Saudi Arabia Astroturfs on the golf course

People who hate golf can be forgiven for not knowing anything about it fiber Golf, because people who love golf didn’t pay close attention either. fiber– Which rhymes with “The Giving” – is a new professional tour, funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. fiberTheir website describes it as “golf, but louder,” and says it’s there to “make golf more effective.” Its roster, so far, consists almost entirely of beens, soon-to-bes, and no one, but the PGA Tour is concerned about future defections. Last week, it suspended all of its members who registered for the opening fiber The tournament and banned them from playing in its own events.

fiberThe real attraction for players is not the louder golf but the money being louder. Each of its eight 2022 tournaments has a purse of twenty-five million dollars – exactly double what it had at this year’s US Open, which is taking place this week, at the Country Club, in Brooklyn, Massachusetts. in every fiber In the tournament, those millions are split among just forty-eight players, with four million going to the winner. The workload is light. fiber The events are fifty-four holes, played over three days, instead of seventy-two, they are played over four. (LIV is fifty-four in Roman numerals.) Tournaments contain the team element as well as individual competition: each week a course is divided into twelve four-man “golf clubs,” which compete for five million dollars. The club names were created by an advisory group of fourth grade boys, apparently: Crushers, Fireballs, Hy Flyers, Iron Heads, Punch, Torque and Smash.

Biggest two stars on fiber The list of nominees is Phil Mickelson, who is said to have earned $200 million, and Dustin Johnson, who is rumored to have ordered a plane but accepted less. Mickelson, who has admitted to his gambling addiction, likely needed the money. Sportswriter Alan Shipnock, in an unauthorized biography published last month, concluded that Mickelson lost forty million dollars between 2010 and 2014 alone, based on information from a source familiar with an insider trading case in which Mickelson was involved. He went to jail but had to hand over a million dollars in stock earnings and interest. Mickelson’s friend, Billy Walters, went to prison, although Donald Trump commuted his sentence. Walters is also writing a book.)

Johnson’s decision is hard to understand. He won the 2016 US Open and the 2020 Masters, and was the world number one as recently as last summer. But he’s 37, and he’s said he doesn’t want to play forever. fiber Presumably, it would enable him to retire earlier and get richer, although it’s hard to imagine his father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, making a similar choice at this point in his career.

fiber Money is ugly money: The head of the Public Investment Fund is Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi leader who in 2018, among other human rights abuses, sent a fifteen-member assassination squad to kill dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (The killers cut his body into small pieces with a corpse saw and put them in bags) fiber The lineup includes Graeme McDowell, who won the US Open in 2010 but has had sporadic tournament success since then. When asked about the Khashoggi assassination, at a press conference last week, McDowell referred to it as a “situation” and added: “If Saudi Arabia wants to use golf as a way to get to where they want to be, and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we’re proud. helping them on that journey.” At a press conference in May, fiberThe company’s CEO, former star Greg Norman, seemed to view the assassination as a potential teaching moment for bin Salman. He said, “Take the property, whatever it is.” “Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them in the future.” The Saudis hired Norman after he was rejected by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

Eamonn Lynch, a columnist for Golfweek, described Norman as a “crown finger puppet” and described golfers who sign with LIV Golf as “agents of the sports wash.” Sportswashing is an attempt to improve the infamous reputation by investing in popular sports or athletes – which the Saudis have also been accused of in Formula 1 racing and English Premier League football. Another function of fiber Golf may be transferring Saudi money to people you know, because two of the eight golf courses on the 2022 schedule – one in Florida and one in New Jersey – bear the name “Trump”. If that’s the strategy, it aligns with two other Saudi investments: $2 billion in a fund partly managed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and $1 billion in a fund partly managed by Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin. Each of these expenditures was realized within months of Trump’s reluctant departure from the White House.

Money-charged relationships are nothing new in golf. In 1930, great amateur Bobby Jones broke into the supposedly impregnable “quartet” by winning all four Grand Slams of that era in one calendar year, a feat unmatched before or since. Then, with no worlds left to conquer, he retired from competition, at the age of twenty-eight.

