GOLF

“I don’t like anything about it” [Video]

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LIV Golf held its second event over the weekend — this one in Portland, Oregon — and the backlash surrounding the Saudi-backed golf league continues.

In a conversation with Yahoo Finance, golf legend Fred Couples denounced the startup league that selects PGA Tour players.

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“To be honest with you, I don’t like anything about it,” Couples told Yahoo Finance last week during the Icons Series event at Liberty National Golf Course. “I’ve heard some people say, ‘Well, you know golf is an open sport and if they can get more of it…’ Well, that’s different. They are kind of manhandling the Tour to give the Saudis the best. We don’t know how long this tour will last. My easy answer is that as a golf professional who’s been on the tour for 42 years, I’m a bit embarrassed.

LIV Golf began play June 9 and posted hundreds of millions of dollars to some of golf’s biggest names to exit the PGA Tour. The golf series is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, posing a dilemma for participating golfers given the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government-led operatives in 2018 and other human rights charges.

Branden Grace poses with the trophy alongside second place finisher Carlos Ortiz (left) and third place finisher Patrick Reed (right) during the final round of the LIV Golf Tournament at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club on July 2, 2022. Credit Mandatory: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Saudis have invested at least $500 million in launching the new golf league, including a $255 million purse spread over eight tournaments and player salaries. But LIV Golf still doesn’t have a broadcast partner and the matches are shown on LIV Golf’s YouTube. Overall, there is no clear understanding of how the tournament makes money and plans to be profitable in the long run.

Nevertheless, some players followed the money. Phil Mickelson is said to have left the PGA Tour for $200 million. Dustin Johnson has walked to a $125 million contract, according to reports. Two of the sport’s rising stars, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, soon followed.

The couples took issue with the way LIV players addressed the media throughout the start of the new league. Many players, including Mickelson Koepka and Johnson, have deferred comment on the controversial nature of their new employer.

“Where I’m really embarrassed is when they go to do interviews,” Couples said. “They can’t even talk. They don’t know what to say. They don’t answer. For me, when I go to a PGA Tour event and I’m there, I get asked crazy questions. I don’t confront anyone. I don’t tell anyone ‘oh this happened years ago’.

Former Masters champion Fred Couples attends the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S., April 3, 2022. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Former Masters champion Fred Couples attends the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S., April 3, 2022. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Couples, who has been on the PGA Tour for 40 years, believes LIV’s shot in professional golf is fleeting and maintained the Tour has done a “great job” of battling LIV. And ultimately, with LIV not having much revenue beyond oil money, the battle between tours will depend on how long the Saudis fund the project.

“I don’t know how long this is going to last,” Couples said. “Right now the LIV Tour is pretty cool if you’re a golfer and you’re paid $100 million. And you’re a golfer and you’re completely overpaid. But we’re not the NFL. I can’t sign a five-year basketball contract for 200 million. In golf, you play and you play and you win what you have. And until two months ago, everyone thought it was the greatest game world on the PGA Tour. Now some people are being paid handsomely and are bashing the tour, which is ridiculous.

Josh is a producer for Yahoo Finance Live.

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