The real victims of LIV Golf

Greg Norman’s “Revenge Project”

Most upstart leagues like football’s AFL, basketball’s ABA, and hockey’s WHA had an endgame in mind: forced expansion or integration. In the case of these competitive entries, the plan was successful to varying degrees. The LIV Golf series is an example of a competitive endeavour without that type of endgame in mind. Its plan is to simply become an alternative – for golfers and golf fans – to the PGA Tour, where most top-flight players currently ply their trade. It is in no way a plan to “grow the game” – that’s just nonsensical PR talk.

I previously weighed in on the potential of a competitive golf series or league several months ago with a condemnation of Greg Norman as its leader. And now, the LIV golf series is here and it has already poached a number of Tour regulars and irregulars. As I write this post, there is news that both Brooks Koepka and Abraham Ancer – the 19th and 20th ranked players in the world – have joined the LIV fold. Many of the players who left earlier – notably Dustin Johnson and Bryson Dechambeau – pledged allegiance to the Tour mere weeks before defecting. Well, as the saying goes, “everyone has their price”. Well, maybe not everyone. One of the things I got right in my original post was that Rory McIlroy would emerge as the voice of reason and the lead Tour supporter. While we may not know exactly how much was paid to Johnson or Phil Mickelson, some of the rumoured figures are astounding. One can only imagine what a player like Tiger Woods, McIlroy, or Jon Rahm would have turned down.

This new golf series, could be about Saudi “sportswashing” as some have opined, but there is one other thing that it represents – revenge. Greg Norman – the LIV Series Commissioner – has obviously never gotten over the fact that the Tour took his World Tour concept many years ago and created a series of WGC events without giving him due credit or financial compensation. Norman was outspoken about this turn of events at the time and clearly has not forgiven or, forgotten.

What Norman may not realize at this moment, is that he is in the process of ruining the sport for the average and not so average golf fan. We, the loyal golf fans who love to tune in to weekly Tour events and especially the major events to see “all” the best golfers go head to head are the only losers in this equation. The LIV golf series dilutes the product – simple as that. There’s no growth – unless you’re talking about the bank accounts of Mickelson, Johnson et al. As Bryson said, it was a business decision. What also came out of that interview is how much a lot of these golfers really don’t like to play golf. That’s fair. Not everyone can show the game the same love that players like Arnold Palmer or Gary Player displayed and in Player’s case, continue to show. It’s no different than someone offering you way more money – guaranteed money, that is – to work a lot less at your job. Most of us would sign up for that. But would you accept the offer if the money was coming from a source that created the same type of moral dilemma? It would probably be hard to answer that until the financial terms are presented in a contract.

So that’s where we are as of today. The PGA Tour has lost another few significant pieces. Golf fans have lost more. Some may believe that we will still see the defectors in the four majors, but there are a few issues with that assumption. Even if the groups in charge of the four major championships decide to allow LIV Golf members to participate, they still have to qualify. If the OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking) considers LIV’s 54 hole events with shotgun starts, no cuts and guaranteed payouts, a series of exhibitions rather than official tournaments, they may not be added to its group of 23 eligible world tours. So those players who do not have prior or past champion eligibility, will not receive ranking points and may not otherwise qualify for future fields. Again, not so good news for those players, worse news for golf fans.

Even though Mickelson is currently sporting a villainous look, the real villain is Greg Norman, whose pettiness led him into a “deal with the devil” to exact revenge on a Tour where he massively underacheived but made his fame and fortune nontheless.

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