It’s been a week since golf fans around the world saw the beginnings of something new. After months of speculation surrounding everything from where the up-start could be watched to who was going to be playing in the maiden event of what most golf fans hoped to be nothing more than a sojourn professional golf tour. Something that would slowly whittle away, outlive its shelf life and see life return, “back to normal”. Whatever that means.
I have zero issue in voicing my opinion and this piece is certainly no exception. My disdain for Greg Norman and his team of Saudi backers had risen to a level in me that I’ve never reached, full stop. At least from a golf standpoint anyway. In what felt like a blatant act of disrespect shown towards Golf Canada, a past champion LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman had placed their inaugural event opposite a tournament with a 118-year history. The third-oldest trophy in golf. By definition, an event that’d fall into the very definition of “heritage”.
Of course, a Major like the U.S. Open would be off of the table as far as a date to christen a new tour goes. Taking Major Championships away from prospective players would be a definite “death blow”. No offence or disrespect to the likes of tournament committees for the Travelers Championship, Barbasol Championship, or the John Deere Classic ,but your events are, shall we say, lacking. From a history and prestige point-of-view goes, there’s an unmitigated deficiency. Maybe that’s why Greg Norman and company chose the week before the U.S. Open to kick things off. That was the event to steal away from.
Disclaimer: Before continuing, I’ve talked about the obvious issues surrounding the human rights atrocities in Saudi Arabia and slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi before. In no way do I condone that. Of course, the 9/11 attacks and the tragic loss of life are not lost on me either or for that matter the speculation that they were allegedly Saudi-financed.
However, when other tours (PGA TOUR and DP World Tour) have relationships with China and Turkey and continually to hold events in those countries, are they really that different than LIV Golf? The reality is that Saudi money has helped most of the Western Hemisphere in some way shape or form. Jobs in many sectors ranging from the oil and auto industry’s. The military complex with massive defense contracts being doled out. Heck, even coffee and pizza and yes the golf industry too. Millions have had jobs because of it. Saudi money is also involved in other sports leagues like the English Premier League and Formula 1 auto racing. Yet, that goes on without a single “woke” word being tweeted, although maybe I follow the wrong circles. So, let’s put that to bed shall we?
Dispensing with the geopolitical babble and putting that aside, what are we really talking about? How did we get here? Deep inside the bowels of the PGA TOUR, were there complaints about how things are being done and/or run by players that have ultimately resigned from the PGA TOUR to join LIV Golf’s ranks? Did they leave strictly for the money or is there an underlying message in here somewhere? Why would a lifetime member of the PGA TOUR toss away a legacy like the one built by Phil Mickelson? Like many other systems, it makes one wonder if the PGA TOUR is broken. Too stuck in their ways for their own good.
Say, have you ever noticed that the PGA TOUR is the only professional golf tour that has the word “TOUR” capitalized. Why? “Because, we’re the TOUR and we’re the only one that matters” is the presumptive answer. They’ve been the only “kid on the block” for such a long time that they’ve gotten so comfortable – if not complacent – perched high in their “Ivory Castles” looking down on everyone. So much in fact that they had developed a “invincibility complex”. Factor in the threat of something new (see “fresh”) and add in a few million dollars and suddenly you have a scared PGA TOUR. So of course, “the old boys network” which includes media outlets and somehow “influencers” come to the rescue as the PGA TOUR logo lights up the night sky, like the “Bat Signal”. The saviours of the PGA TOUR bashing and citing the atrocities at every turn. I get it, it all happened. Just like it happened to indigenous peoples of North America.
I watched some of the LIV Golf action from Centurion Club and there were a lot of things that I liked. The 54-hole format is definitely different, yet not new. The LPGA and PGA TOUR Champions play 54-hole events. There’s been a lot of scorn about the 54-hole events. Why does every golf tournament have to be 72-holes? Should every 54-hole event ever played be discounted and those victories taken away? Of course not.
When it came to the action on the screen I felt like I watched a lot more golf shots than I did a putting contest, which has slipped to be the norm during golf telecasts. I really liked the positioning of the leaderboard on the left side of the screen. The weird part was that I didn’t even notice them unless I looked for it so it wasn’t intrusive. I felt that their use of the graphics was well-done with the bold colours being what you’d expect from an organization that’s touted as being “Golf, But Louder”. The play just seemed quick and continuous. Is that the logic of the shotgun format? Or is it from the plethora of cameras on the golf course? Everybody is on the golf course at the same time thus a better pace of play? Which has been a bone of contention on the PGA TOUR for viewers and players alike. If so, message received and I like it.
