It’s true, I don’t post about sports very often, except for running, of course. And when I do, it’s usually been to laud statements on human rights that professional athletes have made, using their voice to fight hatred and discrimination. But – and this may come as a surprise to those of you who only know me through this blog – my husband and I watch LOTS of sports, continually. Pretty well everything except for the NFL. My favourites to have on while reading and thinking are tennis, Raptors basketball, Blue Jays baseball, curling, and golf.
I’ve been following PGA golf closely (aka most weekends) for the past 30 years. And, while I had never thought of golf as a force for good in the world, as Graeme McDowell tried to claim in one of several awkward interviews with some of the world’s best – and turncoat – golfers this past week, I have always enjoyed watching it and following my favourite players. And new young favourites keep emerging, just like with tennis and the Raptors and Blue Jays teams.
Sadly, the unveiling of the new LIV Tour, funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and labelling itself the super-charged or elite Golf Invitational, has lifted the veil I had had over my eyes about some of the players who have opted to play for this Saudi blood money. Because, let’s not kid ourselves, this is all about money as far as the players who’ve jumped on board are concerned, as they try to ignore the fact that their presence and their paycheques are intended for one thing only: to provide a whitewashing (aka sports-washing) of the Saudi’s appalling reputation. As if holding nice clean wholesome sporting events is a reasonable trade-off for arranging to have a journalist murdered, dismembered, and disposed of in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Or a reason to turn a blind eye on the Saudi execution record; not only did they execute 67 people last year, but on March 12, 2022 they dispatched 81 people in a mass execution. But what the heck, they support professional golf, so they can’t be all bad. As Greg Norman explained when questioned about this: “We all make mistakes.”
I believe that Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson have vendettas against the control the PGA has had over their careers, restricting Greg Norman to the paltry net worth of $400 million and Phil to have only earned an estimated $925 million over his 30 years on the tour (winnings and endorsements). For each player who has signed on to this morally-corrupt tour, it’s of course all about the money.
Word has it that Phil Mickelson has been paid $200 million (and Dustin John $150 million) just to show up. Even if these numbers are slightly inflated, it’s jaw-dropping. And, in my opinion, as immoral as hell. If this isn’t blood money, I don’t know what is. But, as Dustin Johnson explained, “I have to do what I think is best for me and my family.” I wonder if his father-in-law, Canadian hockey icon Wayne Gretsky, agrees with all this. I don’t think I want to know.
Nobody’s role models Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson
It does turn out that Phil the Thrill has some legitimate needs for this easy-peasy infusion of cash. According to those in the know, he has a bit of a gambling “problem”, at one time incurring a debt to the tune of $40 million! Interestingly, this gambling challenging hit doesn’t seem to have stopped him from purchasing a new private plane to the tune of another $40 million!! I’m sorry, but I wish my bubble hadn’t been burst about watching amazing golfers playing a great sport for the love of the game. I wish I hadn’t had to be reminded – yet again – that there are greedy bastards everywhere. Absolutely everywhere.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never liked some of the players who’ve jumped to this new, obscenely greedy tour. They’ve always shown themselves, proudly so actually, as self-centered, egotistical pains in the butt as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll be perfectly happy not to see them on the PGA tour anymore. Not ever couldn’t be too soon for me. That includes Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Patrick Reed. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind to include Phil in this list until this controversy started up; he’s always been so good at giving that deprecating little tug of his hat visor to the crowd. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
My biggest disappointment comes from those players who I’ve rooted for heartily over so many years, when they’ve been playing in PGA tournaments, the majors, and in the Ryder Cup Championships. I couldn’t be more disappointed in all of them: Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, and Charl Schwartzel. Your pathetic attempts to justify what you’re doing, taking obscene amounts of money from a murderous, repressive regime, whose women’s and LGBTQ+ rights are severely controlled or non-existent, are shameful. You may as well just say it like it is: you’re holding your nose and taking the money. Apparently, morality and clear conscience can’t hold a candle to bucket loads of cash.
Conversely, I have newfound respect for Tiger Woods, who according to Greg Norman turned down far more than $200 million to join this Saudi-financed competitor to the PGA and the European Tour (now DP World Tour). Thank you, Tiger.
And to Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Cam Smith, Jordan Spieth, Shane Lowry, Tony Finau and the countless other wonderful professional golfers who come out to play nearly every week, thank you for not being enticed by so much money, money which is so tainted. If golf really is a force for good in the world – which, although I love watching it I think is a bit of a stretch – let’s make it a force for good through non-corrupt means. Do it through the ways in which tournaments give major donations to charitable organizations. By individual golfers using their voice and getting involved in giving back in any number of ways, as so many of them do. Golf can be a force for good by successful golfers giving back to their communities and to society, not by grabbing as much money as they can from whatever disreputable sources are out there just so they can buy even bigger and better toys.
There, I got that off my chest. Fore!
P.S. The first LIV Tournament took place this weekend, held at the Centurion Club in London, UK. 48 players took part in the 3-day event, with Charl Schwartzel of South Africa taking home the mega-bucks prize. For the record, Phil Mickelson tied for 33rd with 4 other players, with a final score of +10. Nice going, Phil.
Image: Golf course in Prince Edward Island, Canada