Golf Fans React to Saudi Golf League Proposals
PROFESSIONAL golf is facing a revolution, the likes of which the sport has never seen before. The world’s best players are pretty handsomely rewarded - last year the top 124 golfers on the PGA Tour money list earned more than $1m.
And with Saudi Arabia pouring millions more into the sport and dangling lucrative contracts under their noses, it seems that many tournament pros are going to have to make some decisions about where their futures lie. Premier League footballers who earn £500,000 a week are portrayed as greedy. When a golfer gains his playing privileges on the DP World Tour or PGA Tour there are no guarantees. Their success, or failure, lies entirely within their own hands.
So can we really blame the likes of Lee Westwood for signing up for the proposed Saudi super league? It is rumoured that Ian Poulter has been offered £20m to join. Poulter is in the autumn of his career and his best days are clearly behind him.
Anybody who watched the much-vaunted Saudi International in Jeddah will have been struck by the fact that there was little or no atmosphere. The Saudis talk about growing the game, making it more accessible. This from a nation with a questionable human rights record - and a reputation for treating its women like second-class citizens. There is widespread concern that staging even more big-money events around the world will only serve to dilute the game.
The Saudi-backed Asian Tour has announced a series of tournaments around the world this year. One of them will be staged in England the week before the US Open and will clash with the DP World Tour’s Scandinavian Mixed in Sweden - precisely the sort of tournament that will help to grow the game as Europe’s best men and women compete alongside one another.
Unsurprisingly, this is an issue that exercised your minds, with dozens of you reacting.
Your views are largely split into two categories, those who believe that the likes of the PGA Tour is getting exactly what it deserves and those who see the players as being greedy:
"It is unfortunate that some of the players, like Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman, have forgotten where they came from."
“It is nothing but a money grab fuelled by greed. I stopped being a fan of other sports because of the greed. They should be thankful for the life the sport affords them."
“Poor Lee Westwood. His net worth is estimated at more than $40m. It is nothing but greed.”
"Greed ruins another sport. Couldn’t be much satisfaction in winning a tournament without the top players in an event. Before long the fans will quit showing up at the tournaments and the number of tournaments will start declining. The PGA and tournament players better fix it soon or they’ll be back to pre-Tiger money days. And all this time we thought they loved golf, not money. Sad."
"In the long run this will hurt the game. There will be lots of golf to watch but It will dilute the product for every event. Hard to watch players have a crappy week and still know they are getting a huge pay check. In 10 years from now they will be regretting it.”
"Let them go. They don't give a damn about the country that made them rich."
"This new tour will be for the not so hot anymore 'oldies'. I will be happy to follow the young guns at the PGA or DP World Tour."
"No one cares about the fans who made them. This is in all sports. So much greed from each side. But these guys must remember, the US PGA made them and the game at its present level. Ignoring this is foolhardy."
"All we need to do is start booing the players as they walk down the fairway, that will change their minds pretty quickly. Who could swing knowing that they are going to be booed all the way down the fairway?"
All of this assumes that top players signing on the dotted line is a given. It is not. Sure, the likes of Westwood, Poulter, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson may well commit their futures to the super league but these players are all nearing the end of their careers. Their best days are clearly behind them. It will be a different matter altogether if Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland and company sign contracts.
But it seems that you are not all fans of the PGA Tour…
"It looks like the best thing that has ever happened to golf, based on the player's view. Without the players there would be no PGA. You can't bully players who compete on the PGA Tour. I hope the top 100 do sign up because the PGA Tour is bullying them. This is the players’ livelihoods we are talking about. The PGA Tour seem to think they own the players and can tell them what they can do.”
"Sounds like the establishment don't want any competition and the players are free to play where and when they want, the PGA and European tours don't own them or pay a salary. If someone came to you tomorrow and offered you the same job you do now for potentially more money and better conditions would you be so loyal to your current employer? Me thinks not."
"Golfers currently schedule their year across multiple tours so why does it matter if they play on one more? The PGA Tour must be scared about their position as they are offering increased prize money.”
“The PGA Tour are happy to accept Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, but don’t like it when their own players are poached."
“I would much prefer to see the PGA Tour take the game globally but they want to remain just an American tour, which stops the rest of the world seeing the best players. You can’t selfishly keep it all in the USA. This will be the next thing to happen to golf globally and hopefully there will be some compromise."
“It’s about time. Globalise the sport. Get more people involved globally. The world is bigger than the PGA Tour and the USA.”
All of this overlooks the fact that the PGA Tour has announced a partnership with the DP World Tour that will see both organisations staging jointly-sanctioned tournaments, resulting in more appearances in Europe by America’s leading golfers. And no matter what you think of the PGA Tour, there is no doubt that commissioner Jay Monahan and his team have done a remarkable job in increasing prize funds and attracting new sponsors during a global pandemic.
As things stand, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour need to sign releases to give their member permission to play in non-sanctioned tournaments - that was what allowed Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Xander Schauffele etc to play in Jeddah. It has been hinted that anybody who makes the break will not be allowed to play in the majors - and that is when lawyers will get involved. Some of you believe that banning them from the majors is the answer.
"If you want to take the money that's fine but at what sacrifice. They will no longer be able to compete in the four most important tournaments of each year and what most people judge greatness by."
"Big money may pick off a few has-beens like Mickelson, Poulter and Westwood, but as long as the PGA controls access to the majors and who gets into the hall of fame, this new league is going nowhere....regardless of how much money the Saudis throw at it."
"As long as none of them are allowed to play in the majors, I do not have an issue with them chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."
Some of you have sympathy with those who are ready to cash in.
"It would be awfully hard to turn down a $100 million dollar cheque to start plus whatever prize money you can earn. You could set up several generations of your family for their lifetimes."
"Tiger Woods has earned more than $128 million in official lifetime winnings since 1996, but LeBron James has made $400 million since 2003.”
One thing is for sure. This is an issue that is not going away anytime soon. The rights and wrongs will continue to be debated and it seems certain that, at some point, lawyers will become involved as players decide to challenge the PGA and DP World Tours if they are prevented from playing wherever they choose.
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