Recently, the PGA Tour responded to LIV's challenge by announcing that beginning next year it will hold a series of tournaments with prize money of up to $20,000,000 but can it afford to get into a bidding war with Saudi Arabia?
The typical guy, or gal, with an income of only $700 a week probably drifts off to sleep each night with dreams of someday making a cool $70,000 a year; whereas those who make $70,000 dream of hitting it big and pulling down $700,000 per annum; and those people are all scheming of ways to turn their $700,000 into an income of $7,000,000 a year. And so it goes.
We all want more.
It explains why baseball players making $20,000,000 a year become free agents; they're looking to make $30,000,000 or more. It's money they'll never personally see or spend, but it's more. That's what we all want. More. As in more money.
Back in the day when 2022 was a brand new year, the PGA Tour was, as it always had been, the master of all it surveyed, the unchallenged boss of all bosses in the golf world. Then, in February, one of its biggest names, Phil Mickelson, who, in three decades on the tour had achieved tremendous wealth, making a reported $94,000,000, announced he was quitting. His reason? He was offered more money, much more.
Something called LIV Golf, a rival tour of which most of us had never heard, offered Mickelson some $200,000,000 to sign up with them. The money was put up by its sponsor, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. Mickelson's best days as a competitive golfer are behind him. He's 52 and, last year, became the oldest player to win a major title when he won the PGA championship; but it wasn't his golf game that LIV was after, it was his fame. It worked. Soon, other big-name golfers followed him and spurned the PGA Tour. They include Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Bruce Koepka, and lots of others. Their numbers keep increasing.
Mickelson has taken a fearful beating in the media because of Saudi Arabia's undeniable record of human rights abuses and its alleged involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He's (Mikelson) been accused of immoral money-grubbing, and worse; but with each additional defection that criticism has become increasingly muted.
At the outset, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy stood in the vanguard of the PGA's defenders in opposing LIV golf. Now, just a few months after the challenge was first made, Woods and McIlroy stand virtually alone among golf's big names. Most of the others have already left. Tiger is all but retired as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident, and how long can Rory hold out and still retain his status as one of golf's superstars?
Recently, the PGA Tour responded to LIV's challenge by announcing that beginning next year it will hold a series of tournaments with prize money of up to $20,000,000 but can it afford to get into a bidding war with Saudi Arabia? Its Public Investment Fund is said to be worth $620,000,000,000, so its commitment to spending hundreds of millions, or even a couple of billion dollars to get into the golf business amounts to little more than pocket change.
Meanwhile, though, the world of golf has been turned completely on its head. There are untold fortunes to be made by those with the good timing to be in on Saudi Arabia's spending spree. LIV's impact will not be fully felt until next year, but make no mistake, it's already here. A bunch of golfers have already cashed in on the New World Order of professional golf. The letters LIV are Roman numerals for 54, the number of holes in the upstart organization's tournaments, rather than the traditional 72 holes that the PGA Tour has always used. That alone lessens the days on the road that players need to spend. The usual decorum of complete silence while a player swings at the ball will not be enforced, which should make the events more fun for spectators.
But what about Saudi Arabia's dreadful human rights record? Phil Mickelson has paid a high price for ignoring it, but he is virtually the only one to do so. The other golfers explained their defections from the PGA Tour as "strictly business decisions," and nothing more. That can be interpreted as the same thing as saying, "I did it for the money," depending on your level of cynicism. Those golfers who decided to spurn the PGA Tour and opt for LIV Golf were all making very good livings before all this happened. Now they are making great livings. What would you do if you were given the same options?
Suppose you found yourself in a situation where you had the chance to provide financial security, not only for yourself but for your children and your grandchildren, and then contribute whatever was left over to charitable causes in which you believed; but the money, though not stolen, was from a somewhat tainted source.Would you take that money? Be honest, now. No one is going to judge you except yourself.
Would you take the moral high ground and turn down the money, possibly leaving it for the next person in the pecking order to take and provide for his family and his favorite charities?
That's the choice that those golfers had to make, and most of them chose to take the money. It's human nature. It's what we all want. Which is more.
- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox "Poet Laureate" and The Pilot's recently minted Sports' columnist.