First, I must brag. My golf is good lately, relatively speaking. Rounds of 80 and 81 last two times out, my handicap’s dropping like a seagull’s last meal from the sky. No long walks spoiled for me. Nothing but pure ball-striking and great conversation. Overdue catch-ups with old friends beneath unfamiliar blue skies. It’s why I love golf. Four hours away from screens. Away from noise. Away from real life. But there’s only so long you can escape it.
Real life for me is hardly real anyway, writing about golf for a living, only instead of wall to wall coverage of feats of sporting brilliance, the wonderful world of golf has been infiltrated by everything I use the sport to escape from, and it’s pushing me away from the game.
I came back from a few days of mighty craic agus ceol in Dingle to a Twitter feed filled with caricatures of human beings that I’m convinced are destined for the gates of hell. Why is Tucker Carlson, a mouthpiece of the American far right, a regular inciter of hate and a favourite of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, interviewing Bryson DeChambeau and Greg Norman about golf? Oh, that’s right, because he’s buddies with another popular guy amongst white supremacists, Donald Trump, whose course hosted the latest LIV Golf event in Bedminster.
Like it or not, and spoiler alert, I don’t, but the sportswashing mission of the Saudi regime is gathering speed, with world number 2 Cam Smith looking like the next big name about to jump into Shark infested waters.
A man of his word, Smith has decided to avoid saying anything on the subject, perhaps protecting a master plan that will see him win the FedEx Cup, become world number one, and then bolt with another $20-odd million for more money that he’s already said he doesn’t need.
And look, I kind of get it. With talk of a couple of Australian LIV tournaments, maybe the likes of Smith have been promised a base back home for most of the year; Aussie golfers no longer held captive in America by the monopoly of the PGA Tour. Then again, with the threat of no Majors or world ranking points a very real one for LIV golfers, is a guy of Smith’s quality about to turn his back on everything that used to motivate him as a player before he even reaches his peak?
To be honest, I find it all very sad. I realise the PGA Tour has been far from perfect, if not a little arrogant in thinking their only show in town status would last forever without evolution. But I also find it sad that so many people can so quickly forget the motivation behind this tour – one man’s lifelong vendetta, Greg Norman, hitching a ride on a Saudi gravy train that couldn’t care less about the sport I love.
Which brings me to where I am today. Not just sad, but embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that golfers who chose LIV are taking the PGA Tour to court claiming that they would suffer “irreparable harm” should they not be able to tee it up in the FedEx Cup playoffs, as if there wasn’t a cost of living crisis hammering the world.
I’m also embarrassed by how easily golfers have been bought. Unlike when football’s attempted Super League was shot down by fans, these lone ranger independent contractors aren’t held to such account, which makes it laughable to think I’m about to suddenly invest in a LIV team element that has literally been created overnight, mashing the most individualistic, ego-centric athletes in sport together without context.
And I guess lastly, to use LIV rebel Patrick Reed’s words, I’m a bit sick and tired of listening to these guys take to a podium and lie to my face. I remember sitting in on that Henrik Stenson Ryder Cup press conference and feeling genuinely happy for the guy fulfilling his dreams. There’s a couple of hours of my life I won’t get back, so I’ve now reached a point where I struggle to believe anything that leaps from a golfer’s mouth, not least that Reed’s move to LIV was motivated by winning trophies. Give me strength.
John, you’re meant to be a journalist. Down the middle. Let the people decide…
I make no apologies for saying that I can’t see the good in LIV. I can’t look past the source of the money, life must be so much easier for those that do. Yet, if I bring myself to ignore it, then I can’t look past people like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump endorsing it. And if I somehow drag my head beyond that, I’m left staring at a bunch of golfers drowning in so much money and self-importance that not only do I find them really unlikeable, I actually find them repulsive.
Thankfully, unlike these LIV players reported to be locked into contracts far more restrictive than their previous agreements with the PGA Tour ever were, I’m free to look elsewhere for my great escape.
And guess what? Between women’s golf, amateur golf and the underdogs of the regular tours, plus four majors a year, there’s more than enough to keep me going. Not to mention my own race to break 80, a riveting tale of one man’s ability to choke under pressure, be it on his own or with others, whenever that magical 79 looms. That’s far more interesting, to me at least, than whatever the top end of men’s golf is about to become.
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