Even casual golf fans may be wondering what’s left for parody after Charley Hoffman chastised the PGA Tour for failing to adequately protect its players, a particularly audacious claim coming from a journeyman who continues to make a good living despite having won nothing and finished in the top ten just four times in the last 500 days.
Hoffman complained over a ruling he received in the second round of the WM Phoenix Open in an enraged Instagram post on Friday evening. And, like Phil Mickelson at the Saudi International last week, he used his personal grievance as a springboard for the rest of the Tour. He complained about amateur rule-makers running the professional game, claimed the sport’s most spoiled athletes aren’t “protected,” suggested it’s no surprise players are considering joining a Saudi-funded splinter league, and demanded commissioner Jay Monahan do better—all while slamming a few media outlets and the Saudis.
Hoffman was working as a crash-test dummy for his San Diego huckster neighbor, Phil Mickelson, who has frequently peddled similar talking lines favored by the Saudis in their attempt to takeover men’s professional golf. Mickelson was one of the first to praise Hoffman’s childish rant, much like a general saluting cannon fodder.
The overwhelming negative response to Hoffman’s tweet centered on his obvious arrogance as a jerk who has amassed more than $30 million despite a career-defining major championship record that is abysmal and just marginally better in regular Tour events. Fans, it appears, are sick of hearing even journeymen claim they are entitled to a king’s ransom, or at the very least a Crown Prince’s, thanks to the leverage provided by the prospect of a breakaway circuit. Hoffman, however, was by far the most dangerous of all the players who could have wielded the Saudi sword this week. That’s why his illness should force the Tour to draw a line in the sand in terms of how it handles that threat in the future.
The Phoenix Open is sponsored by Waste Management. Hoffman is also sponsored by the corporation. Despite this, the 45-year-old, who hasn’t won a title in six years, felt confident enough to embarrass his partner during the tournament’s most important week. Hoffman also serves on the PGA Tour’s Policy Board, which has reviewed the Saudi issue, so he can claim ignorance but not stupidity. Nonetheless, he felt empowered to publicly chastise his commissioner while also naming officials of a deadly administration.
The fact that Hoffman wrote this episode demonstrates how widespread the Saudi rot has become among Tour players.
Hoffman had only been somewhat chastened by Saturday am. However, his post’s ramifications will be felt, if not immediately visible. Sponsors of tournaments that are concerned that their events may be harmed as a result of the continuing turmoil. Companies that object to their logos being displayed on craven apologists for a regime that sees human rights as an afterthought. When a few high-profile clients threaten to destroy the house where their many other clients dwell, agents must take sides.
Every week on Tour, the looming Saudi danger is the topic of almost compulsive conjecture, and the more time spent worrying about it, the more likely it is that the entire business of golf will suffer as a result of the distraction. Enough.
The PGA Tour’s response has been excessively generous. Monahan developed initiatives that reward players regardless of their performance, increased FedEx Cup payouts, increased prize money in limited-field invitationals, and plans to host attractive, guaranteed money events for elite players. Even so, none of this is enough to satisfy some people’s outrageous avarice.
It’s time for the Tour to remind those players that there’s no barbed wire blocking their way out, and instead focus on stars who refuse to shake the Crown Prince’s pompoms as cheerleaders for Saudi golf dreams, men who are motivated by history, legacy, and the already abundant rewards. That’s a much more impressive list of players.
Tiger Woods is no longer in the game.
Who is Jon Rahm? He’s also gone.
Same goes for Rory McIlroy.
What about Brooks Koepka? Do you know who Justin Thomas is? What about Jordan Spieth? Out, out, out, out, out, out, out, out, out, out
These are the players who will ensure the PGA Tour’s and professional golf’s long-term viability. Mickelson and his posse of cash-strapped, washed-up veterans aren’t interested in the Saudi’s enticing embrace.
Monahan’s approach to this issue has been extraordinarily measured for several years, an approach that exposes the difficulty inherent in member-led organizations, where every yelling halfwit with a gripe must be treated as if he or she were the chairman of the board. Excessive deliberation, on the other hand, can be debilitating. The PGA Tour must determine one day—and soon—that it will no longer be kept prisoner by a few players yearning for Saudi bribery.
Allow them to go if they truly have the guts to take the risk. The Tour will not suffer as a result of their departure.