That’s how I feel about the PGA Tour’s power struggle with the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf. The PGA Tour is financed by multi-billion dollar corporations, including American television networks, and played by multi-million dollar players, whose catchphrase might as well be: “Show me the money.”
The new tour, with Greg Norman as the featured frontman, is funded by the Saudi Arabian government, perhaps best described by Phil Mickelson, the new tour’s most prominent player as “sons of fear.”
Go ahead, pick a side. Greedy to the hilt vs. Scary motherfuckers—–yes.
The tour’s greed and cunning cannot compare to the evils Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has perpetrated, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but one doesn’t exactly sleep with the angels by siding with the PGA Tours. Commissioner Jay Monahan and his not-so-jolly band of men.
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That’s not to say that guys like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who turned down hundreds of millions of dollars in Saudi blood money, shouldn’t be applauded, not so much for their loyalty to the tour as for understanding that their legacies would change forever. always if they joined the Saudis.
Mickelson certainly has. He will no longer be viewed simply as a Hall of Fame golfer who won six majors and 45 PGA Tour titles. He will not captain the 2025 Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black, as has been mandated for years. His decision to side with the Saudis will be in the first two paragraphs of his life story.
The same goes for great champions like Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Graeme McDowell and Charl Schwartzel, who won the first ever LIV tournament last weekend outside of London and took home over $4 million.
They have all clearly decided that money is more important than legacy.
What is laughable is the LIV members’ babble about why they are doing this. Norman keeps talking about “growing the game,” sounding like an old-fashioned record that’s stuck. Mickelson and others say the same thing when discussing their opportunity to transform the sport.
Please. This is an opportunity to do one thing: get very rich. For Norman, it’s also a chance to finally avenge the defeat he suffered at the hands of the tour and then-commissioner Tim Finchem in 1994, when he tried to launch something called the World Golf Tour. Norman’s idea was to have big purses, no cuts, guaranteed money, and invite only the elite or near-elite of the game. Finchem was able to shoot down the idea by lining up corporate sponsors to create the World Golf Championships: events with small courses, no cuts, big prizes and guaranteed money.
Did he steal Norman’s idea to keep his star players at bay? your bet Norman ever forgot? Absolutely not. So Norman has two motives: money and revenge.
Everyone else is in it for the money.
McIlroy and Garcia are good friends; They were at each other’s weddings. But when Garcia told McIlroy that the reason for joining the LIV Tour was “so we can finally get paid we deserve,” McIlroy laughed out loud. “Sergio,” he said, “we are golfers. we do not deserve that they pay me nothing”.
So let’s not say no one in golf he understands real life. McIlroy understands.
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Let’s also not act like the Saudis are the only ones spending big bucks trying to wash their hands of sports blood. Or that these golfers are the first to take out blood-soaked money.
The NBA makes hundreds of millions of dollars doing business with China. The International Olympic Committee has voluntarily brought the Olympics to Putin’s Russia and China twice this century. FIFA, soccer’s governing body, had a problem bringing the World Cup to Qatar: the weather in July. Human rights violations were clearly not a concern.
For golf, the question now is whether LIV proves to be a problem that makes a handful of players very rich and then disappears, or whether it continues to disrupt the sport. And it may turn out that the almighty green jackets at Augusta National hold the key to the future of the sport.
The US Open is allowing LIV players to compete here at The Country Club this week because the US Golf Association says it believes as an Open it is not in a position to ban players who have qualified. The Royal and Ancient, which runs the British Open, could take the same position ahead of next month’s championships in St. Andrews.
That leaves the PGA Championship, run by the PGA of America, and the Masters. Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA, has been a close friend of Monahan since the days when Waugh ran Deutsche Bank and Monahan was director of the Waugh-bank-sponsored Boston tournament. He would certainly love to support Monahan and the tour.
But if the Opens remain open and the Green Jackets decide not to ban escaped players, Waugh would be alone in the majors, an untenable position.
Mickelson, Garcia, Reed and Schwartzel are all former Masters champions who would have to be denied a trip to Magnolia Lane by Augusta National president Fred Ridley and his teammates if they side with the Tour. Augusta National is known for letting the world know that no one is telling you what to do. So even though the tour has a rule dating back to 1990 that no club can host a PGA Tour event if it discriminates against someone, Augusta National did not admit women until 2012.
No one in golf messes with the Lords of Augusta. That’s why the club’s decision on LIV will be so critical. If LIV players can play in all four majors, they don’t need the PGA Tour.
Even now, the tour is in trouble. Many major sponsors at grassroots events are already less than enthusiastic about their courses. If LIV survives and continues to attract stars, Monahan will find itself in serious trouble with the title sponsor. Y any is more important to the tour than keeping the main sponsors happy.
For now, the two sides will continue to shoot at each other, millionaires fighting billionaires.