Now keep an eye open. This year, we’ll likely see everything remain status quo with 12 teams totaling 48 players. Only twelve holes are used for the shotgun start, so moving forward to 2023 there’s room for more players to sign with the perceived “dark side” – LIV Golf. Much of what happens will be dependent on what their peers (“The Rebel Guinea Pigs”) have to say.
4 Aces, Niblicks, Cleeks, Iron Heads, and Torque are some of the team names that I liked. Others like Hy Flyers, Smash, and Fireballs are relatively forgettable name that eerily resembles the name of a drunken team in the “Men’s Night” at your local muni. There’s no denying the futbol or soccer influence with the teams all having the suffix “GC” (Golf Club) at the end. Think “FC” like Liverpool FC, Chelsea FC, or Barcelona FC. Because the field can be different at each tournament there’s a new draft prior to each event. Thus, I’m not entirely sure about the “Team” concept, especially the “Team Championship”.
LIV Golf says that they’re “doing things differently”. A key here for me is the use of the phrase “a defined season”. Perfect! The wraparound season of the PGA TOUR has become a never-ending drain that I’ve learned to loathe. I’ve become relieved that the December holiday season arrives. Not because of family get together’s (I like them too) but because the PGA TOUR goes through a brief dormancy period. Shorter
playing windows and shotgun starts that are just going to benefit fans.
Upon further reflection, what if this sort of money was offered up as a means to fund the LPGA? Increasing their prize purses to something at par with their male counterparts? Pay parity between the two respective tours, now that’s something. Well, “what if” you say? Continuing on you say “What if” I was the President, Prime Minister, Butcher, Baker, or Candlestick-maker? There’s no place for “what ifs” but just humour me for a second. Would you, the golf fan, tour player, or media member be staging the protest that you currently are if this was happening to the LPGA? I think that some ogre’s out there would still protest, but there’d be an absolute “gem” as an argument and here it is. The LPGA doesn’t deserve the same money as the guys. That’s the argument.
Here’s my take on golf and where it is. Queue, the world under the seas.
For the first time ever, the PGA TOUR (“Mother Fish”) is fearing that a “Big Fish” (LIV Golf) has moved into their part of the ocean. Picture a coral reef. Their reactions are typically human and they ultimately act in a way that you’d expect. Think “fight or flight”. For example, when a “Mother Fish” feels like her “Baby Fish” (TOUR Player’s) are being threatened. “Mother Fish” lashes out while employing many “Feeder Fish” (Media outlets including social media) to nag on the “Big Fish”. The problem is, the newcomer is completely and unequivocally unfazed by practically anything – thanks in large part to a seamlessly never-ending supply of resources at its disposal – ultimately the “Big Fish” doesn’t care and pursues the baby fish regardless. The rest of the school panics, scatters, and suddenly the reef is quiet again.
LIV Golf actually may have a product worth watching and one to enjoy. I’m definitely going to watch a few more events to see if I can get more of a feel for it. I think that there’s great potential for this organization to not only survive, but prosper. Maybe it’ll ultimately end with the two entities learning to co-exist with each other in a manner like the WHA/NHL or AFL/NFL mergers decades ago.
If players that leave the PGA TOUR in favour of LIV Golf are considered “rebels” because they want to try something different, than consider me a rebel. I’m not your typical “Golf is all rainbows and lollipops” golf writer. I’m a different sort altogether. I’ve often wondered why I became involved with this game in the first place because I was never affluent or of that “ilk” often associated to golf. Nor have I ever felt like I belonged. I’m unrefined and the “proverbial square peg in the round hole”.
Even though I strongly disagree with their politics or human rights records, politics shouldn’t be the driving force here. It’s peculiar or ironic when you think about it. We hear the term “rights” thrown around but isn’t it within someone’s rights to play golf where they want? Yet, the players who have chosen to give LIV Golf a try are getting persecuted for their choices.
Coincidentally, maybe LIV Golf is right up my alley. Moreover, with even deeper self-analysis the writing is and has been on the wall for some time. I seem to take to villains in movies and so on. I love Darth Vader, Dennis Hopper in “Speed” was amazing. I route for the bad guy in shows like “The Black List” and “Criminal Minds”, sometimes. Just once, I’d love to see the aliens win in “Independence Day”. Black is known as the colour of being the “bad guy” or “evil”. I love crows and ravens and even my dog, is black.
It should be noted that LIV Golf announced the “LIV to Give” initiative. “LIV Golf has pledged USD $100 million (£79M) to support a broad range of initiatives targeting education, environmental sustainability, golf development programs, and the well-being of communities in the short and long term”. On June 9th, LIV Golf made the announcement that they had made a contribution of £1M in initial funding to support non-profit organizations serving underrepresented communities across the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire counties.
Until The Next Tee!!