“The New York Times”; Saudi Arabia is starting to register a handful of the most famous names in golf to crown their new world tour, attracting players like Phil Mickelson and a few other former champions with staggering salaries.
In a report translated by Arabi21, she explained that the Saudis have attracted bigger stars, the kind whose talents can make the range competitive and credible to the current gold standard for professional golf, the PGA Tour.
And on Thursday, the PGA Tour reacted in a sudden escalation of an increasingly bitter battle for control of elite professional golf, the tour suspended 17 players taking part in the first event of the new tour, the LIV Golf International Series have, shortly after they kicked off.
In a statement, the PGA Tour commissioner stated that the Rebel Pros – and any other player who has joined them – “are no longer eligible to participate” in the events, which have been the highest level in professional for decades. golf in the world.
The round’s response, which was apparently designed to ward off one of its biggest threats, dates back almost a century and has dramatically increased the game in a battle that has consumed professional golfers in recent months.
The ongoing feud is marked by star players, Saudi billionaires and well-groomed courses – all in the luxurious world of elite golf, an unexpected, and perhaps inconvenient, forum for public squabbles over money.
“These players made their choice for financial reasons of their own,” said Ji Manahan, PGA Tour Commissioner. He then warned other players who had been tempted by Saudi offers that they would be subject to the same penalties, lamenting that “all this talk about money, money and more money.”
The New York Times considered the LIV Golf Invitational Series to be not just another Golf investment in a popular sport, but a brutal and calculated attempt to replace the elite level of the sport, with some of the best golfers which was chosen as price in the billion-dollar range. struggle.
“If Saudi Arabia wants to use golf as a way for them to get where they want to be, and they have the resources to speed up that experience … I think we are proud to help them on that journey,” one of the signers with LIV Golf, former US Open champion Grimm McDowell said this week.
And unlike buying the bragging rights of a European football team or hosting a major global sporting event, Saudi Arabia’s entry into golf is not just a branded exercise, and not just another example of what critics says a reputation laundering process is not, some have mocked as an “athletic whitening” of his image Globalism.
Instead, the kingdom’s sudden entry into golf is part of a multifaceted approach by the kingdom – not only by investing in sport but also in areas such as business, entertainment and the arts – to enhance its image both externally and internally. alter. a rich Muslim monarchy and province.
These investments have accelerated rapidly since 2015, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his rise to become the de facto ruler and led a process of radical change aimed at opening up the kingdom’s economy and culture. He began putting Saudi Arabia in the news in ways unrelated to his weak human rights record, his military intervention in Yemen, or the assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the hands of Saudi agents in 2018.
Christian Coates Ulrichsen, who teaches Golf Policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, said: “This is consistent with the way the Saudis have used sport over the past five years to paint the image of the new Saudi Arabia. try to project, to move the story away from Khashoggi and Yemen and talk more positively about Saudi Arabia. “
But in organizing the most lucrative tournament in golf history – this week’s wallet totaled $ 25 million, the winner’s share was $ 4 million, and the last place winner received $ 120,000 – Saudi Arabia also relies on a proven strategy to use his wealth to open doors to recruit or buy Some of the best players in the world to become her partners.
Some touches early Thursday may have reflected bad taste – red telephone booths and a double-decker bus, guards dressed like British palace guards, a fleet of black taxis to get players to the starting point – but there was no attempt to hide the intended game: by solid payments and investments The big, Saudi fans are targeting the structures and organizations that have ruled professional golf for nearly a century, and specifically the PGA Tour.
Four-time champion Rory McIlroy said this week; “It’s a shame it breaks the game … If the fans are confused about who is playing where and in which tournament this week and say they are playing there and not in this race, it becomes very confusing.”
The newspaper said; The prospects for the Saudi plan’s success are far from clear. Despite prominent golfers and their huge financial support, the LIV golf series could not secure a media convention in the United States and will be broadcast on less watched streaming services in most parts of the world for the time being.
Nor could it attract major sponsors or attract broadcast partners such as ESPN, CBS, NBC and Amazon, which is in the first year of a nine-year deal that jointly paid them hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the PGA. Tour.
But its immediate appeal to players and seemingly unlimited financial resources could eventually have repercussions for the 93-year-old PGA Tour, as well as the companies and broadcasters who built professional golf as a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
The pros who committed to playing in the first LIV event tried to set their decisions as preliminary decisions related only to golf. But by accepting the wealth of Saudi Arabia in exchange for adding their personal brilliance to the project, they put themselves in the middle of a storm in which fans and human rights groups questioned their motives, and the PGA Tour took them prevented from returning, and sponsors and organizations broke ties or distanced themselves.
Of course, Saudi Arabia is not the first country to use sport as a platform to polish its worldview. Its rich Gulf neighbors, Bahrain and the UAE, especially Qatar, which will host this year’s World Cup, have invested heavily in international sport over the past two decades.
But Saudi Arabia’s golf project is perhaps the most ambitious attempt yet by a Gulf state to undermine the sport’s current structures. In fact, she’s trying to use her fortune to lure players away from the most prestigious tournament and golf course, the PGA Tour, by creating a whole new tour.
McDowell acknowledged this in his sharp response to this week’s question. “We are just here to focus on golf,” he said. It was a difficult start. Even before hitting a golf ball, the LIV series – funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund – has become a controversial source. Mickelson, one of the team’s biggest contractors, unleashed indignation in February when he praised the series as a “lifetime opportunity”, even though he called Saudi Arabia’s human rights record “awful” and used an explosive word to describe the country’s describe leaders as “intimidating”.
The newspaper said; The project’s chief architect, former player Greg Norman, made matters worse just a few weeks later when he downplayed Khashoggi’s Saudi assassination and dismantling by saying, “Look, we’re all making mistakes.”
Most, but not all, of the world’s top players have completely rejected the new series: McIlroy, for example, mocked the project as a takeover in February and made it clear on Wednesday that he would not be participating. “If it’s just for the money,” he said, “it never seems to go the way you want it to.”
Even the rare opportunities for LIV series players to defend their decisions live with reporters this week were often tense. At a press conference on Wednesday, a group of players were asked whether they would participate in a tournament in Vladimir Putin’s Russia or apartheid South Africa “if the money is right”. A day earlier, Korean-American player Kevin Na was caught on a live microphone and said, “This is inconvenient,” when his press conference ended with a British reporter raising his voice at the conference director.
However, most players seem to have come to the conclusion that the money is too good to be missed. The reported amount is $ 150 million as an incentive for Dustin Johnson, the highest rated player to join the new series so far, more than double the total prize money he earned from rounds of golf during his career.