What the Hell Has Happened to Professional Golf?
Golf is important to me because I used to play in the days when I wore a younger man’s clothes, very much a middle handicapper but I loved to play. I don’t know how you feel about it, but it is a widely televised national sport and it’s going entirely to hell.
First of all the Saudis got involved, ‘cause they have lots of dough and a shitty worldwide reputation—something to do with luring a prominent dissident into a Saudi embassy, strangling him, cutting him into very small pieces with a bone-saw and dissolving what was left in acid. That and beheadings for theft and throwing Saudi women in prison for leaving the house without a male escort. You know, little stuff.
Now you might well wonder what that has to do with playing 18 holes of golf on a lovely day
Eighteen holes of a gentleman’s sport, played under gentlemanly circumstances is the antithesis of bone saws, dissidents and acid. But it’s one thing to stage a brutal murder and quite another to stage a world sport with rules about fair play. Saudi Arabian history has little experience with fair play. So they did what any well funded business does when its trying to develop a scam, they hired a front-man.
Bingo, up pops Australian Greg Norman, a guy who doesn’t much fancy the PGA because he kept falling apart in final rounds and coming second in a bunch of major tournaments. But to be fair, he spent 331 weeks as world number one in the 1980s and 1990s and won 89 professional tournaments, including two majors, thirty top-10 finishes and runner-up eight times in majors throughout his career.
Norman had the reputation and Saudi had unlimited cash, so two interests came to an understanding
And LIV (Roman numeral for 54) golf was invented. I have to say ‘invented,’ because LIV golf is as close to the real thing as the mini golf you play with your kids—usually enjoyed next to a bumper-cars layout.
Tournament golf has a long and storied tradition, the modern game created in Scotland at the Old Course at St Andrews in 1764, where the British Open is still played. Eighteen holes each day over four days, the lowest-stroke score winning and ties decided by further competition.
LIV golf is not golf at all
It’s played over three days for a total 54 holes. Competition is currently limited to the best 48 players the Saudis could buy, who compete against each other in a traditional stroke play-format, with the lowest score from the no-cut event being the winner, while a draft helps allocate players into a team format. For the first two rounds, the best two stroke play scores will count for each team.
Say what? Can you even follow that? Where are the bumper cars?
Oh and there’s a ‘shotgun start,’ where players begin play from each of the eighteen holes, so you never know where anyone is. That’s supposed to make it faster and more exciting for the time-stressed youngsters of our modern world.
Possibly so, but golf it ain’t. Just like bumper-cars aren’t Grand Prix racing.
But the money is fabulous. And there’s nothing a Saudi likes more than destroying human rights, killing people and being fabulous with money. That’s why Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson fell all over each other to leave the PGA and sign up.
Johnson (world #21) signed a four-year deal worth a reported $125 million. He explained his decision to join LIV Golf after having a change of heart: "At that time, I was committed to playing the PGA Tour," Johnson said of his initial statement. "I'm very thankful for the PGA Tour and everything it's done for me.” Yeah well, both gratitude morality slides down the hill of money like an avalanche.
Mickelson (world #106) is reported to have pocketed $200 million. Prize money for the defectors isn’t small change--$4 million to win and $120,000 for the poor schlump who comes in dead last. Tiger Woods is said to have been offered $600 million, but told the Saudis to take a hike. For him, the PGA represents a proud tradition and he built his entire career there.
But the PGA panicked
First of all, they told leavers they couldn’t come back, which means no PGA sponsored tournaments for them and especially no majors. Goodbye the U.S. Open, British Open, Masters and PGA Championship, as well as the President’s Cup and Ryder Cup.
Speaking of the PGA Championship, it’s being played this week and they’ve screwed it up as well, hence my What the Hell Has Happened to Professional Golf? In their total misunderstanding of fair play, the PGA has invented something they choose to call ‘starting strokes.’ It’s not exactly bumper-cars, but it’s close.
Let me try my best to explain this goofiness
Throughout the season, PGA members accumulate points based on their placement in tournaments, and those point totals have been exponentially increased during the FedEx St. Jude and BMW Championships. Don’t ask me why. It’s what they chose to do.
Those points now take on major significance. Along with narrowing the field down to the final 29 golfers (okay with me but the Masters allowed 91 this year), each one will earn a handicap heading into the Tour Championship that will help them with a bit of a head start in the tournament.
Help them with a bit of a head start? No one is supposed to get a ‘head start’ in golf
As an example of no head starts: in the 2008 U.S. Open, Rocco Mediate—ranked nearly 300th in the world—fended off Tiger Woods over four rounds, ending up tied at the 77nd hole and finally losing in a one-hole playoff. No one gave Tiger, arguably the best player the world has ever seen, a bit of a head start. Mediate played the game of his life and damn near won.
Officially, in the PGA Championship just completed, Scottie Scheffler began the tournament at 10 under par. Scheffler hit his very first golf ball with ten strokes already under par. What the hell is going on? The top 25 players all got stroke advantages according to their year’s points. There’s no chance at all under those circumstances for a Rocco Mediate to come up from the bottom to thrill the golf world in a dead heat with Tiger Woods.
This bit of creative stupidity is like playing the NBA Championship with the favored team already awarded 25 points or giving Tom Brady a two-touchdown bit of a head start in the SuperBowl.
The world has pretty much gone nuts today and the last honest thing standing for many of us was professional sports
It seems the first to fall is golf, the gentleman’s sport. And why, as gentility is becoming ever more scarce in the world today, is that any surprise?
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