DrDespite the allegations of Lee Westwood, golfers were not given special attention during foreplay with Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the ease with which Saudis entered the golf course – male and female – is a reminder of the players’ glamorous lives. What a shameless awakening they – and their representatives – would face if they had the levels of focus given to Premier League clubs.
Westwood is outspoken about participating in the upcoming LIV Golf Series on a money hunt. With the cost-of-living crisis taking its toll on the ability of millions to heat their homes or put fuel in their cars, Westwood’s – hardly poor – fun for a $25 million golf tournament in Hertfordshire is pretty distasteful but not a patch on an extended defense of his actions.
“that they [Saudi Arabia] They are trying to make changes quickly, and that probably worries a lot of people and scares a lot of people,” Westwood said. On March 12 this year, the kingdom executed 81 people. And that sounds considerably more frightening than the rapid pace of modernization that Westwood envisions. On behalf of UPS, a longtime sponsor of Westwood, barely gave a resonant endorsement when asked what the company thinks of high-profile athletes gleefully accepting the Saudi booty.They said, “We are constantly evaluating our sponsorship and partnership decisions and will continue to monitor this situation.”
As Greg Norman, the public face of Saudi Adventure Golf, is taking on media duties with carefully selected outlets this week, there’s another reason to think about the absurdity of the entire scheme. Norman announced a $2 billion increase for something that had no commercial meaning in the first place. The Australian stated that he did not respond to Mohammed bin Salman, as if the crown prince would directly take care of Robert Garrigues’ tee times. Norman is very keen to portray golfers as independent contractors. Maybe they are. It’s just that jumping on a Saudi tune over the exorbitant payments makes a mockery of their supposed independence.
It is still frustrating that golfers are willing to help the Saudis with their sports wash. Human rights atrocities cast a shadow over all PIF checks. From a competitive perspective, however, Norman’s plans for the inaugural tournament, which takes place at the Centurion Club in early June, have already been undermined by the cast (which, oddly enough, LIV is still reluctant to reveal). Martin Kaymer, now ranked number 195 in the world, has been described in some quarters as a superstar turned star.
Centurion was initially named as the host venue for an Asian Tour event, but was abandoned when LIV decided it wanted to continue with its own tournaments that had no world standing in the rankings. The Asian tour has moved to Salali Hall. Meanwhile, the world’s top players have announced their commitment to the current rounds.
The DP World Tour declines to comment on the status of its members regarding Centurion. However, research by the Guardian has shown that five of the world’s six best Englishmen – Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Terrell Hutton and Justin Rose – will not appear in their homeland. Which says something about the low level of appeal. The only exception is 49-year-old Richard Bland. Fitzpatrick, Fleetwood, Casey, Hatton and Rose are taking preparations for the following week’s US Open very seriously. Neither Westwood nor Ian Poulter – who will also play in Centurion – are on Brooklyn Main Square.
Norman can talk about the Startup tour all he wants but what he’s currently presiding over is second-tier. Playing 54 holes with a gun start sounds kind of awkward. There is no major broadcast deal and no current hope of capturing audience minds. Norman will pin his hopes on Phil Mickelson, but the truth is that he was discredited by statements he made about Saudi Arabia that forced him to live in professional exile.
Then there is the case of Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard caused ripples last week with a blast at the rules official who suggested he wasn’t long on the PGA Tour. If García chooses to forgo the PGA Tour – which gave him $54.4 million in earnings on the track – or the DP World Tour, that is of course up to him. However, two LIV events collide later this year, in Bangkok and Jeddah, with DP World Tour stops in Madrid and Andalusia. Does García, beloved in his homeland, realize how ridiculous it is that he will look like a show pony for Saudi Arabia while Spain holds these tournaments at the same time?
The PGA Tour took its first meaningful step toward a courtroom battle by denying the members’ request to play for Centurion. The DP World Tour will take a similar position. It remains to be seen what the players’ penalties follow. Norman replied, “We won’t stop.” What level of field shows for the second LIV outing, in the US the first weekend in July, was really interesting. On US soil there is a direct challenge to the PGA Tour. It’s just hard to avoid feeling that, for now, he’s still weak and contrived.