Saudi-backed golf tour lures PGA professionals, however backlash lands them within the tough

The world {of professional} golf is embroiled in a really messy, very public divorce with a whole bunch of tens of millions of {dollars} at stake.

Thursday in London, 17 of the world’s high golfers, together with Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, teed off within the first occasion on the brand new Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf tour.

Although 10 of the 17 gamers had already formally resigned from the PGA tour, commissioner Jay Monahan formally banned all of them from enjoying in future PGA occasions moments after the London occasion started.

LIV gamers are nonetheless eligible to compete in golf’s 4 main tournaments, which the PGA doesn’t management.

Phil Mickelson of america performs from the primary tee throughout the first spherical of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational on Thursday. (Alastair Grant/The Related Press)

“These gamers have made their alternative for their very own financial-based causes,” Monahan stated in an announcement. “However they can not demand the identical PGA Tour membership advantages, issues, alternatives and platform as you. The expectation disrespects you, our followers and our companions.”

 LIV Golf shortly responded: “It is troubling that the tour, a company devoted to creating alternatives for golfers to play the sport, is the entity blocking golfers from enjoying.”

Like many divorces, that is about cash.

The eight-event LIV tour is being funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is managed by members of the Saudi royal household and has about $600 billion in belongings. It’s providing prize cash of $25 million per match, dwarfing even the most important purses on the PGA tour.

It is also paid large look charges to entice high gamers to affix this new tour. Johnson and Mickelson have been reportedly paid $150 million and $200 million earlier than ever hitting a shot.

Fracturing the sport

The RBC Canadian Open, one of many oldest stops on the PGA tour with a complete purse of $8.7 million, is being held this week in Toronto and is the primary PGA occasion to go face to face with the LIV tour.

(LIV is the Roman numeral 54, referring to the 54 holes that make up tour occasions versus the 72 on the PGA Tour)

Even earlier than the match started, RBC misplaced its most important spokesperson and face of the Canadian Open when Dustin Johnson abruptly bolted to the LIV Tour.

Wyndham Clark of america traces up his putt on the eighth inexperienced throughout the first spherical of the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto on Thursday. One of many oldest stops on the PGA tour, the Canadian Open can also be the primary PGA occasion to go head-to-head towards LIV tour. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Match officers level to a high quality subject that includes 5 of the highest 10 gamers on the planet and sturdy ticket gross sales as proof that regardless of LIV’s arrival on the scene, the PGA is stronger than ever.

“You wish to watch the perfect gamers on the planet, particularly a number of the finest younger gamers on the planet. They’re right here in Canada. They’re right here in Toronto,” RBC Canadian Open match director Bryan Crawford instructed CBC.

On the identical time, gamers expressed fear about how this new deep-pocketed tour may change golf’s future.

“Any determination that you simply make in your life that is purely for cash often would not find yourself going the proper manner,” stated four-time main winner Rory McIlroy. “I believe it is a disgrace that it is going to fracture the sport.”

Canadian golfer Graham DeLaet, who performed for greater than decade on the PGA tour earlier than not too long ago retiring, says it will likely be exhausting for a lot of gamers to show their backs on cash by no means seen earlier than in golf.

“There’s a variety of moral and ethical questions relating to the place the cash is coming from however guys make their very own selections and,when that cheque is dangled in entrance of your eyes,  I imply it makes issues somewhat harder,” DeLaet instructed CBC.

As DeLaet factors out, this story is about extra than simply cash and golf. It is also about politics.

There was a renewed deal with Saudi regime backing the upstart LIV tour and its atrocious human rights document together with, most not too long ago, the homicide of Washington Put up journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

WATCH | LIV Golf’s huge cash has lured high golfers away from PGA tour:

Saudi-funded golf league poaches high expertise from PGA tour

The LIV Golf league funded by the Saudi authorities is poaching a number of the world’s high golfers, together with Dustin Johnson, to depart the PGA Tour.

Golf vs. politics

Within the days main as much as the London occasion, gamers like Mickelson did their finest to maintain the worlds of golf and politics separate.

 “I am definitely conscious of what occurred with Jamal Khashoggi and I believe it is horrible,” Mickelson stated. “I’ve additionally seen the great that the sport of golf has completed all through historical past, and I imagine that LIV Golf goes to do a variety of good.”

Mickelson, proper, shakes arms with Saudi businessman Yasir Al-Rumayyan after the primary spherical of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational at St. Albans, England. Al-Rumayyan is the governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is backing LIV Golf. (Paul Childs/Reuters)

Fellow LIV participant Graeme McDowell rejected the notion that by taking part within the Saudi backed tour, he was normalizing or excusing the regime’s atrocities.

“I believe as golfers, if we tried to treatment geopolitical conditions in each nation on the planet that we play golf in, we would not play a variety of golf,” he stated.

Nonetheless, some contend that for golfers, many who’ve made a fortune enjoying the sport, this ought to be about greater than the cash being dangled by the LIV Tour.

Cheri Bradish, a sport advertising professor at Toronto Metropolitan College, argues that the golfers who to date have rejected LIV’s overtures will be the final winners on this just-beginning battle.

“If you wish to take into consideration preserving your companions, doing all of your talking gigs and nonetheless having relationships commercially and other people will argue with $150 million, you do not want these,” Bradish stated. 

“However you wish to imagine on this society. that sports activities figures will perceive that they’ll and will and may do superb issues with the platform that they’ve.”


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