ST ALBANS, United Kingdom — The curtain fell on Saturday in north London on the first round of the titanic battle between the dissident Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf Series and the sacrosanct PGA Tour, the governing body of the North American circuit.
The South African Charl Schwartzel, ranked 126th in the world, remains the first winner of a tournament with the LIV stamp, with an unbeatable return on investment: $4 million in profit for three days of competition and only 54 holes, against four days and 72 holes for a “normal”. ” Competition.
Led by former World No. 1 Greg Norman and funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the LIV Golf Series hit highs this week as big names competed in St Albans, starting with Phil Mickelson, six majors on his hunting list, and Dustin Johnson, two majors and ex-world No. 1.
Not to mention other major winners like Schwarzel himself (2011 Masters Tournament), Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen. Two more will be added to the list later this month in Oregon for the first LIV leg in the United States: Patrick Reed and, most notably, Bryson DeChambeau.
Banned by the PGA
All of these top players — including Americans who are the target of harsh criticism from a coalition of 9/11 victims’ families who blame Saudi Arabia for those attacks — are or are about to be banned from the PGA Tour announced by his boss Jay Monahan, but not planning the United States Open… next weekend (June 16-19) in Brookline, Massachusetts, which will further fuel the debate.
Lawsuits will follow, and lawyers rubbing their hands because Mickelson, Johnson and others believe they are self-reliant and have the right to play where they want, when they want, especially if they’re getting paid (very expensive). for their services.
The numbers are already staggering: each of the eight legs of the LIV Circuit will award at least $25 million to a field of 48 players, with a total of $255 million projected for this entire inaugural season.
Even crazier, Mickelson would have received a $200 million bounty for his involvement, and Johnson $150 million, sums undisputed by those interested. For 2024, Greg Norman plans a total budget of 2 billion dollars for 14 events.
Greg Norman has already won his bet, although there has been some resistance, starting with Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Scottie Scheffler, the current world No. 1. They will complete a Canadian Open this Sunday, less well-endowed with M$1.56 USD for the winner, which counts for the PGA Tour… and the world rankings!
Golf in court?
Norman, nicknamed ‘The Shark’ as a player, supports a ‘free and open market’ in golf and is willing to support his ex-workmates by paying penalties.
Star of Europe’s Ryder Cup team, the quirky Ian Poulter, famous for his checked trousers, was in St Albans this week. He is ready to appeal his suspension from the PGA. For him it makes “no sense” to restrict the selection of events by the players.
Another issue at the heart of this discord is world rankings, with the PGA Tour unwilling to give points towards LIV golf tournaments to players it has suspended or banned. While the DP World Tour (ex-European Tour), delighted at the potential windfall, has yet to comment on the matter.
World ranking points are all the more important as they determine the invitees to the four major tournaments, building players’ reputations and their place in golf history. The US Open said OK for this year, but there are two more on the menu this year, including the British Open at St Andrews.
There remains the constant debate about respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia. Mickelson preaches that golf gets things going in the right direction, like Formula 1 promoters do when they visit Jeddah. The LIV Golf Series saga has only just begun.