It’s been 11 years since Charl Schwartzel fulfilled every golfer’s dream by winning the Masters. It remains to be seen whether the South African will view the triumph with the same esteem, but after pocketing $4 million – the biggest individual prize ever awarded at a golf event, let alone $750,000 for also winning the team competition – at least his bank manager will be happy.
On the day a group representing the families of victims and survivors of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States accused top American players of washing the sport and betraying their country, Schwartzel took on a fiery challenge from fellow countryman Hennie du Plessis who failed on the 54th and final hole to win by one shot after doing all the damage shooting a total of nine under on Thursday and Friday. “I was taking a lot of heat down the stretch because there was a lot of money at stake,” he said.
But while he was partying, a letter sent to the agents of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Kevin Na and Patrick Reed – who had previously become the latest golfing superstar to confirm his defection to the LIV Golf Series – by 911familiesunited .org expressing outrage at the players for participating in the Saudi-backed events.
“As you may know, Osama bin Laden and 15 of the September 19 hijackers were Saudis,” wrote the organization’s national chairperson, Terry Strada, a mother of three whose husband, Tom, was on the 104th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center during the attacks. “Yet they are your partners, and to our great disappointment, you seem happy to be in business with them. Please do not insult the memory of our loved ones and take the pathetic position, as one of your foreign colleagues did so last week, claiming you are “just golfers playing a game” or simply calling the ills of the Saudi regime “human rights concerns.” is a betrayal not only for us, but for all your compatriots.
Back on the course after handing Schwartzel his historic check, there was still time to dangle another golden carrot. Yasir al-Rumayyan – the chairman of Newcastle and governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which financed the venture – has offered $54 million to anyone who can score 54 in one of his upcoming events . Given that the closest anyone on the PGA Tour has come is 58, that seems unlikely.
The lap of the day belonged to another South African, with Branden Grace’s 65 meaning he and American Peter Uihlein overshot England’s Sam Horsfield on the home stretch to take a share of third place. At least the 25-year-old from Manchester who briefly moved up to second after an eagle in 15th could settle for a check for $975,000, almost five times what he earned for winning a title of the PGA Tour in 2020.
Earlier, Reed announced he would join DeChambeau at Pumpkin Ridge in late June for the second of seven events scheduled for LIV Golf’s inaugural season. The 2018 Masters winner said he was thrilled with what he saw at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire. “Being able to be part of a change for the sport that is for the better is exciting,” said Reed, a three-time Ryder Cup winner with a 100% record in singles matches on his resume. “I can’t ride fast enough in Portland.”
Reed will now also be ineligible for all PGA Tour tournaments after all players participating in the inaugural event were suspended indefinitely within half an hour of the first tee shots here on Thursday. Still, with Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson the latest top players considering making the switch, the threat doesn’t seem to be working.
“All I can say is that the evolution of golf has arrived,” said Greg Norman, Managing Director and Commissioner of LIV Golf in his speech at the closing ceremony. “They tried to crush us, but they couldn’t. Fans have spoken and said they want team golf and seeing how the players have responded brings new energy to the game of golf. We have a great future ahead of us, believe me.
But with Schwartzel, Du Plessis and Grace ensuring the Stingers GC boasted a 14-shot lead in the final, the tag team competition failed to capture the imagination of most spectators. While the mood wasn’t exactly that of a Sunday afternoon at the Ryder Cup, it was at least refreshing to see the number of young fans who had come to catch a glimpse of the glitzy new era of golf. Many had walked away by the time Schwartzel tapped in his game-winning putt on 18, but there were still plenty left in the fan zone to hear Jessie J round it all off.
Mickelson – who started the week as the main attraction and still had the crowds flocking to watch him despite struggling to find consistency – was by then long gone as he found himself a share of the 33rd place in a field of 48 men after a disappointing six on the par 76 on his last round.
It meant the 51-year-old went home with a consolation prize of $148,000, although given the continued backlash he now has to wonder if it was all worth it.