands, just one of the OWGR’s current top-10 seems keen to find out if the grass is greener in the Kingdom.

With that in mind, we run through what a selection of the top players have said about the controversial Saudi golf league…

Rory McIlroy

Back in May of last year, the Northern Irishman expressed, in no uncertain terms, his lack of interest in jumping ship, calling the idea “nothing more than a money grab” and comparing it to football’s failed attempt to create a new mega-money league.

He said: "You go back to what happened in Europe with the European Super League in football. People can see it for what it is, a money grab, which is fine if what you’re playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. Totally fine, then go and do that if that’s what makes you happy.

"I’m just speaking about my own beliefs. I’m playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. I honestly don’t think there’s a better structure in place and I don’t think there will be".

He has since doubled-down on these comments, so it’s safe to say he’s firmly in the “no” camp.

Tiger Woods

While it remains to be seen whether Tiger Woods will be able to play on any tour ever again, you can be sure he won’t be a feature of the SGL. Like McIlroy, he has come out in support of the PGA Tour, saying: “I’ve decided for myself that I’m supporting the PGA Tour, that’s where my legacy is.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have won 82 events on this Tour and 15 major championships and been a part of the World Golf Championships, the start of them and the end of them. So I have an allegiance to the PGA Tour.

“I think the Tour is in great hands, they’re doing fantastic and prize money’s going up. It’s just not guaranteed money like most sports are. It’s just like tennis, you have to go out there and earn it”.

Brooks Koepka

When Phil Mickelson dropped his “obnoxious greed” bomb, Brooks Koepka was one of the first to respond. On a social media post, he sniped back, saying: “Dk (don't know) if I’d be using the word greedy if I’m Phil…”

It would be quite the hypocritical move for the four-time major winner to backtrack on this stance and join the breakaway league. Ahead of the Phoenix Open, Koepka set the record straight.

"It's been pretty clear for a long time now that I'm with the PGA Tour, it's where I'm staying. I'm very happy. I think they do things the right way. People I want to do business with. I'm happy to be here.” Case closed.

Jon Rahm

And you can add the current World No. 1 to the list of former World No. 1s above, with the Spaniard also favouring the PGA Tour. His ambition is to forge a long career on the American circuit and he’s certainly going the right way about it. Here’s what he has had to say on the matter…

“I think what I’m going to do is focus on just the PGA Tour. At the end of the day I’m a competitor. I’m a PGA Tour member and I’m going to stay that way.

“Hopefully I have a long career ahead on the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour has done such a great job with what we have and I’m really thankful for what they’ve done.”

Patrick Cantlay

Ahead of the much-depleted AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the topic of Saudi golf was always going to be on agenda, especially given the long list of absentees who had chosen the Saudi International over one of the PGA Tour’s flagship events. One of those to be grilled was the increasingly thought-provoking Patrick Cantlay.

“I think with the amount of money they're talking about it's always very tempting,” Cantlay said of the chance for players to pick up big appearance fees. “I think it's tempting for everybody. And to deny that would be, you know, maybe not true. But I'm really glad that I'm here this week and I love Pebble Beach and so that definitely factored into my decision.”

On the SGL itself, he added: “I'm definitely a curious observer as to see what happens and who decides to play. I think there's a real desire of the most competitive people out here to play against the best players in the world almost no matter what.”

The door perhaps remains ajar...

Andrew Wright
Staff Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x