News has broken that the PGA Tour and LIV Golf will merge to be under one umbrella, nearly one year to the day of LIV's first-ever tournament. This decision shows that hypocrisy in the world of sports is alive and well, because money has always been the bottom line for the PGA.
The outrageous prize pools behind the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour lured top golfers Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson away from the PGA Tour. PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan spoke out constantly, condemning these defections and punishing the players who played with LIV Golf.
"Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour??
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan comments on players joining LIV Golf. pic.twitter.com/MeHAbR1qQL
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 12, 2022
The PGA, along with some of its most notable supporting players such as Rory McIlroy, plus members of the media, lofted morality grenades at the players taking the Saudi money. They essentially said those golfers had no principles above profit, no respect for the tradition of the sport, and no concern about the global impact of their choices.
"If Putin had a golf tournament, would you play in it?" was the generic tag-line question PGA supporters were using to push their holier-than-thou view on those playing for, or even considering, LIV Golf. How silly they must feel now that the PGA compromised so quickly on the "values" it shoved down everyone's throat.
Now it all just looks like a glorified smear campaign by the PGA to keep players and viewers committed to their product by telling them they were "evil" to take the money from Saudi Arabia or even watch those events. After months of this stance, what does the PGA Tour do? It gets in bed with the same Saudi government it labeled as evil and bad for the sport (or even bad for the world) just to make sure it doesn't lose any money itself. Hypocrisy at its finest.
Where Do PGA Tour Loyalists Like Rory McIlroy Go From Here?
In light of this news, it's not shocking that McIlroy has been oddly quiet about discussing LIV Golf as of late after months of rallying cries. The PGA Tour has put the golfers who stood by it in a horrendous position, as its quick cave-in has prevented those players from earning possibly tens of millions of dollars that their competitors collected — all to seemingly end up on the same tour as those who left, and with no recourse.
This whole saga tells us that launching a morality campaign against the LIV Golf Tour because it had an easy, low-brow villain was simply the best financial decision for the PGA. It was a strategic decision to essentially point at money coming from Saudi Arabia and say, "How can you support this? Anyone who does is aligned with evil" — all in the hope that LIV Golf would never get off the ground and cut into the enormous pockets of the PGA and its media deals. It seems like nothing but a business strategy.
Now, the best interests of the PGA's business are to merge with LIV Golf and use that same Saudi money to offer better prizes to keep the best players and product associated with its bottom line. Isn't it funny how easy it is to point at someone's moral compass and say it's wrong until it impacts your own welfare?
Even beyond the individual financials, the PGA Tour has put the players who stood up as ethically opposed to participating in a Saudi-backed tour in an untenable position. When the organizations merge, any player who continues to participate on this tour will be taking money from — and making money for — that same foreign government they were told to stand against.
If you are a fan who stood by the PGA Tour and the players who didn't defect, because of the way you feel politically about the influence of the Saudi government, what are you supposed to do now? Stop watching golf altogether? Watch only minor tour events that are not associated with the PGA/Saudi government?
The PGA Tour's Hypocrisy is on Full Display
It has all become a mess because, in the end, the PGA is a business that was never above hypocrisy if it increased its bottom line. No one should have expected otherwise. After all, the PGA Tour is based in the United States, where the government has signed deals to sell hundreds of billions of dollars worth of military arms to Saudi Arabia despite what seems like a simultaneous opposition enforced by the Saudi government to many of human rights beliefs. It seems that, for some, this is just how business is done.
And if you think this is the end of monetary influence from Saudi Arabia on global sports, you should check out some contracts in soccer — such as one paying striker Karim Benzema unfathomable amounts of money to play in Saudi Arabia (income tax-free, by the way).
It's easy to have morals when you have little to lose and the stakes are low. I'm not sure if the PGA Tour ever had them to begin with or it just lacked enough conviction to stick with them amid adversity. Either way, where we sit today, the PGA Tour has put many of its top golfers and most dedicated fans in a horrible position. And why? Because it wanted money from the Saudis — just like everyone it declared a villain for wanting the exact same thing.
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