‘Golf’s headed for the gutter, and it’s dragging me down with it’

John Craven

Phil Mickelson (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

I can’t wait for the Masters. I can’t wait to be transported into Augusta National’s Truman Show-like dome. To be bombarded with pictures of azaleas, nods to history mostly glossed over. Butch Harmon gazing through my soul with his one good eye. Datta boy, Butch. Hell, I’d even sit through Jim Nantz in the Butler Cabin at this rate, watch him induct another green jacket into the Stonecutters’ guild.

Honestly, I just can’t wait for golf’s silly season to be over and for normality to be restored. Traditional tour stops. Familiarity. Crowds. Atmosphere. Even the mashed potatoes guy. For the Saudi shadow to finally go away…

… But it’s not going away, is it? This is the way of the world these days, they tell me, as if that makes everything OK. What world is that? The one where I shop in Lidl contemplating splurging on the tin of Organic Tomatoes longer than I’d like to admit?


It’s not my world, that’s for sure, and the older I get, the further apart my world and that of professional sport seem to drift.

Football was my first love. For years my mood was dictated by Liverpool’s results. I had a rough childhood…

And even though I still bleed red – Liverpool red – not human red, I would’ve turned my back on them in a heartbeat if they went through with the proposed Super League last year. It’s hard enough to accept grown men feigning injury for ninety minutes whilst being paid half a million euro a week to do so without standing by as they destroy the league systems and structures, traditions and culture, that got their clubs to almighty positions of power in the first place.

But the Super Golf League IS for the fans, they’ll say, they being Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson – thick as thieves – and whoever else bends the knee to the Saudi overlords.

There’ll be plenty, don’t you know. And I actually don’t fully blame the players. A 46-year old Ian Poulter getting offered £22m to jump ship… he’d swim a long way for that even if he had no arms, though what good he’d be to a golf league then I don’t know.

I’m disappointed, of course I am. I would’ve thought the players on the Saudi hit-list with their tens of millions already in the bank would be happy with their lot. But hey, the only thing better than money is more money, right, especially if you’re hard up like Mickelson, whose net worth is reported to be only $400 million.

The smiling assassin signed an autograph for me at Mount Juliet when I was 12 and I thought he was the greatest thing since an unexpected two-for-one Twix from a vending machine. Oh to have that innocence of youth again!

Instead, a man who once posed behind a table piled with more cash than Walter White had stashed in his garage is taking aim at the PGA Tour for their obnoxious greed, Mickelson playing Norman’s Super League tune, the pied piper for the likes of Reed, DJ, Rickie, Bryson and many others to follow.

Thinking about it, I guess I’m more sad than anything. Sad in the same way I would’ve been if Liverpool joined the Super League. This feels like the end of the road for me with a lot of these players – Westwood, Rose, Stenson etc. I mean, if the numbers being thrown about are to be believed, why would I tune in to watch DeChambeau play golf if he’s already “earned” £100 million just for being there? Where’s the incentive for any of these players to ever be competitive again?

The money being played for was vulgar long before the Saudis came to town but I’m not sure there’s a word in the dictionary to describe what’s coming. All these players who harp on about how lucky they are to be playing for the money they do, and now here they are about to sell out for more of it.

And they are selling out. This isn’t about growing the game, or improving the product for the fans. It’s about accepting a payday from the bottomless pockets of a rotten regime determined to wash their public image by any means necessary. For what it’s worth, and I’m well aware it’s a whole big pile of nothing, I’ll be washing my hands of anyone who signs up.

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2 responses to “‘Golf’s headed for the gutter, and it’s dragging me down with it’”

  1. Edmond Hogan avatar
    Edmond Hogan

    I completely agree with you. I personally hope that none of the Saudi brigade ever win majors again and I include the Irish contingent in that. Very sad day for golf and all those brilliant players that played this game

  2. Pat Dunne avatar
    Pat Dunne

    John, Wouldn’t it have been good to see some of the feeder tours being supported allowing the players earn a living to travel and gain experience to graduate on to the bigger world stages. The top pros are comfortable enough without this. Looks like Norman has another agenda?

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