In one of its most important times of the year, the game of golf is at war with itself.
The Saudi-funded LIV Golf series debuted this month to an uneasy combination of fanfare and open-mindedness on one side, ridicule and disgust on the other. A few big names — among them major champions Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, all of whom couched their decisions in grow-the-game platitudes — couldn’t resist the massive wads of cash the Saudis were flashing at them to play pressure-free, no-cut 54-hole tournaments where even the last-place finisher still earns $120,000. The new league also addresses the complaints that some golfers have with the PGA Tour, allowing players to leverage their status and fame into bigger paydays, while the Tour remains a strict meritocracy where payouts correspond to performance alone.
Rather than welcome the competition — and seize the opportunity to point and laugh at the WWE-style shenanigans of the upstart league and its shotgun starts, cavalcade of no-names and has-beens and cheesy team names like Fireballs and Majesticks — the PGA Tour dug in its heels and suspended the 17 PGA Tour regulars who had taken the Saudi money.
The whole affair cast an ominous shadow during last weeks U.S. Open, when the focus should have been on the game and the players and not on Greg Norman’s – The CEO and Commissioner of LIV Golf Investments – long standing grudge against the PGA Tour.
Amid the chaos, there has arisen a self-righteous Greek chorus of naysayers and armchair critics: the golf media, who have spent the last few weeks accusing the Saudi regime of “sportswashing” (using sports to launder one’s reputation and deflect attention from a miserable human rights record) and the participating players of accepting “blood money” from the butchers in Riyadh. Sounds sort of admirable on the surface, but let’s dig a little deeper.
While giving lip service to the fact that 17 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, these scribes and pundits seem to have focused most of their outrage on the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. At the risk of being accused of whataboutism — the go-to response of leftist hypocrites everywhere — let’s look at some uncomfortable facts regarding this selective outrage.
Judging from much of the rhetoric, you’d think Saudi assassins had stormed the newsroom of the Daily Planet and dragged out cub reporter Jimmy Olsen. The reality is that, while his murder was heinous, Khashoggi was a complicated figure — a moderate, yes, but also a Muslim Brotherhood member, paid propagandist for the Qatar regime and friend to Osama bin Laden (although, to be fair, he did decry bin Laden’s turn toward radicalism while not exactly renouncing the friendship).
And if you’re so concerned about the safety of journalists, where’s the outrage over the fact that the most dangerous country in the world today for journalists is Mexico, where 145 journalists have been killed since 2000, 11 this year alone? Lest the sanctimonious scribes forget, the International Federation of PGA Tours snatched the WGC-Cadillac Championship away from Trump Doral and handed it to Mexico City in 2016 for purely political reasons. The Tour currently runs two events in Mexico, and the PGA Tour Latinoamérica has several events in that country. The equally woke NFL will be playing its fifth game in Mexico in 2022.
As for the accusation of accepting “blood money,” let’s get real: All money in today’s intertwined global economy has bloodstains to one degree or another. The obvious elephant in that room is China, which has elevated sportswashing to an art form to the considerable benefit of the NBA and to the detriment of the victims of its concentration camps. Nor should we forget that LIV critic Rory McIlroy’s duds are splashed with Nike logos sewn into place by child laborers in Chinese sweatshops, or that golf columnists type their diatribes on machines assembled under horrific conditions in Chinese manufacturing plants that at least until recently were adorned with suicide prevention nets.
My suggestion regarding the LIV? Let the free market run its course. Quasi-monopolies, like the one imposed on the game until now by the PGA Tour, stifle innovation and improvement. If the LIV is as ridiculous and outrageous as its critics say, it will die a natural death once its benefactors grow tired of it. In the meantime, PGA Tour, up your game a bit.
As for the outrage addicts — spread the wealth, won’t you? There are plenty of atrocities to go around.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.