Appearance fees and a TPC

Questions arise about the Premier Golf League’s funding, and the PGA and European tours hold very different kinds of desert events


It’s a weird week in the golf world. The PGA Tour heads to the Waste Management Phoenix Open for one of the most distinctive environments in golf while the European Tour… does its own thing.

In today’s newsletter…

  • Additional revelations about the Premier Golf League make the rounds.
  • The 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale gets ready to take center stage once again.

The Storylines

Follow the money

As Geoff Shackelford first reported last week, a proposal for a world tour has recently made headway. But in the past couple of days, concerns have arisen about the source of the Premier Golf League’s funding.

On Monday, Tron Carter of No Laying Up tweeted about an email to PGA Tour members from commissioner Jay Monahan. As expected, Monahan vowed to enforce current regulations—including, presumably, those related to conflicting events. He also revealed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia likely has a financial stake in the PGL.

Yesterday, Golf.com posted an article by Michael Bamberger and Evin Priest in which PGA Tour players comment anonymously on the PGL. They say, essentially, that it will come down to money. “The money will have to be massive because the risk of getting banned by the PGA Tour has to be an obvious concern,” one says. Another adds, “I don’t know about everyone, but I know I’ve got a price.” The article does not mention whether any players feel queasy about the PGL’s reported financial backer. 

The specter of dirty money looms especially large this week, as the European Tour travels to Saudi Arabia for an event that uses appearance fees to enlist pro golfers in a public relations spectacle on behalf of the Saudi government. (For a primer on how Saudi “sportswashing” works, see Dean Seanor’s excellent piece for Morning Read.) If KSA really is bankrolling the Premier Golf League, the world’s top players may have to take a hard look in the mirror.

Registration for The Dog Bowl, our event at Yale Golf Course, opens next Tuesday at 10 a.m. CT! The Dog Bowl will take place on June 22nd, the Monday after the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. It will feature food, prizes, and all-day golf at the historic Yale Golf Course.

Newsletter subscribers will be the first to receive an email with registration links, so be sure to keep an eye on your inbox!

The Roundup

Waste Management Phoenix Open (PGA Tour)

  • Tee Times
  • TV coverage:
    • Thursday, 1/30: 3-7 p.m. (Golf Channel)
    • Friday, 1/31: 3-7 p.m. (Golf Channel)
    • Saturday, 2/1: 1-2:45 p.m. (Golf Channel); 3-6 pm (CBS)
    • Sunday, 2/2: 1-2:45 p.m. (Golf Channel); 3-6 pm (CBS)
  • Defending champion Rickie Fowler returns to TPC Scottsdale looking for his fourth straight top 15 at the drunkest tournament in golf.
  • Justin Thomas will tee it up with a new set of Kobe-themed wedges.
  • Viktor Hovland will make his first PGA Tour appearance of 2020 after starting the year on the European Tour. He’ll join other young stars Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa, Joaquín Niemann, and Sungjae Im in the desert.
  • Need ideas for your DraftKings or One-and-Done fantasy leagues? Check out this week’s edition of Paulie’s Picks.

Saudi International (European Tour)

  • Tee Times
  • Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, defending champion Dustin Johnson, and many other top players head to Saudi Arabia for some of that sweet, sweet oil-and-misery money.
  • DJ says he’s back for the scuba diving.
  • Sergio García returns to the kingdom for free after damaging multiple greens and throwing an embarrassing series of tantrums at the 2019 event.

Pepperdine’s Sahith Theegala fired a final-round 66 to win the Southwestern Invitational and help earn his school the team victory. Ranked No. 11 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, Theegala paid homage to Kobe Bryant as he sank the winning putt. 

In her two-and-a-half-season career on the Ladies European Tour, Meghan MacLaren has had two wins and five top-three finishes. She has earned a total of €183,448. Converted to dollars, that’s about $40,000 less than Phil Mickelson made for finishing fifth at the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Yet MacLaren is the one who has elected to forgo a paycheck from Saudi Arabia. Citing concerns over “sportswashing”, she withdrew from the Saudi Ladies Championship, which boasts a purse approximately three times as large as that of the average LET event.

Sean Martin profiles 11 promising amateurs who could hit the big time before the 2020s are over.

Golf Club Atlas has a fascinating investigation of the different approaches William Flynn and Donald Ross, two giants of golf architecture’s Golden Age, took to routing a course on the same piece of land.

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

Bethpage Red (Farmingdale, New York)


The second best course at Bethpage State Park might actually be the better model for municipal golf, as the Red is the one you’ll actually want to play every day. Just like its bigger, harder brother, the Red is said to be the work of A. W. Tillinghast. Playing over the sandy terrain next to No. 18 on the Black, the finishing hole on the Red makes such good use of the steep hills that tournament directors have (unsuccessfully) tried to incorporate it into the Black’s tournament setup for years. Between the Red’s natural routing, casual feel, and collection of outstanding holes—particularly the 5th and 13th—it is hard to imagine anyone but Tilly, “Creator of Golf Courses,” could have designed it. 

Insider tip: Don’t dilly-dally on the 1st tee here or the guy in the booth will give you a real New York welcome. -Jaeger Kovich

Photo credit: Golf Advisor

The Latest from The Fried Egg

The Yolk with Doak – Episode 18: Templates, an upcoming book on routing, and modern green speeds

The Yolk with Doak, our series with golf architect Tom Doak, returns with Andy visiting Tom in Traverse City, Michigan, and sitting down for a wide-ranging conversation. In this first installment, they field a variety of reader questions. Among other things, they talk about how Tom uses (or resists over-using) template concepts in his work, how his book project on routing has led him to reassess some of his past courses, whether we should look to state golf associations as potential champions of affordable and interesting courses, and how modern green speeds have changed the way we design greens and play the game. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

The Shotgun Start: The Major Medical Phoenix Open, PGA Tour fights back, and Olympics ennui

This Wednesday episode begins with an appreciation of the Phoenix Open and how it’s worked to build a completely unique identity on a crowded schedule of “regular” PGA Tour events. We lament the copycat attempts and ponder other tournaments that we’d like to see carve out (and bust their ass to build) their own identity that puts in a wider world of sports discussion. Rickie’s specially designed shoes for the WMPO, however, are used to illuminate some of the setbacks of those glomming on to what was an organically built machine. We also marvel at its field being overrun by guys on Major Medical Extensions. Elsewhere around the world of golf, we are *stunned* to hear Sergio now loves the conditioning of the course over in Saudi Arabia. We also wonder who in Morocco demanded more Duffy Waldorf and why a Champions Tour event ended up there this week. We discuss some recent announcements by the PGA Tour about charitable giving benchmarks and Players purse increases and how it ties in with Jay Monahan’s email to Tour members about Saudi money being involved in the proposed Premier Golf League. We end with comments from Brooksy and DJ that imply they’re TBD for the Olympics and we wonder who got to Brooksy after a remark that apparently prioritizes the FedEx Cup over the Games. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.