PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy put the silver-plated shovels into a pile of dirt and left sizable divots.
With that, their high-tech golf league got a bit closer to launch.
The ceremonial groundbreaking for the arena that will house the league that’s being called TGL was held Tuesday at Palm Beach State College, with Woods and McIlroy — two of the co-founders of TMRW Sports — there for the first step of actual construction.
TMRW — pronounced “tomorrow” — says TGL play will begin early next year, and the league will be in partnership with the PGA Tour. Woods and McIlroy, so far, have 11 players committed to the league. Besides them, the league will include world No. 1 Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Collin Morikawa, Matt Fitzpatrick, Max Homa, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose and Xander Schauffele.
That list includes six players currently ranked 10th or better in the world, plus the game’s biggest draw in Woods.
“In terms of fan experience, it’s going to be nothing like golf has offered before,” McIlroy said.
The concept is this: Six teams of three PGA Tour players, squaring off in match play on a data-driven virtual course that also includes a short-game complex for chipping and putting.
It’ll be played on Monday nights, and will take only two hours, with in-arena fans all very close to the action. There will be 15 matches in the regular season, followed by semifinals and a final.
“We’re going to have excitement, we’re going to have something different, something that is is passionate,” Woods said. “We’ve been involved in teams before whether it’s Ryder Cup, President’s Cup, Irish national teams, for me high school, college, whatever it is. You’re going to get home and away, you’re going to get some people that you want to win and not win. We’re going to have that type of excitement.”
And you can bet on it. Literally, Woods pointed out.
“Wagering is part of our sport, part of our culture,” Woods said, then turned and looked at McIlroy. “We don’t know how to play golf without it.”
Access is part of the allure of the concept, along with the technology. Only a handful of fans at typical golf events can get close to the action, and they’re often running from hole to hole to stay with a certain group.
TGL players will be mic’d-up, and fans won’t have to guess what their thought processes are on certain shots.
“It’s going to give the viewer at home and also the people in the arena just more of an in-depth of sort of how we do things and how we sort of think through things in our head,” McIlroy said. “It’s just a more in-depth look into that.”
Mike McCarley, another co-founder and former Golf Channel president, said the arena will be built on a 10-acre (435,600-square feet) parcel of unused land. The partnership includes educational and recreational initiatives that will benefit Palm Beach State students, along with offering paid internships and other opportunities for students in technology, hospitality and administrative services.
“Think about how cool this will be for this land, this campus, to become a launching pad for future leaders in sports and media and technology as they learn here as part of TGL,” McCarley said. “We are breaking ground on much more than a dream, much more than a prime-time golf league.”