It was a valiant fight, brief as it was. As US Open week rolls around, LIV Golf lives on thanks to Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Donald Trump and the cults they’ve cultivated.
“They need us,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said as Rory McIlroy won the RBC Open on Sunday.
No, they don’t.
The USGA said it would welcome US Open qualifier LIV players, who the PGA Tour suspended for joining the Saudi-backed rival league with bottomless pockets and bottomless morals. This is the first major tournament to announce that it will allow defectors. The news couldn’t be worse for the PGA Tour.
The bloodthirsty Saudis have spent around half a billion dollars in signing bonuses on their petting zoo of professional golfers LIV, but they didn’t really need Phil Mickelson, a has-been who turns 52 on Thursday. They certainly didn’t need Charl Schwartzel or any of the apartheid-era South Africans who landed in the top three at the inaugural LIV event last week in London. They didn’t even need Dustin Johnson, the Keanu Reeves of a PGA Tour filled with tasteless shells of manhood.
But the oppressive regime, desperate to clear its reputation, did need a McIlroy, or a Justin Thomas, or a Jordan Spieth – or, at least, a Bryson DeChambeau or a Patrick Reed.
They got Bryson, for $100 million. They also have Patrick.
Now the flood begins.
The PGA Tour has suspended all LIV golfers who played in London and will suspend all who play at the next event, June 30-July 2 in Portland, Oregon. Nevertheless, massively popular matinee Rickie Fowler, good ol’ Bubba Watson, 23-year-old snake-killer Matthew Wolff, and three other PGA players would join LIV’s ranks in the west. Game. Set. Match.
LIV had brought in $2 billion to spend, and she spent the first installment on antiques, but LIV didn’t need the ’57 Chevys. We needed Teslas.
They got them – and they got the biggest of them all.
No golfer on earth is more “future” than DeChambeau, an analytical geek. He’s 28, a maniacal body manipulator, and he resonates perfectly with his generation, which isn’t usually interested in humility or morality but is addicted to fame and monetization. DeChambeau possesses no moral compass, is cruel and petty and lacking in common sense; he said last year that he would not get a free and plentiful COVID vaccine so others could have it.
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It is LIV Golf, distilled.
None of this will affect DeChambeau’s popularity. He’s shunned by real golf, but for many he’s the new John Daly: long off the tee, erratic on and off the course, and the hero, if not of the common man, at least of the Trumper fan. .
Because, in case you haven’t noticed, professional golf and its supporters are disproportionately pro-Trump.
It’s not necessarily a blow to golf fans, or Trump, for that matter.
But Trump’s dirty relationship with the Saudis left them kidnapping and murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 without repercussion as he refuted the CIA’s findings. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is being investigated by a House committee for using his position as Trump’s adviser to secure a $2 billion investment from the Saudi government after Trump lost his candidacy for the re-election in 2020.
It’s no coincidence that two of the eight LIV golf events – 25% – will be held at Trump properties in Bedminster, NJ and Miami. These properties have lost PGA Tour events for the past six years because Trump’s name was on the letterhead.
Rest assured, Trump will smile and wave to his Saudi masters at the door.
His legions of loyalists will come too. They will bring Liberal friends, because they love golf too. They’ll likely discuss the Jan. 6 insurrection, ongoing House committee hearings, and whether their host will end up behind bars, all while paying $25 for a Trump-brand beer, which is sure to be. tasteless.
These weeks will be rare for Trump. Liv Big, Donald.
It’s easy to see why the Schwartzels and Pat Perezes and even the Phils and Bubbas would quit the PGA Tour, but why would DeChambeau and Reed – young, talented, in their prime – leave too?
To win big. And win, they will.
When he’s healthy, DeChambeau will clean up against these fields, in this format, on these tracks, with purses of $25 million, first prizes of $4 million, $2.125 million for second and team bonus too. He is expected to earn around $3 million a week. Let’s say he plays, fully healthy, in six events – easy to do, considering the events are only 54 holes long, rather than 72. That’s $18 million. Last season, DeChambeau earned approximately $7.5 million in 22 events.
