LIV Series: Golf is digging its own grave and the Saudi rebels are holding the shovels

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A fabulous Test match. Another remarkable feat from the tennis legend who must be a serious contender for the greatest sportsman of all. A nail-biter in Cardiff that ended with a landmark victory for Welsh football.

In short, another magnificent weekend of sport. What’s golf got to offer? Something starting in St Albans on Thursday so vulgar it’s embarrassing to mention it in the same breath. Talk about a sport digging its own grave.

Greg Norman, face of the Saudi golf revolution, simply added to the distaste with his gaudy revelations on Monday night about Tiger Woods being offered hundreds of millions to join, and attacking Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus simply for sticking with the status quo. Heaven forbid there should be men who can’t be bought.

Greg Norman, face of the Saudi golf revolution, simply added to the distaste of the event

Greg Norman, face of the Saudi golf revolution, simply added to the distaste of the event

To think, they tried to charge people £67 for each of the three days of the inaugural LIV Golf event at the Centurion Club this week until they realised no one was buying — and started offloading the tickets for free.

With a shotgun start each day, good luck to those who turn up in picking the hole where the winner will finish. Sure, 72-hole tournaments can be boring, but at least you know it will end on the 18th.

When the Saudis decided to pump £1.7billion into golf they envisaged a circuit featuring the top 48 players. For their opener, they’ve got four. They’ve also got Phachara Khongwatmai, Blake Windred, and Jediah Morgan.

Shotgun start at the Centurion Club means spectators are not guaranteed to see the winner

Shotgun start at the Centurion Club means spectators are not guaranteed to see the winner

At the DP World Tour, there is an acute sense of disappointment at the short-sightedness of their troupe of members, led by Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, who have signed up.

The rebels talk of exercising their right as independent contractors but they’re the opposite. They’re pawns being moved around the board by people with limitless wealth, who remain steadfast in their belief that everyone has their price.

It’s already bringing out the worst in golfers. What mush will Phil Mickelson come out with on Tuesday, at the end of his four-month exile of shame?

Ian Poulter (right), Lee Westwood (left) and Sergio Garcia lead the DP World Tour troupe

Ian Poulter (right), Lee Westwood (left) and Sergio Garcia lead the DP World Tour troupe

The highest-ranked recruit is Dustin Johnson, who pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour in February. 

He should be a leading light at the Canadian Open this week and is an ambassador of sponsors Royal Bank of Canada. Last week, he ditched them and the tour when the Saudis came calling with yet another nought on his signing bonus. Like he needs it.

And so it begins. Golfer versus golfer as the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour try to work out appropriate levels of disciplinary action for breaking their rules.

Dustin Johnson headlines the field despite previously pledging his alliance to the PGA Tour

Dustin Johnson headlines the field despite previously pledging his alliance to the PGA Tour

My understanding is the USGA, organisers of next week’s US Open, will stay out of the fight for now, and neither will the R&A suspend any of the Saudi stooges from the 150th Open at St Andrews next month. But we’re assuredly heading for the law courts sooner rather than later. 

It’s easy to see the arguments of Westwood, Graeme McDowell, and Poulter, who have pocketed considerable millions in signing bonuses, in addition to the fact that each of the eight LIV events will offer $25million in prize money, including $4m to the winner. 

No longer competitive on the PGA Tour, you can see why this feels like manna from heaven.

It is easy to see why the likes of Graeme McDowell are attracted when no longer competitive

It is easy to see why the likes of Graeme McDowell are attracted when no longer competitive 

But make no mistake: when it comes to a sport digging its own grave, they’re the ones holding the shovels.

Law serves reminder that magic still exists

As an instance of what golf can still deliver in its purest form, consider the splendid example of England’s Bronte Law at the US Open in North Carolina last week. 

The 27-year-old hasn’t done much since she was part of Europe’s victorious Solheim Cup team at Gleneagles in 2019. Indeed, she had fallen so far down the pecking order she had to go through final qualifying for the biggest tournament in the women’s calendar.

Bronte Law got her career back on track with a tied-sixth place at the US Open last week

Bronte Law got her career back on track with a tied-sixth place at the US Open last week

How she seized her opportunity to get her career back on track, finishing tied sixth for her first top 10 of a hitherto difficult season, and guaranteeing an exemption for next year’s edition at Pebble Beach.

With the enormous boost in prize money this year, her cheque for £269,000 was more than five times larger than her combined earnings for the first five months of the year. Good for her. Now that was a good sum of money properly earned.

Like everyone else, mind, she was never going to chase down the impressive Australian Minjee Lee, who claimed £1.44m, the biggest prize in the history of the women’s game. The 26-year-old from Perth won by four shots from American Mina Harigae.

Nelly Korda, playing her first tournament since February following a blood clot in her arm, finished tied eighth.

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