There’s been a heap of furore about the LIV Golf series that concluded its first iteration of events this past weekend at London’s Centurion Golf Course.
I’d be remiss not to mention that the event was dominated by South African golfers who went on to win the Top 3 individual spots, as well as the top team prize, and collectively walked away with an eye-watering $10 625 000,00 (just shy of R168 500 00,00) for three days of golf.
This in itself is a pain-point for those who have followed my series from the beginning will be familiar with. That said, I am as proud of their wins as I was of the Stormers just a few hours earlier.
Back to the main issue, though. The PGA Tour/LIV Golf consternation most recently peaked upon the release of a rather scorn-laced letter from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan to current and defecting PGA-affiliated players. I jokingly said to a friend that it seemed more like a letter from a lover with a broken heart than from a well-run multi-million-dollar organisation.
It’s important to understand, first and foremost, that the introduction of LIV Golf is the first real commercial threat to the PGA Tour that’s enjoyed somewhat of a monopoly of golf for many, many decades. And LIV golf is not pulling up a seat to the proverbial table - they’ve built their very own, and many seemingly would like a seat at it too.
LIV’s global inclusivity in terms of where they host events is making golf more accessible to a booming global fan base, exposing how the PGA Tour has designed its business to be self-serving and contained mostly within American borders.
LIV Golf also lowers the barrier to entry for young aspirant golfers looking to establish their presence in the world golf arena. The PGA tour card qualifying process and criteria has become increasingly prohibitive, allowing mostly well-heeled/sponsored candidates to pursue their pro golfing ambitions the “traditional” way.
As far as pro golfers such as DJ, Phil & Bryson opting out of the PGA, players who have done well on the PGA Tour, is telling of the controlling relationship the PGA Tour has with its members. It’s not only about money for them. They already have enough of that for the rest of their live’s even if they don’t earn another cent from tour golf - It’s equally, if not more so, about professional independence and the freedom of choice. Rights that America often claims to be the foremost proponents of.
Despite committing to incredibly handsome sign-on fees to some of the world’s leading golfers, LIV Golf didn’t prohibit any signed players from continuing to compete in events run by the PGA or DP World Tour - a very interesting point to consider in this growing debacle.
It also appears as a glaring paradox for the PGA Tour and their allied media partners to polarise their rejection of LIV Golf on grounds of geopolitics and human rights violations by the Saudi Government. Seemingly distancing themselves from the Kingdom, the main benefactor behind Greg Norman’s leap into changing the way golf looks and feels for the future, who, agreeably, is known for their violations of human rights.
But here’s the thing though: how is the USA any different from the KSA when it comes to the protection and violation of human rights?
Let’s take a quick look at the two: the KSA bombs Yemen and also acknowledged its complicity in the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a renowned anti-KSA government journalist.
In comparison, the USA invaded Iraq for decades, bombs the country to heaps of rubble, bombs Syria too, killing millions of people in this process! Additionally, they are firm allies of the illegal settler regime occupying Palestine. Supplying Israel with cutting edge military weapons and billions in funding that Israel uses to murder, oppress, displace, and violate other basic human rights of the Palestinian people - despite the damning reports against them by the United Nations.
So, this tenuous facade by the PGA Tour attempting to take the moral high ground as a foremost proponent of human rights is an amateurish and conflated response to what is actually not a geopolitical issue but rather one of golf evolving and them not ready for change - or more importantly, they’re not prepared for healthy competition in an industry they dominated for decades.
If not this, what then would their stance be if LIV Golf was funded by a political ally such as France or the UK?
Closer to home, I’ve encountered similar resistance from the old guards of golf, whom I hope are learning from the backlash the PGA Tour is receiving in the wake of a more relevant and inclusive platform that appears to be in touch with the times.
I trust my views are not misconstrued, though. I’m not advocating for Saudi. I, too, have my reservations about their political governance and less than desirable human rights track-record. I am saying, though, if you support the PGA Tour and don’t see America’s shady human rights track-record as an issue, then Saudis shouldn’t be an issue either.
Follow Jehad’s Far From Par series every Tuesday.
Far From Par is a series about the grassroots development of golf in South Africa. For decades golf was a sport reserved for white men for both leisure and professional expression.
Sadly, after nearly 30 years of democracy, apart from it now being open to all, not much has changed to foster meaningful transformation.
This series explores his experience on the importance of, challenges faced, and the status quo of grassroots golf development and transformation in South Africa.
Follow me on Instagram @far_frompar and visit www.mpgc.org.za for golf development information. Contact Jehad on +27 723654037 or [email protected] | @mitchellsplain_golfclub on Instagram.