When is a merger not a merger? When it’s a strategic alliance, of course. I don’t know about you, but marketing jargon, chief executive babble and press release waffle often leaves me scratching my head like Neil Lennon peering forlornly at his tactics board.  

In this business, we spend many hours trawling amid transcripts and sifting through statements. As I sat hunched at my dining room table - which is supposed to act as a structured office space but has about as much order as a chimp’s tea party - while mulling over the vagaries of the European Tour and PGA Tour’s recently announced ‘strategic alliance’, my wife commented that I reminded her of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, The Thinker.

“Ah yes, an alluring, philosophical man captured in sombre meditation and battling with a powerful internal struggle?,” I suggested. “No, a bloke in the scuddy constantly plootering with his chin resting on his hand when he should be writing his bloomin’ column,” came the withering retort.  The perils of working from home eh?

Friday’s joint announcement was big on bravado if short on actual detail. “The financial details are all governed by an NDA and in private, so I can't disclose that,” said the European Tour’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, as he talked at length about things he couldn’t really talk about during an exercise in prolonged, straight-batting that would get appreciative applause during an early innings at the county cricket.

“This is a momentous day where the PGA Tour has gone from being a competitor to a partner,” added Pelley with his usual, effervescent gusto.

In a nutshell, the alliance, announced somewhat hastily, allows the PGA Tour and European Tour to collaborate on commercial opportunities, global media rights in certain territories and scheduling.

In this appalling guddle of a year, the impact of the coronavirus has, in many ways, brought home the need for structural alterations at the top end of the professional game.

The PGA Tour, which shut down for three months, has played just about every week since the start of June. The European Tour resumed in July with a series of new tournaments with small prize funds. Most of them were not more than one million euro and the fields were hardly star-studded.

Across the pond, and despite the ravages of a pandemic, they were routinely playing for $7m. In 2019, 112 players made over $1m on the PGA Tour. The European Tour can never compete with such riches and the long-standing gulf has only been expanded in this troubled campaign. That Pelley said the European Tour was in “robust financial health” will have jarred with those staff behind the scenes who have been made redundant amid the tumult.

Lurking in the background, of course, has been the proposed Premier Golf League (PGL), a 48-man, multi-million pound merry-go-round that was bankrolled by Saudi cash and was looking to draw the top players away from the existing tours and into a global, Formula One style circuit featuring a series of 54-hole, no-cut events as well as a team element.

When the PGL unveiled its bold, money-no-object vision earlier this year, both the European Tour and PGA Tour top brass put on a united front and issued statements effectively warning players about jumping ship. The PGL’s menacing advances had clearly hit a nerve. Pelley revealed on Friday that he had been approached by the private equity backers behind the PGL to take the European Tour to a “different level” but was adamant that forging stronger ties with the PGA Tour was in the game’s best interests.

How this strategic alliance – don’t dare call it a takeover or a merger if you’re in Pelley’s company – will pan out remains shrouded in an NDA but a world tour, something Greg Norman proposed over 25 years ago, continues to move closer.  

By and large, golf takes the same thing to various corners of the globe most weeks of the year but outside of, say, the majors, other showpiece events and Ryder Cups, there can be a distinct lack of prominence and sense of occasion. Simply throwing money at events doesn’t guarantee engagement.

Rory McIlroy, one of the games most prized commercial assets on both sides of the Atlantic, made a case earlier in the year for a streamlining of the global scene. His observation was a valid one. Saturated schedules, wrap-around calendars, clashes here, conflicts of interest there, a general lack of cohesion everywhere?  The less is more idea would perhaps be more beneficial at a time when golf’s viewer demographic is not getting any younger and questions still remain about the game’s wider appeal in a post-Tiger Woods era.

You could, for instance, take the European Tour’s Rolex Series events and the pick of the PGA Tour tournaments and have a glamorous schedule that would appeal to the marquee players, sponsors, TV companies and fans. 

Of course, that is all focussing on the elite. In this closed-shop environment of the rich getting richer, where would the rank and file, the lesser lights, the journeymen and the hardy perennials fit into this new world order? Something will have to give.

The devil may be in the detail. Once we get more detail, that is.