LIV Golf. Yes, the golf tour backed by the unlimited coffers and stacks of Saudi money. LIV Golf Investments, the firm of which Greg Norman is the CEO and Tour Commissioner. Has it been a thorn in the proverbial side of the PGA TOUR or what? LIV Golf has really shaken up the golf world. LIV Golf has been the talk of the golf community – at large – and there are no signs of that trend, slowing down. To be honest, I actually sort of like it.
As far as the PGA TOUR goes, personally speaking, I’ve actually become bored and borderline disinterested. Except for about four events not including any Major Championships. Golf, the game itself, often brings me back to my childhood. As a child, teen, and even as a young adult that grew up “on the other side of the tracks”, golf wasn’t for people of my ilk. An “old boy’s club” if you will. The most gracious, “holier than thou”, be all end all PGA TOUR answer to golf. Where the thinking is “it’s us and only us” attitude is eerily reminiscent in many ways to the version of me described above. Elitist. An adjective that played an integral role in my not taking up golf sooner. Back then, I’d no-sooner holler “Fore!” out the window of my car while passing by a golf course with a golfer within earshot. On the odd occasion somebody would “flip me off”. Oh the memories from a simpler time, but I digress.
When it comes to the upheaval that’s transpired this year as far as the ongoing PGA TOUR/LIV Golf feud goes, what exactly are we TRULY talking about? How did we get here? Something so perilous that it prompted the PGA TOUR to threaten to suspend players that dare to “bite the hands that feed” by going to a rival tour? Is it (at all) possible that the PGA TOUR is simply afraid of what Greg Norman is building? Afraid of a rival who just might be, better. Better, in every way. From higher purses (as if the players need more money) to a better on-screen experience for us watching from home. Face it, the coverage on networks like NBC, CBS, and Golf Channel has become increasingly unwatchable. Commentary and presentation that’s “old and stale” like the, “old boys”.
The uproar… The outrage? Whether real or feigned would there be the same kind of pushback from the PGA TOUR if the money that backed the tour came from Canadian Maple Syrup conglomerates? Don’t laugh, there’s big money in maple syrup… apparently. To answer the question the short answer is yes and the reason is simple. It’s because there isn’t supposed to be another tour. The PGA TOUR is all that we golf fans have ever known and – gasp – there’s no conceivable way that there could be another tour. Nay, there won’t be another tour – ever – if the PGA TOUR continues to hold a monopoly on professional golf and get its way.
Anti-LIV Golf fans will bring up the sad and unfortunate slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a method to protest LIV Golf events. At times the killing of the American journalist has ultimately been used as a “sort of” rallying cry for those against the tour. Factor in that murder and Saudi Arabia’s human rights record (and make no mistake about it, it’s horrible) and suddenly that’s all of the “cannon fodder” needed for golf fans to not give LIV Golf a chance. And that’s okay really. It’s their choice and their right. But, I would like to pose a question. Before all of this back and forth squabbling when admittedly there are more pressing global issues, how many of these same fans cared about or had Jamal Khashoggi at the front of their minds? Without looking it up on Google, what percentage of the masses could tell you who Jamal Khashoggi was?
For those of us living perched high atop in our “Ivory Castles” we haven’t been effected by atrocities. “Well, it didn’t happen in my country” is nothing short of ignorant as a response. But it has happened, hasn’t it? How soon do we forget. In North America, the treatment of the indigenous people. The skeletons from by-gone eras are still being uncovered in Canada where catholic-ran “Residential Schools” had unmarked mass graves that contain the bodies of indigenous school children. The DP World Tour has held events in China and Turkey, two countries with human rights records that are less than sterling. Turkey themselves having launched poison gas attacks on the Kurdish people in recent years. Genocide. Yet, there’s the Turkish Airlines Open every year. “We” still watch these events without batting an eyelash whether it’s a “one-off” event or not.
It’s time to get real with ourselves and have a long look into the mirror. Admittedly or not, more of these “woke” golf fans will be tuning in to watch LIV Golf feeds, than they care to admit. Their love of golf and genuine curiosity that’s just human nature will compel them to tune in. That said, I have no doubt that there will be those that “stick to their guns” and won’t watch LIV Golf events, for a second.
When the roster came out for the inaugural LIV Golf event (to be held at Centurion Club in London, England) there were no huge surprises other than the Dustin Johnson announcement. I promise you that I will delve into that topic momentarily. If anything “The List” put to rest the rumours of who will and who won’t be playing. Louie Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, and Richard Bland were all expected to jump ship, and did. Guys, who are all pretty close to the end of their PGA TOUR “shelf lives”. I think Na’s situation and the reason why he left is a story that has a little more to it than what meets the eye.
As surprising as the Dustin Johnson news was, I was more surprised about some of the players that weren’t on the list for the first LIV Golf Invitational event. The first name that I thought of was Phil Mickelson. After everything that’s occurred over the last several months between he and the PGA TOUR, his name was not divulged. Is it possible that Greg Norman has some bigger plans for “Lefty”? Perhaps a role as one of the team captain’s or something a little bigger that would transition Phil into a position after his playing career?
There are more than a handful of players on the PGA TOUR that are sponsored by Saudi Arabia Golf. Abraham Ancer, Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, and Jason Kokrak all sponsored athletes of Saudi Arabia Golf were not on the list. Unlike their fellow Saudi Arabian Golf sponsored brethren Kevin Na, Lee Westwood, and Graeme McDowell.
With Dustin Johnson heading to England to spearhead and headline the first LIV Golf Invitational joining like-minded players,a bit of a “butterfly effect” was left in the wake. I’ll be honest, even though it was a surprising announcement, is it really that surprising that he too, jumped ship? I say no and here’s why. Look at the way in which he portrays himself over social media. He does enjoy a lavish lifestyle, doesn’t he? His decision to play in the inaugural LIV event cost him his sponsorship with RBC and for those that don’t know what it stands for, including Johnson himself (his words… not mine). RBC is the abbreviation for The Royal Bank of Canada. All of those years of loyalty shown by RBC and the members of every branch that pay their ludicrous service fees to cover the endorsement deal, unceremoniously wiped out.
The timing of the inaugural event is awful in my eyes. They decided to schedule their first event when a national open is being played during the same week on the PGA TOUR. An event that could be considered and defined as a “heritage” event. The RBC Canadian Open has been contested since 1904. That’s 118 years! Dustin Johnson leaving the week of RBC’s flagship event is nothing short of a castration to his backers. LIV Golf, overshadowing an event as old as the Canadian Open is the only thing that I really don’t like about LIV Golf at this moment. If I have to be completely honest about it, truthfully, it’s because I – a patriotic Canadian – got all butt-hurt over something that I have no control over. It’s not like I was going to the Canadian Open unless I was approved for media credentials. I wasn’t. For the rest of the world, however, golf fans couldn’t care less. Besides, it’s not like Golf Canada, the Canadian Open, and Canadian golf fans haven’t been screwed in the past.
For the record, I really hope that Greg Norman and LIV Golf Investments gets their collective feet firmly entrenched in the golf landscape. Golf has needed a shake-up in the worst way and the arrival of the LIV Golf Invitational series is just what the doctor ordered. The product offered right now is stale and sterile. I will be watching and reporting on LIV Golf events. I’ve always had an open mind towards new things and this situation is no different. If only golf and more specifically wasn’t stuck in their ways. “Golf Oatmeal”.
Until The Next Tee!!