Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy's TGL to feature 15-hole matches, overtime and lots of technology

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are bringing modern technology to the royal and ancient game with TGL, a team-based golf league played over 15 holes that combines an oversized simulator with actual shots to a tech-infused green that can change contours depending on the shot.

Fourteen months after it was announced, and two months before TGL launches at newly constructed SoFi Center in Florida, the league on Tuesday provided details on just what it is and how it works.

Five of the six four-man teams have been announced for New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta.

The prime-time matches on ESPN platforms (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN+) will be between two teams, each activating three players for the match.

The opening nine holes will be called “triples” — alternate shot for the three players, with one point awarded for winning a hole, no carryovers if there is a tie. The final six holes will be singles, with each team member playing two holes.

Any match ending in a tie goes to overtime, similar to what amounts to penalty kicks in soccer. Each player goes head to head in a closest-to-the-pin competition.

A team win is worth 2 points. The losing team get no points in regulation, 1 point if the match is decided in overtime. Every team faces each other during the regular season, and the top four advance to the playoffs.

TGL debuts on Jan. 9 and ends before the Masters.

“If you take the macro view, we have a sport with 600 years of history and tradition that we're now combining with technology that exists and has never been deployed in this manner,” said Mike McCarley, founder and CEO of TMRW Sports, which developed TGL.

“You combine history and credibility with a new access to golf, and I think it broadens the fan base ... making golf relevant to new groups of people in new ways.”

The concept — 15 holes, a mix of alternate shot and singles, the scoring system — is unlike anything else in golf. McCarley said it was developed through brainstorming involving him, Woods, McIlroy and their management groups.

Woods favored alternate shot to bring in more strategy, particularly because the players will be wearing microphones.

As for the actual competition, it starts with a tee shot from one of two areas — 35 yards away or 20 yards away from a screen that is 64 feet by 46 feet, roughly 20 times the size of a standard simulator. The ball needs to be in the air for a half-second before hitting the massive screen for all the data to register and simulate the shot.

From there, the next shot to the big screen will be played from either real fairway grass, rough or sand, depending on the accuracy of the tee shot. Once players get within 50 yards, they play actual shots to a green complex that is larger than four basketball courts.

The 3,800-square-foot green includes three virtual greens, 15 feet by 27 feet, in which the slope of the green can change to create variety.

Don't get the idea they will be playing Pebble Beach or Riviera. Top golf course designers have pitched in to help design the holes.

SoFi Center is built at Palm Beach State College in Florida, a 250,000-square-foot arena with a 75-foot-high apex. It can hold about 1,600 spectators, and the “course” is about the size of a football field.

Justin Thomas on Tuesday was the first player assigned to a team — Atlanta Drive GC. More announcements are expected by the end of the week, and still to come is the sixth team.

Player assignments are expected to have regional connections (think Keegan Bradley and Boston Commons GC as a possibility), along with what fits into their tour schedules. McIlroy, for example, is playing consecutive weeks in Dubai starting the week of the launch.

Key to TGL — along with a world-class roster of players — was getting a TV contract with ESPN, allowing for cross promotion. ESPN plans a promotional show on Dec. 30.

The idea is for the matches to last about the length of a basketball game. Most matches (there could be doubleheaders) will be in prime time on Tuesday.

Still to be announced is the prize money for TGL, and any other wrinkles to the competition.


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf