sPort wax is not supposed to make commercial sense. And here’s why no normally functioning company would consider spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a golf disruption plan. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) may seek to rebrand a kingdom for which another journalist’s murder Human rights atrocities are typical reference points benefiting from a seemingly limitless pit of cash. If PGA and DP World Tours find themselves involved in a long business match with the Saudi-backed LIV Series, they know they will be beaten.
However, the events of recent days have served as a reminder of the advantages enjoyed by players from a certain ancient class of gift-bearing Saudis. There is reason to reflect on the point at which a PIF – which by definition is accountable to someone – reflects on the value of golfers who have fallen into irrelevance. That day of reckoning will come. It’s just a matter of when.
The LIV understandably announced Henrik Stenson’s conviction of the duties of a Ryder Cup captain. It was a physical blow by Greg Norman against the Anti-Liv Virus Golf Foundation. The behavior of Stenson and his representatives is frustrating; After agreeing to lead Europe against the United States in Rome next year, he had a contractual obligation to stay away from LIV. If the Swede and his management knew that a change of plan was possible all along, or even used the Captain to take advantage of it, they should be ashamed of themselves. If this series of events caught Stinson by surprise, there is a great deal of naivety at play. In an incredible public statement, the 2016 champion tried to paint himself as a victim who was somehow excluded from the role of captain, although he wanted to combine it with the appearance of LIV.
What LIV chief Norman doesn’t want to focus on is that Stenson’s track performance has fallen off a cliff. Breaking 72 is a win these days. Since his ninth session at the 2019 US Open, the 46-year-old’s major record has read: T20, cut, cut, cut, T38, T64, cut, cut, cut, cut. He has not won since 2017. Stenson serves a purpose for LIV in propositional terms, but adds nothing in a mathematical sense. However, it will guarantee him at least $120,000 (£100,000) per tournament plus entry fees said to be in the tens of millions.
Stenson falls into a category that includes other LIV transgender people such as Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Charles Schwarzl. Their best days are behind them.
Louis Oosthuizen considered retirement before a LIV check was placed under his nose. Brooks Koepka’s great glory of 2018 and 2019 feels like a lifetime ago. Bryson Dechambeau’s public actions suggested that tales of his death may have been exaggerated, but injury diminished his stature. DeChambeau, like Patrick Reed, has had reason to request retirement from the PGA Tour, meaning the LIV option has been timed entirely.
Norman used media duties at the inaugural LIV event to admit he had waited three decades to mount a challenge on the PGA Tour. For him it is personal. Finally, the Australian found an entity rich enough to finance his dream. Even better for Norman, he is paid a hefty salary to live on.
The wider picture includes scenes of a celebration on board a private plane. Includes Pat Perez’s appearance in a dollar coin T-shirt. There are agents, PR firms and wheels amassing small fortunes on the back of a model that serves no competitive purpose.
LIV can make all the noise you like about potential broadcast partners, gambling slots and the sale of team franchises, but the inevitable current appearance is of chancers who have used Saudi golf ambitions to line their pockets. The right and wrong of this choice can be debated, but what is more interesting is how much the Public Investment Fund is satisfied with such generosity. If Mohammed bin Salman feels he is being taken advantage of from the future, it will not look good for Leaf golfers.
Validation of LIV’s approach will come if, as has been speculated, he can agree a deal with recently crowned Open Champion Cameron Smith. A heated exchange between Australian broadcasters last week highlighted how much backlash Smith, who has an unblemished reputation so far, could receive at home if he takes the lead.
LIV’s need to add a player of this stature would mean a bid in excess of $100 million in Smith’s direction. It’s a bargain that would draw derision in any other conference room. The PIF must make sure that it is not the person being mocked.