Our Town: Golf – a sport with growing pains

Our Town: Golf  – a sport with growing pains

All things must grow or die and golf is no exception. Even if you have only a passing interest in sport, you have undoubtedly heard of the heavy blows being thrown by two goliaths. In one corner we have the PGA with its $800 million bank roll facing off with the LIV tour in the other corner, which has pockets just as deep, thanks in no small part to the Saudi Arabian government.

This fracas on the fairways has heated up over the last four months with some of the biggest names in golf—including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed—deciding to join the LIV Tour with the promise of larger purses and fewer events to endure.

Let us break down the drama into its five component parts.
1) The Players: There are 14 of the biggest names in golf opting to play on the LIV tour largely because it offers them a chance to regain some balance in their life. Contrary to the emphasis being made about the lure of far bigger purses, what each of these guys has  been saying is that they are tired of the grind that the PGA Toru tends to tacitly demand.

The way FedEx points are given, the players are basically forced into playing nearly every week, all year round, which eventually destroys their bodies, their minds and their family life. They rarely are home to celebrate their children’s birthdays or their Little League games. The players are wanting what is rightfully theirs, which is simply to become free agents.

Free agency is nothing new to sports with all the major American sports using it, including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League. The PGA apparently thinks it’s immune from this process, but these golfers are independent contractors which means that if they fail to make a cut on the PGA, Daddy is not bringing home any bacon that week.

2) The PGA: The PGA wishes to maintain control over its players even though it does not employ them. Understandably, the PGA wishes to maintain a monopoly on golf since financially, it is in their best interest to do so. But, alas, all things must come to an end, including the desire to control professional golfers. They are playing the morality card by pushing the narrative that Saudi Arabia is an evil empire which is constantly violating human rights and is using golf to whitewash its reputation.

The PGA apparently has overlooked the fact that Saudi Arabia is one of our most important allies in the Middle East. And it saddens me to see how the PGA has converted one of its big-name players into a puppet. When Rory McIlroy won the Canadian Open this week, the first thing he said in his post-tournament interview was that he was so happy to be “playing against the world’s best players.” This was a fine example of Orwellian double speak, which meant that he was sad and worried that he was not playing against the world’s best players. The PGA promptly suspended the players who are with the LIV tour and the next move will be given to corporate lawyers on both sides.

3) The LIV Tour: This tour was the brainchild of Greg “The Great White Shark” Norman, who was ranked  No. 1 golfer in the world for over six years back in the 1980s. With his Australian charm and devil-may-care attitude he kept pushing his dream of a world tour and understood that as the world became globalized a world tour was inevitable. He is merely emulating good old-fashioned American entrepreneurialism.

Major League Baseball now plays some of its games in Japan and the last time I was in London I remember seeing huge banners hung across Oxford Street announcing in bold red “The NFL IS COMING TO TOWN.” The globalization of sport is here, and golf must face this truth.

4) The Media: The media lives for controversy and so naturally they’re eating up this story. They are prone to simplification and so they have defined this story as the good guys (The PGA and America) vs. the bad guys (The LIV Tour and Saudi Arabia.) They are pushing the narrative that Saudi is an evil empire and the players who join their league are greedy sociopaths. But how on earth can you call Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Branden Grace sociopaths? The PGA, much like America itself, likes to oversee things globally, but I’m afraid it’s time to share the wealth.

5) The fan: Some will be swayed by the jargon of the media and the PGA but largely they are interested in four things. They like to see mastery on the links, they like to see how pros handle pressure, they want to sense the history of an event and they like to see golf played on majestic golf courses. The big names on the LIV tour include Mickelson, Johnson and Reed, so they will see more than enough mastery. The $25 million that will be played for each event will provide plenty of pressure. The courses on the LIV tour are high caliber.

The only weakness of the LIV tour is that the events will lack an historical basis. But if we have learned anything from the eventual popularity of the FedEx Cup  it is that when big dollars are at stake, the event does acquire an historic quality.

Growing pains hurt, but it’s time for the PGA to realize that the future has arrived, and they call it the LIV Tour. Welcome to the future of golf.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here