There should be a line item for diaper-changing facilities somewhere deep in the bowels of the LIV Golf budget, well below the lucrative prize funds and exorbitant gratuities to overlook the gratuitous, closer to the paltry media buys to induce velvety coverage, for the increasingly infirm or dependably infantile who will occupy its locker rooms.
Consider Sergio Garcia (“please,” as Henny Youngman put it). Garcia isn’t a one-dimensional dipstick altogether. He may be charming and humorous on times, but even at 42, he proves that age and maturity are not mutually exclusive. In the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday, he once again exhibited his proclivity for seeing every annoyance as an injustice.
Garcia exploded after being told—incorrectly, as later emerged—that he had used up all of the time allocated to find his ball in a hazard by a PGA Tour rules officer. He declared, “I can’t wait to be off this trip.” “I’m desperate to get out of here.” “I don’t have to deal with you anymore in a couple of weeks,” he said after a few more stomps.
The unlucky official must have felt like a bartender who refuses to serve a belligerent drunk only to learn that he’ll go elsewhere.
Garcia’s withdrawal from the PGA Tour is thought to pertain to his participation in LIV Golf’s series of sportswashing tournaments, which will begin in the United Kingdom next month. Garcia didn’t confirm it himself—he stayed away from the media after his first and second rounds—but his agency confirmed that he requested the PGA Tour’s needed release to compete in the inaugural Saudi event in London.
Competing there does not always imply a hiatus from the PGA Tour. Since the Tour established a precedent enabling overseas money grabs many members will go. Playing the second Saudi event in Portland, Oregon, from July 1-3 would be a different story. Waivers are not permitted for events conducted in the United States, according to tour policy. Members who play in Portland against the rule are overtly selecting sides. Discipline and protracted lawsuit would very certainly follow.
Garcia possesses all of the characteristics connected with the Saudi attempt to take over professional golf: Best days are behind him; he’s won everything that seems likely in major championships; he’s not playing well enough consistently on the PGA Tour to reap increased purses; he’s not well-liked enough to reap fan engagement bonuses; he’s endowed with a strong sense of entitlement; and he’s consumed by petty grievances (mostly imaginary).
Garcia has earned $54 million on the PGA Tour since scissor-kicking his way to prominence in 1999, but his career has been marked by petulance. To name a few examples: flinging his shoe into a gallery; spitting into a cup, leaving the loogey for those unfortunate groups behind him; flipping off fans (I’d forgive him—Bethpage galleries were obnoxious); blaming bunker-rakers and unseen forces for his loss in the 2007 Open at Carnoustie; listlessly apologizing for a racially-charged remark about Tiger Woods;
Let that last one sink in for a moment: his behavior was once deemed unacceptable by the Saudis.
Garcia has another thing in common with his peers who are also big bonesaw fans: their absence from the PGA or DP World circuits would be little noticed. That is the fundamental flaw in the Saudi seduction. The sums offered by LIV Golf may persuade players that they are elite, but simply listening to the overture acknowledges that they are not, that their ability to compete against the best in the world has been greatly diminished, and that they are willing to trade a possible hall of fame berth for an assured spot in the hall of shame.
Honest athletes who acknowledge to being motivated by money rather than morality may earn a little more respect. A little, but not much. What players are prepared to do for that money, which is to be stooges for a horrible regime’s public relations objective, is still relevant. However, in the absence of openness, we are subjected to heinous equivocations as they attempt to portray greed as a form of public service.
Lee Westwood recognized the Saudis have issues—he almost said “problems” before catching himself—but said they are working to improve in an interview with Jamie Weir of Sky Sports. He didn’t specify what he believes the difficulties are or provide evidence of the government’s progress, which would be surprising to human rights organizations tracking the government’s abuses. Westwood went on to say that criticism of the Kingdom originates in part from dissatisfaction with how quickly things are changing.
One hopes there’s a bonus for Westwood’s willingness to debase himself in public by shoveling from that crap, whatever salary package he’s negotiated.
It’s absurd to believe that the loss of Garcia and Westwood to LIV Golf, or any of the others considering abetting Saudi sportswashing, would harm the PGA or DP World tours’ futures. It could even be considered a beneficial detritus removal. Regardless of who leaves in the coming weeks, it’s worth noting that both tours contributed to the current state of affairs—the DP World Tour by brazenly welcoming tin pot dictatorships to its schedule, and the PGA Tour by operating a nanny state that shields players’ public images from the consequences of their actions, all in the name of an Orwellian ‘These Guys Are Good’ mantra.