BOSTON (AP) — There’s a new golf league starting up with team play and shorter events and fans acting like they’re at a ballpark instead of a library.
And this time, Rory McIlroy is fully on board.
Unlike LIV Golf, which aimed its Saudi Arabian bankroll directly at the PGA Tour, TGL will be squeezed into the schedule on Monday nights from January to March, before the Masters kicks off the highest-profile part of the season. And McIlroy, who was one of the most vocal opponents of LIV’s efforts to cannibalize the regular tour, said that makes all the difference.
“This wasn’t adversarial at all,” the four-time major champion said on Monday at a Fenway Park news conference to unveil the Boston TGL entry. “This is meant to be complimentary. We’re not trying to replace traditional golf here. I think there’s a place for everything.”
The brainchild of McIlroy and Tiger Woods, TGL will be an arena-based mini-tour with six, four-person teams representing U.S. cities. McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott, and Tyrrell Hatton will make up Boston Common Golf; teams will also “represent" New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, and probably South Florida.
Events will be 15 holes and a combination of alternate shot and head-to-head, with a playoff leading to a championship at the end of March. Boston Common Golf President Mark Lev said there will be prize money for the winners, but would not elaborate on purse size or other financial details.
Fenway Sports Group adds the TGL team to a roster that already includes the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool in the English Premier League, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and NASCAR’s RFK Racing. It has been involved in golf through a PGA Tour stop at TPC Boston, which starting next year will host an LPGA event.
But the TGL team will only sort of represent Boston.
Although the teams have home cities, all events will be played outside of Miami at a tech-heavy simulator. Even without “home” games in the city, McIlroy said, Boston Common Golf will do what it can to connect to local sports fans.
Having Bradley on the roster will be a good start.
“I grew up as a kid wanting to play for the Boston Red Sox, the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins,” said Bradley, who grew up in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts as a fervid Red Sox fan and married the niece of Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. “That was never in the cards for me. I was better at golf than anything else; I never thought I would have the chance to play for my home city.”
Before Monday’s news conference, he showed his new teammates around the ballpark. Hatton had never been before, saying to laughter he doesn't understand baseball.
“To be able to come here, go down to the locker room just now and feel the history of Fenway Park … everything about this place is special to me,” Bradley said. “Playing for this city, and this region is really something that I carry with me throughout the golf world. … These guys are going to get to feel what it’s like to have this city behind them.”
TGL's 250,000-square-foot facility in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, will have grass tees and rough, real sand and three virtual greens with slope that can change to create variety. It can hold about 1,600 spectators, who won’t be shushed so players can hit their shots in silence.
McIlroy said the goal is to give those watching in person a “courtside at a basketball type of feel;” players will be mic’d to give in-person and television viewers an insight into the on-course chatter. A shot clock will keep things moving along, with matches fitting into a tidy two-hour TV window.
Asked about the similarity to LIV, which promised “Golf, but louder,” McIlroy said the rival tour — with its team play and 54-hole tournaments — was too much of a mish-mash between regular golf and something more experimental.
“You can make the 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,” he said. “They're sort of caught in a no-man’s land, where this is so far removed from from what we know golf to be.”
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