What a strange time to be a golf fan.
This beautiful sport of ours has been hijacked in an attempt to sportswash a country’s international reputation as well as feed the ego of a once-respected golfer with a vendetta. How many of you thought we would witness the sport fractured in this manner?
A quick glance through the history books reveals that players who have won 20 of the 51 majors played since the beginning of 2010 are now contracted to the breakaway league.
So far 13 players were in the top 50 in the world when they signed up for their Saudi payday, while several of those further down the rankings – Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, to name a few – are household names and, in most cases, major champions.
However you look at the numbers, that’s an impressive haul from Norman.
Like many things in this divided world we live in, I realise I won’t change anyone’s opinions simply by writing a few words on a page.
But I do have one question for you.
While you can’t sugar-coat the capture of Smith – who won the PGA Tour’s flagship event, the Players Championship, as well as the Claret Jug this year, and is immensely popular, immensely likeable, and immensely good – will we miss any of these players on the main tours?
Let’s start with those entering the twilight of their career. Not really. The likes of Poulter, Westwood, Garcia and McDowell could have kept quiet and taken the cash – the way Harold Varner III did – and no one would have begrudged them that. Instead, they’ve shown nothing but hostility towards the organisations that made them who they are as well as the fans that stood by them through thick and thin.
Mickelson was a hard one to swallow. You know you’re going to be entertained when Lefty’s around, but talk about your average hero to zero story. The 52-year-old was meant to be at the PGA Championship in May basking in the glory of being the defending champion and the oldest major winner in history. Instead, he was sulking into his coffee somewhere. Has he even broke par this year? A fallen idol and a shadow of his former self.
Brooks Koepka, though, is box office – only 19 men in history have won more majors than him – while Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau aren’t far behind. These were the big three captures and the ones that will hurt the PGA Tour the most.
For us fans of team sports, losing the big-name stars to rivals is hardly anything new.
When a football player leaves your favourite team to sign for someone else, you pout a bit, maybe mourn for a few days, but then – in most cases – you get over it. You might miss them every now and then, but you don’t watch or support them any more, and new signings always help.
So let’s look on the bright side. We can fall back on the knowledge that the PGA Tour created all of these players. And it will create more.
We’ve already seen some of the most exciting young talent in the world come through recently. Led by mentor-in-chief Tiger Woods, the game has never been in better shape at the top level. There’s Rory McIlroy. There’s Jordan Spieth. There’s Justin Thomas. Collin Morikawa. Jon Rahm. Scottie Scheffler. And that’s before we get to the next set of major champions elect in the shape of Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, and Will Zalatoris.
Let the LIV guys go. We’ll get over it, because the PGA Tour is still the best there is and the best there ever will be.
Anyway, if this all doesn’t end up with a Ryder Cup-style LIV Golf vs PGA Tour showdown then why are we even here?
Listen to our incredible chat with Billy Foster!