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An upstart organization that hopes to challenge the PGA Tour will be hitting its next shot from the rough. And we’re not talking the three-inch blades of grass around the fairways at your local municipal course either.

The Premier Golf League is in ”don’t lay your bag down or else you might not be able to find it again” rough.

Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm pledge loyalty to the PGA Tour

The PGA Tour didn’t have a very good weekend on the course. The people in charge made the decision to try to squeeze in The Players Championship at a time when that the NBA, NHL, and MLB were going on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic and the NCAA was canceling its basketball tournaments.

PGA officials relented after the first round and then received a needed boost when two of the world’s top three golfers announced they would not join the proposed Premier Golf League.

Third-ranked Brooks Koepka kicked off Sunday by saying he would not leave the PGA behind in large part because he didn’t want to abandon the second- and third-tier competitors who may not crack the leaderboard very often but make for great stories when they’re contending against the big names on the back nine on Sunday.

 “I get that the stars are what people come to see. But these guys who we see win, who have been grinding for 10 or 15 years, that’s what makes the cool stories. I’d have a hard time looking at guys and putting them out of a job.”

Brooks Koepka

Hours later, second-ranked Jon Rahm also declared he wouldn’t be joining the Premier Golf League, which meant that the PGA Tour had locked up its top three players. Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 1 on the points list, had said earlier in the year that he was staying put because he was uncomfortable with the funding behind the PGL, a concept that had been discussed for several years but not yet launched.

That makes three young, highly successful players that the PGL won’t be able to bring on board if it gets off the ground.

What’s the premise behind the Premier Golf League?

The Premier Golf League would bring together 48 players competing individually and as part of four-man teams. The attraction for players would be an 18-event schedule with 54-hole formats and $10 million purses. The idea of them being given equity in their teams has also been broached.

The drawbacks for players include losing the ability to make their own schedules, which could also affect endorsements, and not being able to play in the sport’s major tournaments. PGA commissioner Jay Monahan has said that anyone leaving to play in the PGL would lose their Tour card.

The money to make the rival league happen reportedly comes from Saudi Arabian government sources willing to compete with the PGA Tour and European Tour, which would both struggle to continue if they lost most of their big names. Their idea is hardly new; Australian star Greg Norman tried to pull together an international competitor to the PGA in the 1990s.

What are the other top players thinking?

Being turned down by Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, and Jon Rahm is a substantial blow to the ambitions of the people organizing the Premier Golf League, who have suggested a 2022 debut.

They could still make a splash by garnering commitments from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, but those two huge names will be long retired while McIlroy and Koepka are still near the prime.

That leaves the PGL left with chasing the likes of Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Adam Scott. To date, none have committed to leaving the PGA.