There’s a new way for uber-wealthy professional Golfers to make even more mind-blowing amounts of money: join the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf League. But it doesn’t come without its costs. Joining the new LIV Golf League is, in a sense, like shaking hands with the devil; reap the financial benefits instantly but don’t expect it to come without consequences.

Really, the LIV Golf League is the most controversial thing to happen to golf since Tiger Woods’ downfall back in 2009.

In essence, the LIV Golf League is a new professional golf tour backed by the Public Investment Fund, which is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia; a fund that places the infamous Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (MBS) at its helm. Presiding as chief executive of LIV Golf Investments is former professional golfer Greg Norman, who has received ongoing backlash for his involvement in the Saudi-backed Golf League.

Earlier this year, when Norman was asked questions over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate, he brushed it off as a simple “mistake” and cited that the Saudi government want to “move forward”.

“This whole thing about Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi and human rights; talk about it, but also talk about the good that the country is doing in changing its culture,” Norman said.

“We’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”

Last year, the American intelligence agencies concluded that MBS had approved Khashoggi’s murder.

It’s not the first time Norman has dismissed such horrible acts as so inconsequential, either. When pressed about his thoughts on the execution of 81 men in Saudi Arabia in March, Norman said: “I got a lot of messages but quite honestly I look forward. I don’t look back. I don’t look into the politics of things. I’m not going to get into the quagmire of whatever else happens in someone else’s world. I heard about it and just kept moving on.”

These are the ongoing atrocities that Norman, or the LIV Golf League as a whole, don’t want to talk about. Instead, they’ll put on a show. And a damn good one at that.

At its first invitational last month, thousands of spectators descended upon the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, England. The crowd was pumping. Drinks were flowing. Excitement was at an all-time high (especially for a golfing event). The second invitational event, this time in Portland, Oregon, was yet another success, as Norman threw beer cans to spectators who feverishly chanted “USA! USA!”

Seemingly, the LIV is fulfilling its promise to make golf fun again… but can you support such a league knowing where its money comes from, and what its backers support?

Money will always talk, and at the end of the day, the LIV has, thus far, succeeded at sports-washing its image by pouring over US$2 billion into its new wave golf league.

As for the golfers themselves, what’s in it for them? For one, it would seem that the upstarts need not question the hand that feeds them, for the huge purses (plus bonus signing fees) they are amounting to is quite simply absurd.

The ability for the LIV to seamlessly pluck these world-leading golf players from the rigid structures of the PGA Tour has caused an uproar in the golfing community, too, costing LIV newcomers such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson their relationships with the PGA Tour and some of their sponsors. For those who defected to the new series, the PGA Tour bestowed heavy sanctions which included fines and the ability to compete in future PGA Tour competitions, such as The Open Championship next week in Scotland – arguably the most prestigious golfing tournament in the world.

In a letter to tour members, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said the players “are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA TOUR tournament play, including the Presidents Cup.”

For some, the price to pay is small when considering what an LIV paycheck is worth. Dustin Johnson was reported to have received a nine-figure deal for his inclusion in the LIV. Bryson DeChambeau was rumoured to have made over US$125 million on his deal. And then there’s been those that haven’t fallen prey to the lure of mind-blowing sums. Jack Nicklaus acknowledged he turned down US$100 million to be associated with LIV. Tigers Woods was also reported to have turned down an enormous nine-digit sum to play in the league.

Collectively, the players leaving for greener pastures include Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, along with other highly-ranked players such as Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na, and Talor Gooch.

“If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” said Jay Monahan, commissioner for the PGA Tour.

“The PGA Tour, an American institution, can’t compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.”

Of the 17 current golfers who are now playing in the LIV, nine have preemptively resigned their PGA Tour membership.

What are your thoughts on the LIV Golf League? Tell us in the comments below.

 

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