Sunday marks the final round of the third LIV Golf tournament, at Bedminster, New Jersey, and a field of 12 international teams totaling 48 golfers is vying for a whopping $25 million in prize money — much to the chagrin of the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods, and most of the knee-jerk liberal sports media.
The controversial new tour has attracted dozens of top-name golfers from Phil Mickelson to Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell III, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, and Bryson DeChambeau, as well as sterling golf announcer David Feherty. To hear the golf establishment’s impassioned cries, these men are sellouts, cashing in at the expense of human rights and all that’s decent in the world.
Are you kidding me?
The PGA Tour has long enjoyed such a that there’s never been a real challenge to its hegemony. As a result, golfers not nicknamed Tiger or Lefty drive from event to event, hoping to make the cut, earning annually about as much as a decent second stringer in the National Hockey League. And until lately, the PGA Tour, not the golfers, kept the rights to NFTs and other means by which the players could get paid.
Fans lose out when there’s a monopoly on golf because most televised events have just a sprinkling of big names, so you seldom have the best in the sport competing head-to-head. The competition is weak, the courses are mostly boring, the winners are guys you’ve never heard of, and the overall PGA Tour product feels out of date.
Now comes LIV Golf with its parade of top golfers who appear in every LIV Golf event, thanks to prize money worth competing for, teams organized mostly by nationality to increase rooting interest, a shotgun start so that there’s tons of action the whole time, no cut, so everybody plays on the weekend, 54 holes (hence the Roman numeral LIV) and no guy with the lead hanging around the clubhouse waiting to see if he won or not. (So boring.)
In short, LIV Golf is a disruptive force. It’s Uber to the PGA Tour’s fleet of aging taxis with shifty drivers and busted springs.
From the outrage in the media, you’d think that LIV Golf had punched the PGA Tour in the face and said its baby was ugly. But here’s the real reason that everyone claims to be so upset about LIV Golf — the money comes from (Shhhh! Not so loud!) the Saudis.
OK, let’s all take a deep breath here. According to a recent ESPN report, the do more than $10 billion worth of business with China, itself no bastion of civil rights, but nobody says boo about that. When Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey tweeted about Beijing’s crackdown on the Hong Kong protests, China cut NBA preseason games off TV and canceled NBA Cares events in Shanghai. Noted civil liberties experts from LeBron James on down all did the same thing — they kept their mouths shut. So, it’s not like the sports world really cares about human rights.
The PGA Tour is hardly the right organization to complain about indecency. In living memory, Blacks couldn’t compete at PGA Tour events, and couldn’t belong to or compete at Augusta National, the revered home of the Masters. The 1990 PGA Championship was scheduled for Shoal Creek, an Alabama private golf course that had always firmly and publicly resisted Black members. And more than a handful of PGA Tour sponsors do business with … wait for it … a force in golf for the past five years. So, it’s nice to see the PGA Tour finally developing an interest in human rights.
The sports media, deep in the PGA Tour’s pocket, can’t hide its contempt for the golfers who made the leap to LIV Golf. At the press conference prior to Wednesday’s pro-am (featuring former President Donald Trump, who owns the course), questions were mostly on the snide side: How do you feel about quitting your team on the Ryder Cup for a team called The Crushers? Well, you might ask a question about golf, since these are golfers, but that would be too boring.
The liberal media calls this new golf entity “sportswashing,” I call their protestations brainwashing. That’s because, from a fan’s perspective, LIV Golf is a much better experience. Gone is the sense of ponderous self-importance that marks PGA Tour events. LIV Golf is so new that there’s a sense of freshness, fun, and making things up as they go. The overwhelming majority of the LIV Golfers are the cream of the golf crop — no shaky Q School survivors here — and when you hang around them, as I did at the pro-am day, they exuded a sense of freedom.
Yes, they’re getting paid well, but so are all top athletes. And you can sense that the team concept, despite snarky questions from the media, is something they enjoy. One of the players noted approvingly that it was like being on a college golf team once again. If the golfers are having fun, the product will be so much better, for them and for the fans. It’s a new day in professional golf, maybe the first such new day since Old Tom Morris first teed it up in St. Andrews more than 150 years ago.