LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - The PGA Tour has threatened the world's leading golfers with instant suspension and a lifetime ban if they join a proposed breakaway world tour promising multi-million dollar deals, Britain's Daily Telegraph and other media outlets reported.
The controversy echoes last month's unsuccessful attempt by 12 European football clubs to create a breakaway European Super League, bringing a backlash from fans, players and politicians.
The Telegraph said players have been offered contracts of between US$30 million-US$100 million (S$40 million-S$133 million) to take part, but that the PGA had warned of severe consequences during a meeting ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship.
"PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monagan on Tuesday night warned the would-be rebels that they face an instant suspension and a lifetime ban. The mandatory players meeting here at Quail Hollow fell silent as the audience took in the seismic consequences," the Telegraph said.
The PGA Tour and European Tours did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The British-based World Golf Group had publicly unveiled its plan in 2020 for a new global tour - the Premier Golf League (PGL) - comprising 18 yearly events featuring 48 players. Each tournament would have prize money of US$10 million.
The PGL had said it wanted to work with established tours rather than as a breakaway circuit, but the PGA and European Tours were dismissive about the circuit which had planned to launch in 2022.
Former world No. 1, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, had also rejected the idea, saying he wanted autonomy over his career choices.
But media reports said the latest attempt at a breakaway tour - recast as the Super Golf League - was backed by Saudi Arabian money and a team of negotiators have set up camp in South Florida where several top golf players reside.
The Telegraph said the Saudi team believes the PGA Tour cannot expel members and faces a legal battle if they do. It was unclear who or which groups in Saudi Arabia might be involved.