The Saudi row rages on, Jordan Spieth's two bizarre rules infractions, and Tiger Woods' astonishing revelation. Alex Perry wraps it all up
Hello. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam. And I’m afraid this Greg Norman-led Saudi Arabian-backed assault on the PGA Tour isn’t going to go away any time soon.
An email dropped into the golf industry’s inbox on Monday outlining that the Saudi International will now be an Asian Tour event and “will present the strongest field in its history” when it takes place at Royal Greens in early February.
Why? Oh there are names. In no particular order, here is a list of the 25 players ol’ Sharky has convinced to sell their soul for seven figures:
Rafael Cabrera Bello
Harold Varner III
OK, maybe they were in order, after all.
Other than the fact there are far too many players on this list that simply don’t need the money, the most disappointing aspect is the number of supposed “good guys” who are prepared to take the dirty cash in the desert. (Tommy and Shane, I’m looking at you in particular. And as for you, Casey, gone off UNICEF have you?)
Now the PGA Tour is backed into a corner because it has to decide if it will allow its players to compete in the Sportswashing Invitational. But you may remember this isn’t the first edition of this tournament – there have been three on the European Tour already, for all of which the PGA Tour’s biggest stars were permitted to compete. You can see their conundrum.
Later in the week, players were asked about it. And it’s always fun when players are asked about political matters.
The tournament will come too soon for Tiger Woods, but it doesn’t matter because he’s already said his allegiance is to the PGA Tour.
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy, who has repeatedly spurned the Crown Prince’s advances, says players should be allowed to go. “We’re independent contractors and I feel like we should be able to do that,” he explained, perfectly reasonably.
Then Justin Rose, who played in two of the three Saudi Internationals when it was a European Tour event but is waiting to see the lay of the land before committing to the 2022 version, gave The Scotsman’s Martin Dempster an all time quote that’s so delicious I had to break it down.
“Obviously Saudi is controversial.”
Already feels like he’s setting himself up for a fall.
“But I’ve been down there and I enjoyed my time there.”
I like Alton Towers, but if I found out the owner was the head of a murderous regime I’d probably stop lining his pockets to ride Oblivion.
“It’s actually a fun golf tournament and a good golf course.”
One more time for those in the back: This does not make human rights atrocities acceptable.
“Listen, they are trying to edge towards a more socially-acceptable stance on their policies and you’ve got to start somewhere, right?”
The perfect chef’s kiss ending. It’s the “listen” at the start I particularly enjoyed. Like he was irked by the mere questioning of which way his moral compass is pointing.
The rest of the sentence is up there with saying “I’m not racist but” before saying something incredibly racist. Maybe, Justin, they could “start somewhere” by not, oh I don’t know, jailing women for driving, or killing people for being gay, or slaying tens of thousands of innocent people in airstrikes.
This kind of tone deaf behaviour from players makes a mockery of our sport. And all in the name of a few extra dollars. I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed.
History will not remember them kindly.
Tiger Tiger Tiger
Spoiler alert: If someone posts about Tiger Woods on social media and you reply saying “no one cares”, then you care. I like telling people that.
Seriously, though, how nice has it been having Big Cat back in our day-to-day lives this week?
He made an astonishing claim ahead of the Hero World Challenge, when asked about the car accident in February that left him with multiple serious leg injuries.
“There was a point in time when, I wouldn’t say it was 50-50, but it was near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg,” he said.
The answer was so shocking it made the journalist who brought up the possibility of amputation forget his next question.
And remember a couple of weeks ago when the (golf) world lost its collective mind after Woods posted a three-second video of him hitting a wedge? Well, he spent the entire week in the Bahamas hitting wedges. And drivers. And irons. And ohmygod he’s going to play in the Masters isn’t he?
Rules Rules Rules
Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson were involved in one of the more bizarre infractions of the year when they played from the wrong tee during the final round in the Bahamas.
The reason? The 9th tee had been moved forward for Sunday, while the par-3 17th tee had been moved back to where the 9th tee had been for the first three days.
So what happens in this situation? Well, I’ll let my learned colleagues Steve Carroll and John Paramor explain, but afterwards, Spieth said the most Spieth thing ever: “I actually didn’t think we were going to get penalised because it’s a charity event, but then I realised there are world ranking points involved and all that.”
It was Spieth’s second brush with the law for the week. He had already been hit by a two-shot penalty during the third round when he failed to return his ball to its original spot after he’d accidentally moved it on the green.
Again, here’s our resident expert with an explaination, but Spieth got hit with two penalties, finished dead last as one of just two players to finish over par for the week, and still went home with $100,000.
Put your wallet away, Mr Bin Salman.
So who actually won?
After realising a victory would make him the youngest player since Tiger to reach World No 1, Open champion Collin Morikawa proceeded to blow his five-shot 54-hole lead and allow Viktor Hovland to sneak a fourth PGA Tour win onto his already wildly impressive CV.
The win moves the Norwegian up to a career-high 7th in the world rankings, meaning Jon Rahm – still in top spot, for now – is the only European ranked above Hovland.
(I just looked up the owner of Alton Towers and it turns out he’s a Tory party donor so I guess that’s that for me and my favourite dive coaster. It was beautiful – and thrilling – while it lasted.)
Right, that’s it from me for 2021. We’ve all had enough of this year, haven’t we?
Have a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you on the other side.