The LIV Golf tour, a propaganda arm of the Saudi government, kicked off on US soil for the first time on Thursday. His event takes place in Oregon, just outside of Portland. He has a field of 48 players, 33 more than those killed by the Saudi government in a mass execution one day in March.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is among those who have spoken out against LIV Golf. Wyden doesn’t want a Saudi-backed golf event in the Portland area. He mentioned Saudi human rights abuses, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
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Wyden specifically cited the case of Fallon Smart, who was 15 when she was killed by a Saudi student during a hit-and-run in 2016. It happened in Portland. “60 Minutes” did a piece on it.
Wyden said (per the AP): “It’s wrong to be silent when Saudi Arabia is trying to clean up bloodstained hands, in the fight for justice for Oregonians – Fallon Smart was killed very close to our home in southeast Portland, and the person charged with the crime, a hit-and-run, was, based on all the evidence, expelled from the country by the Saudis before appearing for trial.
Phil Mickelson, who tends to incur gambling debts, and Greg Norman, who runs LIV Golf with a set of blinders and a bag of cash, headlined the new tour.
To date, LIV held a tournament in London three weeks ago. Former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel took home the $4 million top prize, the biggest winner’s check in sports history, and added another $3 million to his purse for leading his team randomly selected with the lowest score.
The money is mind boggling. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the big names who have reportedly accepted nine-figure sums to join Shark’s tour.
We all have to look in the mirror and wonder what we would do if someone offered us $100,000,000 to play three rounds with shotgun starts every three weeks. That’s enough money to buy a conscience — as DeChambeau admitted, in so many words.
“Golf is a force for good,” DeChambeau said Tuesday. “Over time, I hope people will see the good that they (the Saudis) are doing. And what they are trying to achieve, rather than looking back at the bad that happened before.
Maybe DeChambeau will stick a little picture of Fallon Smart on one of his golf shoes. Thoughts and prayers.
LIV tournaments are seamless and prize money is guaranteed. The last in London, Andy Ogletree, finished 24 times and won $120,000. For a once-promising young player like Matt Wolff, among the latest to make the PGA Tour leap, the setup is incredibly enticing.
Imagine you are a big college goer with the shark on your doorstep offering you free money. Who needs the effort to succeed on the PGA Tour?
Mickelson was right about one thing: the PGA Tour needed to be pressured into making overdue changes. And that’s the case. On that front, the news has been fast and heavy this week.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has announced an expansion of his partnership with the European tour (the latter being particularly threatened by LIV).
Access to the PGA Tour will be expanded to include more European players, more players coming from the Korn Ferry Tour and more players leaving Q-school. Starting in 2024, the PGA Tour will have a January-August schedule and feature eight elite events with $20 million in prize money.
“The game of golf is coming together,” Monahan said.
The four majors are not managed by the PGA Tour and, at this point, LIV players have access to them. One would expect this to continue, given that the majors are money-making machines in their own right and the prospect of having the world’s best players in their fields – bar none – means more money for the majors.
That said, there was a particularly interesting wrinkle in golf news when Zach Johnson, the captain of the USA team that will compete in the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, laid down the rules for taking part in the biggest grudge match. Sport.
“To play on the Ryder Cup team, whether you’re a top six or a (captain’s) pick, you need to earn Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America. To earn points through the PGA of America, you must be a member of the PGA of America. We are members of the PGA of America through the PGA Tour.
“I’ll let you connect the dots from there.”
LIV Golf is a tool for Saudis to clean up their image. It offers money that changes the lives of many players. One of the ways it can change the life of an American player is the prospect of perpetual disqualification from the Ryder Cup.
It’s a price tag.