Memorable autumn evenings at Fenway Park have featured David Ortiz home runs and David Roberts steals. We can now add virtual golf league press conferences to that list.
On Monday, the Boston Common — a TGL team consisting of Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Tyrrell Hatton, and Adam Scott — took to Fenway in their first public appearance as a group. Their day included a photo op in the Red Sox locker room, CNBC hits, batting practice, and a full press conference announcing the team.
To answer some obvious questions: Will Boston Common ever play golf in Boston? No, at least not as the TGL is currently structured. Was the whole day rather ridiculous? Yes, undoubtedly. Was the commentary about Boston sports fans being some of the best in the world a bit over the top? For sure.
But amid Monday’s circus, we did still get a few interesting notes.
Rory’s stance on the future of golf
While the foursome was there to promote the TGL and the “local” Boston team, they were also predictably inundated with questions about LIV Golf and the PGA Tour’s potential relationship with the PIF. Rory fielded multiple questions on those topics during a CNBC interview. Fenway Sports Group chairman Scott Werner was along for the ride during that interview, though Werner largely deflected questions, citing ongoing conversations between his company and the PGA Tour. McIlroy, though, went very much on the record about the state of the sport and where it might be heading. “I feel like we’ve got a fractured competitive landscape right now,” he said. “But hopefully when this is all said and done, I sincerely hope the PIF are involved and we can bring the game of golf back together.”
In isolation that last sentence is incredibly jarring, as it’s a complete flip from Rory’s past stance on PIF involvement. With the context of the last 18 months, though, it’s clear that professional golf doesn’t have the strength to vanquish a sovereign wealth fund. It appears that McIlroy is no longer fighting that battle, and like many of us is resigned to the fact that the PIF and other private investment will be a part of golf’s future.
If that’s tough to swallow for Rory fans or for anyone holding out hope that top stars would continue pushing back against PIF involvement, that’s understandable. It’s totally valid to want someone like Rory to hold his ground. But he’s clearly moving past that. If anyone out there isn’t ready to do that yet, well, I get it. I’m not either.
The difference between LIV and TGL
As far as the TGL is concerned, McIlroy’s Monday appearance also focused on what has always been my structural concern with team golf: the competition itself.
“We’re not pretending to be — we’re going to be competitive, and it’s going to be a different type of golf, but it’s not the traditional golf that you see week in, week out,” McIlroy said. “I don’t want to sit here and talk about LIV, but I think you could make the argument that they haven’t innovated enough away from what traditional golf is, or that they’ve innovated too much…”
Team golf is fun, but unless it’s the centerpiece of competition it will never catch on as the dominant form of professional golf. It’s fine as a sideshow, which the TGL will be, but it’s a fantasy to believe that an individual sport would ever be dominated by a team format.
I’m dubious about the future of TGL. I’m not sure how much it will appeal to diehard golf fans. But if the TGL manages to be both fun and as big of a departure from traditional golf as it’s claiming to be, it’s going to appeal to a good swath of people. If that happens, maybe McIlroy too will one day have his jersey retired in Boston.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.