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Fighting money with money: Why plans to tackle Saudi threat are hurting the game

If golf's main tours truly want to grow the game they need to start at the bottom, writes Alex Perry
 

Hello. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam. And, yes, we’re still talking about these damn breakaway golf leagues. Sorry about that. You can leave now, I won’t be hurt.

Well, as promised in the headline, the PGA Tour has come up with a genius way to counter plans from the Saudi-backed Super Golf League and the insisting-they’re-not-Saudi-backed Premier Golf League to host big money, no cut, mixed format events around the world by hosting its own big money, no cut, mixed format events around the world.

According to Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch, the PGA Tour will stage between four and six – so, five? – events each season in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East which will begin in 2023 or 2024, depending on how serious the rivals are.

Lynch added his mole inside the PGA Tour camp told him that there is “nothing firm on formats yet, but a team format is certainly one of the ideas on the table”.

Don’t we already have a pretty good team event? Sure I was watching one recently.

“The source,” Lynch notes, “likened the new events to an amped-up World Golf Championships swing that will ensure riches for elite players regardless of how they perform.”

Regardless of how they perform. One of the most inefficacious phrases ever punched into a keyboard.

Now I understand the world’s best are the ones who get eyes on the game, but one of the most beautiful things about golf, and other individual sports for that matter, is that how much you earn largely depends on how well you play.

Where is the joy in watching, say, Brooks Koepka flick around in Dubai, finish bottom of a 60-man field, before jetting home tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars richer?

There is absolutely no satisfaction for anyone in that. Other than Koepka, of course.

We appear to have arrived at the conclusion that “growing the game” means bland exhibitions that only serve one purpose.

Do you think the casual golf fan is going to tune in for the Sanderson Farms because a few days previous they watched some already impossibly rich top-tenners swell their bank accounts in the Emirates?

And how many people do you know got into golf because they watched Dustin Johnson bomb it 400 yards on a desert track?

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: Invest in the grassroots game. That’s where people get into golf.

The irony can’t be lost that Lynch broke this news in the same week Martin Trainer earned a top-five finish at the Houston Open, having led for chunks of the tournament.

Trainer won the Puerto Rico Open in February 2019 and before this week had only made six cuts since – a miserable run that saw him plummet to 1,310th in the rankings. You may also remember his caddie once Monday Qualified for an event before going on to beat his boss by seven shots.

These are the stories we come back for week in, week out. Because for guys like Trainer, there’s no regardless about it.

So who won this week…

Trainer did hold the lead going into the back-nine on Sunday, but Jason Kokrak came home in 31 to win his third PGA Tour title in 13 months.

A reminder that he had won zero times in 233 starts before that.

Over in Florida and what a leaderboard at the Pelican’s Women’s Championship on the LPGA Tour. In a dramatic final few holes where no one seemingly wanted to win, World No 1 Nelly Korda, topped Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and Sei Young Kim in a play-off.

Speaking of Saudi-backed team events, it was the fourth and final Aramco Team Series event on the Ladies European Tour, with Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen and her team of Hannah Burke, Krista Bakker and amateur Ahmed Al Subaey finishing at 51-under-par to triumph.

There was drama in the individual tournament as teenager Pia Babnik snatched glory at the death.

Meanwhile, in the penultimate event of the European Tour season – and, indeed, European Tour history – it was yet another win for Denmark as Joachim B Hansen edged out Bernd Wiesberger and Francesco Laporta at the Dubai Championship.

Whatever they’re doing at the Danish Golf Union, it’s working.

And the Champions Tour came to a dramatic conclusion, with Phil Mickelson winning his fourth title in six starts at the season-ending (and ludicrously-named) Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while Bernhard Langer, at the age of 64, topped the season-long standings.

Those guys.

Right, that’s enough from me for another week. You can follow me on Twitter if that’s your thing, or read more editions of The Slam if you’re bored.

Play well.

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