The advent of LIV Golf asks an important question: If someone presented you a big, bold red button and told you that pressing it would give you millions but atrocities would take place elsewhere in the world, would you do it?
Professional golfers answered the question with a resounding affirmative. A few of them even smashed that button like they were playing Mario Party.
The adage money talks is a bit misleading when it comes to LIV Golf. In this regard, money talks; it convinces; and it spit shines one of the most morally dilapidated regimes in the world.
So while there really should be a question as to whether the newest professional golf tour would live on long enough to affect the PGA Tour, there isn’t.
Golfers who play a game for millions don't see an issue with getting paid even more millions, especially if that means less time on the course and the presumed continued access to the majors.
Brooks Koepka is the latest star to leave for what I presume was a cartoonishly big bag of money.
So LIV now has some stars, a bunch of no-names and some older golfers rounding out their career with a cash grab. The fact that its notoriety is limited to golfing circles doesn’t affect a Saudi backed league that is flush with billions.
Elderly golf heel Greg Norman, someone I have nothing in common with and who sold his soul a long time ago, does raise a good point.
“Look, if they want to look at it in prism, then why does the PGA Tour have 23 sponsors within the PGA Tour doing 40-plus billion dollars worth of business with Saudi Arabia? "Why is it OK for the sponsors? Why is it OK that there's a Saudi sponsor, Aramco, the largest sponsor of women's golf in the world? Why is it OK for them? Why is it not OK for these players? "Will (PGA Tour commissioner) Jay Monahan go to each and every one of those CEOs of the 23 companies that are investing into Saudi Arabia and suspend them and ban them? The hypocrisy in all this, it's so loud. It's deafening." "The European PGA Tour (has) a golf tournament, the Saudi International, that's still in existence since 2019," Norman added. "And during that Saudi International, there were PGA Tour players who were given rights and waivers to go play there. So to me, if golf is good for the world, golf is good for Saudi, and you're seeing that growth internally; it's extremely impressive."
The effect of the new tour and its greenback gravity well is already causing ripples to turn to waves for the PGA Tour.
It recently announced that it would welcome a select complement of its golfers to several special events with upwards of $20 million purses.
The Athletic asked its golf experts about the LIV Golf Tour and whether the PGA Tour should be fearful.
They were nearly unanimous as to the severity of the issue and the fact that the PGA as we have known it is pretty much undeniably changed thanks to LIV.
Brody Miller tells the publication that the trouble rests around an 8 for the PGA Tour. His thinking is that those players like Rory McIlroy, guys who want to leave the game with stats and titles commensurate with legends, are going to stick around and rail off PGA Tour success.
But there is a limit to how many of those “legacy” golfers you can keep around before your tour dwindles in size and scope.
“But as payments come in and mid-range PGA Tour players keep seeing the Charl Schwartzels of the world — that they can beat — bring in massive paydays, and the longer that happens the more it’ll be tough to say no,” Miller explained.
“Remember, LIV doesn’t have to make a return,” he continued. “They can take their time. Yes, the PGA Tour can make changes and try to fix this. Of course it can, but there’s a scenario where half the top PGA Tour players are with LIV by next year.”
The Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer would be inclined to agree. He writes, “But, as these things do, the questions about Saudi money will eventually fade.”
It’s a hot topic now, yet something else will eventually take its place. LIV Golf, though, has the financial backing to keep churning along, and the tour has to be petrified that the just-add-water competitor has the resources to stay in the fight.”
It’s insane to think that a sports league with hardly any visibility for the mainstream audience would be little more than an existential threat to a longstanding juggernaut like the PGA Tour.
But it’s surpassed that and has become a literal threat. While majors will remain relatively untainted by the unfolding melodrama, the gravitas of an event from, say, TPC Deere Run has waned immediately.
It will take far more than a few big-ticket events to woo back players that are now worth hundreds of millions.
While the mainstream audience may not really notice much of a difference in the short term, golf’s landscape has already shifted in major ways.