Consider: Schwartzel took home a total of $4.75 million (his team shared $3 million for winning the tag team event). By comparison, Scottie Scheffler earned around $4.5 million in everything from 2021, when he played 19 events. Schwartzel, 37, earned around $4.75 million in 72 events over the previous four seasons.
Assuming the competition remains Schwartzel-esque — assuming players like McIlroy, Thomas, Jon Rahm and Scheffler, now the world’s No. 1 golfer, stay on the PGA Tour — DeChambeau could earn $30 million next year , with 10 scheduled events.
Spieth set the PGA Tour record in 2014-15, when he earned just over $12 million in 25 events. And Spieth has typically played four days in a row, against the best in the world.
DeChambeau is battling injuries, and he’s missed his last three cuts, and he’s only ranked 28th right now. But he was ranked in the top 17 for 3½ years and finished No. 4. He will only play three days, on lesser courses, against players like world No. 599 Itthipat Buranatanyarat, who finished 47th of 48. in London, 23 over par.
DeChambeau is expected to be fit for all four majors, none of which have declared qualified LIV players unable to play.
That the US Open allows LIV-ers to play is no surprise. The PGA Grand Slam of Golf left the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles in 2015 due to Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants. The 2022 PGA Championship left Trump National Bedminster after the January 6 insurrection. But the USGA never considered moving its 2016 US Women’s Open. Of course, former USGA chief Mike Davis is a member of Trump Bedminster. Current USGA chief Mike Whan, the former LPGA commissioner, served on a Trump sports committee in 2020.
None of the four majors are subject to PGA Tour suspensions. The DP World Tour, or European Tour, has not yet decided whether it will suspend its members.
So if LIV-ers can play majors, why shouldn’t more Tour players defect?
Mickelson’s self-imposed exile this spring after his comments admitted he was using the Saudis and their murderous regime – his words – for his own monetary gain caused him to miss out on defending his PGA Championship. And he also won the British Open and the Masters. Reed won the 2018 Masters. DeChambeau won the 2020 US Open, the same year Johnson won the Masters to add to his 2016 US Open.
Going into 2022, LIV golfers have won three of the previous seven major tournaments. Without major consequences, what is the real deterrent? Regular tour stops? Most golfers would be glad they didn’t have to spend seven nights during a soggy spring in Ohio because the Jack Nicklaus Tournament won’t let them in. (Footnote: Jack Nicklaus also loves Trump.)
After McIlroy took the No. 21 Tour victory on Sunday, he took a shot at LIV leader Greg Norman: “One more than Norman.” It was a smart, but toothless move, considering Norman has already pocketed $100 million to continue his exile from a PGA Tour that already despises him.
And yes, while McIlroy resisted the LIV attraction, he once washed Trump away when he performed with him in 2017, although he rejected subsequent offers. LIV reviewer Tiger Woods also Trumped in 2017 and 2019.
Sportwashing is nothing new. The Olympics have been used by Nazi Germany, by Russia as the Soviet Union in 1980 and as the Kingdom of Vladimir Putin in 2014, and by Beijing, China in 2008 and 2022. Qatar, on the bloody back of abused migrant workers, will host the men’s football World Cup this fall. We criticized decision makers and politicians, we held our noses and carried on.
We understand duality, or what you might even call hypocrisy, if you ignore the obvious shades of gray.
In March, the NBA quietly reconnected with China, where NBA owners could make billions of dollars and where the iPhone it was written about was assembled. McIlroy has been refusing Saudi appearance fees since 2019 on “morality” grounds, but his first major sponsor was the UAE-based Jumeriah Group, a consistent human rights violator.
You are driving a car that may contain Saudi gasoline. Me too. We’ll all be watching football in November.
But you and I are not paid to ignore atrocities, to lie about our motives, and to wash away the sins of Chinese, Saudis, or Qataris. At Trump’s golf courses, Phil, DJ and Bryson will do it.
The PGA Tour might not survive.