Golf: Woods, McIlroy launch new in-arena golf series

Rory McIlroy (left) and Tiger Woods compete in the Celebration of Champions four-hole tournament, at St Andrews in Scotland, in July 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy launched a new technology-sparked golf series made for television on Wednesday (Aug 24), with team competition before live audiences using giant video screens with a January 2024 debut.

McIlroy and Mike McCarley, founder of TMRW Sports, announced the partly virtual golf league on the eve of the season-ending US PGA Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

“It’s rooted in the traditions of the game, but it’s taking a big step into the future,” McCarley said. “It starts with having the two biggest superstars in the game, Tiger and Rory, committed to play.”

Events would be played at a yet to be determined venue that would be custom made to allow for playing chips and putts live and sending longer shots into a video screen for virtual results.

Golfers would hit longer shots into huge screens that produce a virtual result similar to what would be seen on a regular course. Turfed playing area adjacent on the venue floor would allow spectators to cheer live short-game shots and putting.

The setting combines the atmospheres for in-arena gaming events, with music and entertainment, with the physical skills required for successful golf shotmaking with 18 holes done in a television-friendly two-hour format.

“TGL is the next evolution within professional golf,” Woods tweeted. I’m excited to be a part of this exciting new venture, which will harness technology to bring new approaches to the sport we love.”

The PGA Tour will partner on the project, with six teams of three PGA players each competing in a regular season of 15 Monday night matches leading to a semi-final and final, with the season having a January-April window.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for PGA Tour players to show a different side of themselves primetime on Monday night,” McIlroy said. “It’s great for brand exposure to try to engage a different audience.”

The idea is trying to excite a younger sports fan audience about golf, McIlroy said.

“I just think it’s going to be a really cool concept,” McIlroy said. “Tiger and I are incredibly excited.”

The less-strenuous physical format would allow Woods to compete without the long walking of courses that has been more difficult since he suffered severe leg injuries in a car crash 18 months ago.

“Who knows where we’re going to see Tiger Woods play golf next?” McIlroy said. “We don’t know what his schedule is going to be. We don’t know how his body is going to be.

“But to be able to see him still showcase his skills on primetime, on TV without really any wear and tear on his body, I think to be able to see Tiger hit golf shots and still sort of provide people with a glimpse of his genius, I think it is a really good use of his time.” Players would serve as part-owners in the new league, McIlroy said.

Events would be staged in one location but McCarley said it could move around in later years, but is likely to remain on Mondays so golfers can compete in tour events with routine schedules.

“Monday nights is the time that all this makes sense because that’s when it fits in guys’ schedules,” McCarley said. “It’s a combination of the overall media landscape but also how this is going to work for a player’s schedule.”

Asked about the prize money involved, McCarley said, “I see the terms boatload and truckload being thrown around a lot lately. Maybe it’ll be in between those two.”

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