After rumblings of a new Premier Golf League first surfaced in January, the idea of a tour designed to overhaul the highest level of professional golf finally has a face.
Andy Gardiner, a London-based director at Barclays Capital, has emerged as the CEO of the operation after spending the last six years developing his idea in secrecy.
With the Premier Golf League quickly becoming a topic of weekly discussion amongst the game's best players, Gardiner appeared on the Rick Shiels Golf Show on Friday to discuss the tour, the concept for which Gardiner admitted never would have survived to this point if not for player interest.
"This is a conversation that is intensifying now, but it's a conversation we are the catalysts for," Gardiner said. "We didn't want to be out in the public domain. We wanted to have it discretely.
"And if at the point in time when we said to the players 'do you want to do this?' and they said 'no,' you'd have never heard about us."
Gardiner confirmed reports regarding several details about the league, which would divide 48 of the world's best players into 12 teams. He compared the proposed system to that of Formula 1.
He also said there are plans for an 18-event schedule running from January until August starting in 2022. The U.S. would host 10 events. Four more played in Asia (including one in the Middle East), three in Europe, and one in Australia. Each tournament would be 54 holes with no cut and players would compete for $10 million weekly.
Despite interest from at least some of the game's top players, the Premier Golf League's prospects appeared to take a big hit Wednesday when World No. 1 Rory McIlroy stated at the WGC-Mexico Championship he was "out."
But Gardiner remains undeterred.
"This isn't about an individual," he said. "I'm not entirely sure what 'I'm out' meant. But all I would say is that this is a conversation and I've barely spoken to Rory over the last six years. I haven't had the opportunity to have a discussion about the things that matter to him. I have with others."
McIlroy on Wednesday added he "would like to be on the right side of history with this one" and compared himself to Arnold Palmer, who stepped away from Greg Norman's discussions about a world tour in the 1990s.
But Gardiner remembers Palmer in a different light. In 1968, Palmer played a key role in the formation of the PGA Tour when roughly 200 of the best players broke away from the PGA of America. Gardiner, alluding to the potential of his fledgling Premier Golf League, believes Palmer was trying to "make things better."
Still, another issue for McIlroy appears to be forfeiting complete control of his career for the prize money being offered; the funds were reportedly fronted by Saudi Arabian interests.
"If you take the money they can tell you want to do, so if you don't take the money, they can't tell you what to do," said McIlroy.
Gardiner disclosed that his league does have some financial backing from Saudi Arabia in the form of a public investment fund, according to ESPN's Bob Harig. Gardiner has also partnered with The Raine Group, a global merchant bank.
Asked which other players Gardiner has spoken to or received feedback from - specifically Tiger Woods - the CEO elected not to divulge.
"I can appreciate that everybody would like to know," he said. "Would you forgive me if I just treat all player matters as entirely confidential? Because, as I said, we haven't asked anybody to make a decision. Part of the conversation we have been having with players and their representatives is actually about how we will genuinely look to work with other tours."
It's not known how the Premier Golf League would operate alongside the PGA and European tours, but Gardiner intends to implement a relegation system similar to those employed by Europe's top soccer leagues.
Gardiner, who hopes to consistently deliver the best-on-best competitions infrequently witnessed within the sport, understands the Premier Golf League is at a critical juncture in its young development.
"This could be forgotten in a few weeks' time," he said, "Or this 30 years from now could be looked back upon as the change that was good from the game and made it stronger."