In the cash-soaked upper echelons of professional golf, the amount of talk about money here and money there seems to never cease. In fact, he’s so relentless that I’m convinced the next time Lee Westwood is interviewed, he’ll open his mouth and a torrent of coins and bills will come out instead of actual words.
Westwood, after weeks of speculation and rumours, has confirmed that he will play in the inaugural event of Greg Norman’s Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series at The Centurion Club next month, which boasts a whopping $25 prize fund. millions. The rebels are slowly but surely rearing their heads. Some of them seem to be losing their minds too. And it makes for an unedifying show.
While Westwood brought up some gossip to justify his decision to take a big payday as he moves into the fall years of his career, Sergio Garcia revealed his intentions in rather more spectacular fashion.
During the Wells Fargo Championship, the Spaniard was informed, incorrectly, it later turned out, by a PGA Tour rules official that he had run out of time allowed to find his ball in a hazard. That provided the catalyst for the former Masters champion to erupt into the kind of tantrum you see in a supermarket aisle when a small child lunges for a packet of chocolate and is thwarted by parental intervention. “I can’t wait to leave this Tour,” he yelled as the toys shot out of the stroller. “I can’t wait to get out of here. A couple more weeks, I won’t have to deal with you anymore.”
It was a wonderfully horrible display of smugness from a 42-year-old man with a history of moodiness, childish histrionics, and petty complaints. He should have been sent to bed without dinner for the rest of the season. With the same sense of entitlement that used to be the preserve of unhinged Roman emperors, Garcia’s antics were perhaps no surprise.
From throwing his shoe into the crowd at Wentworth in 1999 during a fit of temper to spitting in the hole at Doral, Garcia has built a dubious record over the years. Being disqualified from Saudi International in 2019 for deliberately damaging several greens with his putter was the lowest point. His latest blast added even more intrigue to this ongoing Saudi stooshie. It’s somewhat ironic that Garcia once blamed a significant drop in his form on the breakdown of his relationship with Greg Norman’s daughter. Now it seems he can’t wait to snuggle up with his father and his bottomless pit of Saudi reserves.
Garcia, of course, is a perfect fit for LIV Golf’s recruiting campaign; a 40-something veteran activist with perhaps his best days behind him. Meanwhile, among the under-40s, which includes all of the game’s current and young superstars, there’s still no enthusiasm for the concept despite the impressive stacks of dosh on offer. Money can’t buy your love. Well, not yet anyway.
If the likes of Garcia, Westwood and Richard Bland, 49, who has also confirmed he will compete at The Centurion Club, walk away with big paychecks (last place in next month’s event is worth almost $120,000), how long will it be until that others give in to temptation and dip the bread in the sauce boat?
On the same day that Westwood was being heavily criticized for taking the LIV Golf carrot, Scotsman Robert MacIntyre was being widely praised for his comments on the current saga.
“At the end of the day, there’s crazy, crazy money being thrown around,” MacIntyre said of the dizzying sums being thrown around in wild abundance. “If you ask me, it’s obscene money to throw at sports. There is so much money that a human needs.”
MacIntyre is a successful, down-to-earth young man with a screwed-up head. He could teach some of his elders a worthy thing or two as the power struggle at the top end of the men’s game grows ever nastier.
Meanwhile, the general golfing public won’t give a damn about all this commotion. The professional game, after all, makes up a small percentage of the broader golf ecosystem. As the celebrated American scribe, George Peper, once remarked at the Golf Writers Association dinner several years ago: “If professional golf were to disappear from the Earth tomorrow, golfers all over the world would observe a moment of silence and then they would go just in playing the game they love. They would hardly notice that the professional tours had disappeared. Golf would continue.”
For now, however, golf’s obsession with money continues to cause, well, quite a few problems.