Tiger Woods’ recent calls for Greg Norman to be sidelined if the PGA Tour and LIV Golf are to “figure something out” were eerily reminiscent of Rory McIlroy’s remarks a fortnight prior, and further proof that The Shark is intensely disliked by many of the game’s biggest names.
Yes, Norman has an axe to grind with the PGA Tour and any kind of conciliatory negotiations are unlikely with the Australian at the table, but the same can be said of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
Monahan’s refusal to even take a phone call from the Saudi-backed upstart Tour were well publicised long before Norman’s involvement and his attitude has never been anything other than hostile. Extremely hostile, in fact, and he’s consistently denied the possibility of both tours coming to any sort of agreement.
If, as Woods and McIlroy’s stated, the PGA Tour (and its strategic partner, the DP World Tour) and LIV Golf are to even entertain the thought of collaboration, then surely neither Monahan nor Norman can be involved as the presence of either would surely be provocative.
Personally, I think the time for negotiation has come and gone, and the fault for that lies mainly at Monahan’s door, but quite what purpose negotiations would serve at this point is unclear.
Despite huge resistance from most branches of the media, the objections of some of the most outspoken and influential players in the game, and from Phil Mickelson dousing himself and LIV Golf’s backers in petrol and striking a match, the tour has gotten itself off the ground.
What’s become clear is that the public, at large, don’t really care about the source of funding. The controversy surrounding the World Cup in Qatar, and which dominated the lead-up and early stages, has largely disappeared and the actual football is now centre-stage. There’s no reason to think that golf will be any different.
In fact, the criticism of LIV Golf is no longer centred on the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s involvement, but rather on the actual product on offer. And there’s no doubting its weakness in certain areas, but it’s a product in its infancy. All they have to do is add a few more big-name signings to their roster, sacrifice some of the dead wood, and the product improves immensely.
That said, the lack of world ranking points is a sticky issue for LIV – and a major obstacle in signing top talent as Xander Schauffele recently admitted to No Laying Up – and that is Monahan’s trump card at present, but that issue will gradually cease to exist. That LIV will figure out some way of gaining ranking points is inevitable, but every week that the likes of Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson slide down the world rankings, the official rankings themselves become less relevant.
So what incentive do LIV have to negotiate?
The majors, perhaps, but the PGA Tour have no control over what decisions the R&A, USGA, PGA of America and Augusta National make. Their relationship with the PGA and European Tours have been a marriage of convenience for the majors’ governing bodies, but they’ll act in their best self-interest and having the genuine best players in the world compete for their titles is definitely high in their priorities.
To have their players’ suspensions lifted from regular PGA Tour events? Well, that’s already a legal issue and could be settled by the courts, but even if the suspensions are upheld, how many of the LIV golfers would actually be interested in teeing it up on the PGA Tour anyway? With 14 events scheduled next season, and presumably four majors to compete in, it’s doubtful there’d be big interest in padding their schedules with events that offer substantially less cash.
No, at this stage, for LIV to come to the negotiating table would be little more than a goodwill gesture – a signal that they’re not intent on seeing the game suffer over the head of corporate squabbling.
Or maybe as a vindictive move to see Monahan removed from his position.
But it was under Monahan’s leadership – or lack thereof – that top level golf became ripe for the picking. It’s no coincidence that the Saudi Public Investment Fund singled out golf as the sport that could be completely revolutionised. Golf needed revolutionising, and the leadership of the game’s most prominent tour were intent to sit on their hands and keep offering more of the same.
Yes, since LIV’s arrival, significant changes have been made to improve the product that the PGA Tour are offering, but these should’ve been progressive measures as opposed to reactionary ones. And that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy appear to have been the main driving forces behind the changes is a further indictment of Monahan’s leadership.
Whatever they are, Woods and McIlroy are no fools. Perhaps they see collaborative avenues that the rest of us don’t, but in calling for negotiations – and the removal of Greg Norman in particular – surely they know that concessions would need to be made on both sides.
The two biggest names in golf would never publicly call for the head of the PGA Tour commissioner because, regardless of validity, it would be considered extremely distasteful.
But Greg Norman is fair game, and if The Shark’s departure triggers Monahan’s, then so be it.
But maybe that was the plan all along.