This, however, is how the story is usually told. In fact, Jones retired at least in part because Warner Bros. Hired him to star in educational films, and the US Golf Association ruled that he was no longer an amateur. Jones, who was a lawyer in his day job, looked down upon people who played golf for money – he once referred to a typical professional as an “uneducated club valet” – and was unwilling to be labeled as a competition professional. Besides, maintaining his position as an amateur was a costly affair. In 1933, his golf-related business ventures paid him over $100,000, a ton of money in the worst year of the Great Depression, while Paul Runyan, the year’s most successful Tour Professional, earned less than five hundred, despite winning nine Championships. In those days, the only golfers who could play golf were the only crooks. Even champions like Runyans had to earn what they kept as “jacket folders”, only competing when they were able to spend time away from their professional stores. The championship course was, as it were, a loosely organized extracurricular activity overseen by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA), which was formed in 1916 as an alliance of club professionals.

In the 1960s, television and Arnold Palmer helped turn competitive golf into a financial sport. With this shift taking place, Jack Nicklaus and other star players felt that the PGA was focusing too much on jacket folders and not enough on them. A period of intense internal conflict ensued. The result was, eventually, the creation of a completely separate organization, called the PGA Tour. By nearly all standards, the PGA Tour has been a boon to the world’s most talented professional players. There are still thirteen events on the calendar for 2022, but ninety-two of its members have already won over $1 million, sixty-seven of them without winning even a single event.

first view fiber The tournament – which took place last week on a nine-year-old golf course thirty miles outside London – was a chore. Broadcasting was amateurish, and in the US, it was only broadcast on, YouTube, and a website whose name I still forget. Covering each tour began with an introductory video, narrated by (for all people) Dennis Quaid. “The development may be uncomfortable, but we love this game crazy enough to try,” he said, in a voice rising with emotion. one of fiberIts evolutionary innovation is the “gun starts” – which means that the fourteen start their rounds simultaneously, on twelve different golf holes, rather than setting off, one by one, from the first tee. The advantage of starting the gun, for someone watching it online, is that from the moment the tournament begins, there is a lot of simultaneous action. The drawback is that competition never turns out to be anything like narrative. A captain can play anywhere on the field—perhaps on the hardest hole, perhaps on the easiest—while his main competitors play elsewhere, without necessarily knowing that they are his main competitors. Then, at once, the whole thing was over, with a bit of a sense that the story had been built to a climax.

fiberThe shape of the shape may have been the product of Greg Norman’s nightmares, whose perhaps most enduring legacy in golf was his stunning collapse in the final round of the 1996 Masters. He started that round six strokes ahead and finished the loss by five—swinging by eleven strokes on eighteen holes. The winner was Nick Faldo, who was playing with him. If the Masters finished that year after fifty-four holes, Norman would have won, and if the tournament had started with the rifle and one of the team mates, he probably wouldn’t have to play with Faldo, who didn’t receive as much credit as he deserves for engineering Norman’s inner blast, from During the flashing shots steadily staggered as Norman collapses beside him. (If all four majors in 1986 had only lasted three days, Nauman would have broken into Bobby Jones’ “impervious quadrilateral”—a fictional feat sometimes referred to as Norman’s “Saturday Slam.)

in fiber Last week, the only true story was money; Certainly not golf. Only eight of the forty-eight players finished the game on equal terms – in a track, to put it mildly, it wasn’t the country club – and of those eight, no one succeeded in three sub-par rounds. The winner was Charles Schwarzl, a 37-year-old South African who won the Masters in 2011 but hasn’t done much in the eleven years since. for him fiber A team – called Stinger Golf Club – also won, so his reward for three afternoons of staff-like golf practice was $4.75 million. Mickelson, looking increasingly exhausted, tied for thirty-third – seventeen strokes behind Schwarzl but fourteen strokes ahead of Andy Ogletree, the 2019 US Amateur Champion, who earned $120,000 from last place. That’s not a lot of money, compared to what most others earned, but it quadrupled Ogletree’s career earnings as a pro.

when i mentioned fiber At lunch on Sunday over twenty men in my usual weekend golf group, only one said he watched even a little. One reason may be that there are three more attractive alternatives to golf on regular television: the Canadian Open, which is on the PGA Tour schedule (and won by Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland); ShopRite LPGA Classic, which takes place at a cool old stadium in New Jersey that my friends and I played (and won by Brooke Henderson, who is Canadian); and the Curtis Cup, a biennial competition between the best amateur female players from the United States, Great Britain and Ireland. Of those three tournaments, the gem was the Curtis Cup. Held in one of the world’s greatest courses – Merrion Golf Club, just outside Philadelphia – the play was amazing, even though the Americans were in control from the start and none of the players charged a cent. ♦

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