There’s a question that has been on my mind all day, and the longer I think about it, I find more questions than answers.
What if LIV Golf Investments, the corporate vehicle of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, bought or tried to buy the Ladies European Tour (“LET”) to conquer and disrupt the LPGA Tour instead of stalking the best players in men’s golf in an effort to reshape professional golf?
Would the golf media, who detest any affection or attention thrown in the direction of Saudi Arabia following the brutal murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, react condescendingly or with less vitriol to the idea? Would the prominent voices of the Twitter golf community? Would I?
In a column penned in November of 2021, Golfweek columnist Eamon Lynch, who rarely suffers fools or their buffoonery, and has emerged as the one of the more consistent critics of anyone or anything remotely associated with LIV Golf, largely gave the ladies of the LET a pass when that tour revisited the Kingdom for the Saudi Ladies International. Lynch was sympathetic to the professional women golfers’ plight because, quite simply, they really needed the money.
Would the ends justify the means, in the case of women’s golf? I want to root for women’s golf and see a feeder system for the LPGA or a global tour develop, but that’s quite the double standard. That the LET’s survival would be seen as a “good cause,” contrasted against the current chorus of scorn at Phil Mickelson, Charlie Hoffman, and any other golfers rumored to have played footsie the LIV Golf project, makes me wonder about the depth and sincerity of the mob’s outrage on this matter.
Why would essentially the same action cast aspersions upon the rich man as a moral failing, but be quietly suffered with a resigned understanding of grit and will to survive of the poor woman? That’s black letter, per se hypocrisy.
Or is it?
On a recent episode of The Good-Good Golf Podcast, journalist John Huggan detailed his 2022 travel experiences in Dubai and Saudi Arabia covering those countries’ men’s golf championships. He pointed out to Rod and Adrian that, by his observation, the whole Western world is already doing or trying to business in Saudi Arabia. All of the most recognizable American and European brands are already there, with no indication that the faceless corporate capitalists are facing any of the outrage or scrutiny that his LIV Golf project has attracted.
I’d bet you dollars to donuts that those same global brands that Huggan encountered in the food court and along the tourist-friendly corridors which he was confined to are the same global brands that have spent decades gaining and exploiting access to the consumer of Red China, stalwart of human rights that it’s been. Should I be gasping and turning away from those entities in disgust, too? I never particularly rooted for KFC, but I guess I cared tangentially if Yum! Brands was in my mutual fund portfolio.
Would I give the LET the same capitalist benefit of the doubt if LIV Golf signed their winner’s checks, especially because it appears no one else is prepared to sign such large checks for them?
Therein lies the rub: members of the PGA Tour, and the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) to a lesser extent, already have access to life-changing money. Even top golfers on the second tier KornFerry Tour, American professional golf’s minor league tour, can grind out a comfortable existence while chasing those million dollar dreams. That’s something far fewer LPGA and LET players can claim to enjoy.
Hoffman’s and Mickelson recent comments landed as manifestations of ingratitude, jealousy, and entitlement, public characteristics without redemption value. In Mickelson’s case, in particular, each time that his modern Sam Snead, aww-shucks routine gets publicly interrupted by his inner Gordon Gecko, it gets tougher to jump back into character as a likeable talent.
Ruthless ambition from some of the highest earning athletes in history sounds just like bitching from the yacht; it doesn’t mean they don’t have valid gripes, but no one wants to hear them out loud.That same ruthless ambition may, in fact, sound more palatable coming from a place of desperation.
Would we all look differently at a women’s Saudi Super League? Maybe. Would it cause as big a stir in the golf and sports press? Doubtful. Will we get to find out? I really hope not.
What I do know is that I’m excited for the golf season to arrive in earnest, for the men, the women, and myself, when I can start wasting time on things that will actually affect my life and golf happiness, instead of whatever this has been. The Masters can’t get here soon enough.
If recent reporting is to be believed, then this whole notion of LIV Golf as a viable competitor to the PGA Tour is on life support, so the whole exercise is academic at this point.
This thought experiment started as a tweet-thread on Twitter that go out of hand, so I’m just happy to have it out of my system.