In a long post on Twitter, Phil Mickelson said his decision to join the Greg Norman competitor’s tour “will provide balance, not just for myself, but perfectly for the game and my teammates.”
Kevin Na said on Instagram that he “would like the freedom to play wherever I want”. Graeme McDowell told a trade publication last week that joining LIV Golf “boils down to the fact that I’ve been a trading company and have been in business all over the world for 20 years.”
Left unrequited: in choosing the best for themselves and their family, in providing balance, in pursuit of the freedom to play wherever they want, and in keeping their business, the separate group of golfers assembled in London this week makes clear they don’t care an iota of where their money comes from.
Dustin Johnson resigns from the PGA and joins Phil Mickelson on a Saudi-backed tour
This one is worth mentioning and re-emphasizing: money is guaranteed to these golfers before they arrive until Thursday at the inaugural LIV event, money they will follow in wallets over the course of the series – it’s blood money. The investment arm of the government of Saudi Arabia provides everything, and the Saudi government is a murderous regime that murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, continues to wreak havoc on innocent civilians in Yemen, and desperately wants to use international sport in order to provide cover for all of that.
Where is critical thinking here? You might believe that the compensation structure for professional golfers needs to change, and that the competing group is the best way to force a change, but you have to admit that there are wrong ways to do it. Since the days of Woodward and Bernstein, we have been asked to follow the money. The players don’t seem to want that.
Set aside for a minute Mickelson and Johnson, LIV’s two biggest stars. Take Na, the 38-year-old five-time PGA Tour winner best known for his dribbling on the track — unusually slow play that infuriates, and a penchant for court-walking sounds like fun. Signing with LIV for a guaranteed, undisclosed amount, then playing eight 54-hole tournaments with $225 million in prize money, did Na ever think, “Do I really deserve that amount? Why does this tour think I am?”
Dig a little deeper into that rabbit hole. It can get scary. The LIV chain does not have an international television contract to pump money into wallets. It can’t make $225 million in ticket sales for eight events. Sponsors drop players who sign up — for example, RBC cut ties with Johnson and McDowell. All the cash comes from the Public Investment Fund, which considers itself a sovereign wealth fund based in Saudi Arabia. Your Majesty, right? Its head is none other than Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince who the CIA concluded ordered Khashoggi’s murder.
Financially, this is not a win-win for the Saudis. So Na – or McDowell, a 42-year-old Northern Irish one-time US Open winner, or Taylor Gotch, a 30-year-old Oklahomaman with one PGA Tour win – better ask themselves, “Why are they Willing to lose a lot of money on this? What are they buying?”
Answer: They are buying your reputation.
Take the check. Read about the Saudi human rights record. Now put your head on your pillow.
Mickelson’s original quotes on the subject — given to longtime golf journalist Alan Shipnock for his autobiography on Mickelson, which was published last month — have been hashed out and paraphrased. But they still read it as raw.
“They’re a scary mom to get involved with,” Mickelson said in comments he has since apologised. We know that they killed Khashoggi and they have an appalling human rights record. They execute people there for being gay.
“Knowing all this, why am I even thinking about it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour works.”
In other words: The money I make comes from tough, bad people, but because it allows me to challenge an existing business model, I can look the other way. Boggles the mind.
Greg Norman is on the PGA Tour again
Now, there are some merits behind Mickelson’s reasoning about the limitations the PGA Tour places on its players. At this point in his career, the Mickelson name had real value. He is a six-time major champion, charismatic and iconic. A tournament with the 51-year-old Mickelson is simply more attractive than the one he’s skipping. This is true for fans who might buy a ticket and for fans who are at home on the couch.
Golfers – especially those as popular as Mickelson – can reasonably look at well-known and famous athletes in other sports and wonder why they don’t have the same guarantees. The PGA Tour has long banned appearance fees – cash for players just to attend. It’s not crazy for a player to think, “But I deserve something here.”
The tour even acknowledged creating something called the Player Incentive Program, which distributes $40 million to 10 players annually who “make the most positive impact on the PGA Tour.” Mickelson’s prize money in 23 tournaments during the 2021 season: $2.7 million. His Money for Tiger Woods’ Runner-up in PIP: $6 million.
But that conversation distracts from what’s really going on here. It’s not about whether the PGA Tour is the perfect model for professional golf, Mickelson believes. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in blood money, and players accept it while acknowledging only what’s best for their family and work-life balance, not what’s best for the world.
Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, all maverick players help themselves, even when people suffer – people die – because of monsters that sign their checks. but at least they Wine cellars will be stored and they Four full parking garages. How and why it happens apparently does not matter to them.