Editor’s note: After the Saudi Arabian government-backed LIV Golf group announced in March a $255 million, eight-event schedule, a controversy erupted that lingers going into this week’s British Open. Dozens of pros have linked with the upstart series, and while LIV golfers have been suspended from PGA Tour events, they’re allowed to compete in the major championships, including this week’s British Open in Scotland. My friend Tom Reiter, who is attending the 150th anniversary of The Open, doesn’t like the LIV concept at all. As he was packing his bags the other night, the former student journalist at San Antonio College filed a searing commentary.
By Tom Reiter
Special to The JB Replay
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the best of golf, it was the worst of golf. It was a tale of two tours and two tournaments nearly 2,000 miles apart geographically and even further apart philosophically. Let me take you to the final hole recently of both The John Deere Classic in Illinois and the LIV Golf series in Oregon.
First, the LIV event. Famed lefty and suspended PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson walks up the 18th fairway of the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club at 10 over par, knowing if he makes bogey he will drop to 42nd place (out of 48 golfers) and his winnings will drop from $133,000 to $127,000, pocket change for a man who was paid $200 million by the Saudi Arabian government to join the LIV tour. As a matter of fact, if Phil scores a 12 on the last hole, he stills collects $120,000, the lowest an LIV tournament participant can earn. Pressure? You tell me.
Two thousand miles to the east, 29-year-old J.T. Poston walks up the 18th fairway at the TPC Deere Run course in Silvis, Ill. During his seven years of professional golf he has earned nearly $8 million and he knows if he only holds on to the lead he will earn his biggest payday ever at $1,278,000. Also, the victory would give him an invitation to the Open Championship at St. Andrews, as well as invitations to the 2023 PGA Championship and the 2023 Masters. Pressure? You tell me.
Walking next to Poston is Emiliano Grillo, a 29-year-old Argentinian ranked No. 151 in the world. Grillo knows if he makes par he will tie for second and earn $631,900, and an invite to St. Andrews. If he misses his par putt, his earnings drop to $423,633, and just as importantly he loses his St. Andrews invite. If he makes it, he packs his bags for Scotland; if he misses, he instead heads home less a quarter of a million dollars. He stands over his putt. Pressure? Ya think?
The LIV tour is a farce
This new tour financed primarily by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund is just plain bad for golf. Being a long-time lover of the game and a spectator at many professional tournaments, why would I watch what is basically a 54-hole exhibition? Besides Mickelson several other big names have jumped at the big money the Saudis are throwing around. It is reported that Dustin Johnson received $150 million to join. Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed quickly followed. Honestly, I have no problem with professional golfers making as much money as they can, but the hypocrisy of these turncoats drives me crazy. The LIV golfers say it’s not just the money. They say the tour will be good for the future of golf. I guess shortening tournaments 25 percent and adding rock music is good for those that like Happy Gilmore Golf. I would give them more credit if they just said the money was too good to pass up. I know if the Saudis offered me the big bucks to write this article, I would take the money and run, but I wouldn’t go on and on about how me making millions is good for The JB Replay.
Also ludicrous is the suggestion that the shorter tour (eight events this year) will give the overworked more quality time with their family. It’s ironic that more time off is given as a reason yet three players who were banned from playing in the Scottish Open (a four-day World Tour and PGA co-sponsored event ending today) were able to get a stay through international mediation that allowed them to play. I guess family was not important this weekend. I can happily report that one of those playing under that injunction, Ian Poulter, was in 156th place after the first day. Someone needs to tell Ian there is no money for last place in the real golf world. (Poulter played two rounds in the Scottish Open and missed the cut).
Now, as I am just days away from stepping on the most hallowed golf course of all time, I find myself facing a conundrum. I believe in rules, I believe in golf spectator etiquette, and I have enforced those rules as a marshall at the Hero World Championship in the Bahamas. People screaming, “Get in the hole,” or, “Mashed Potatoes!” makes my blood boil. As a spectator I cheer for a good shot and offer condolences for an errant one. Later this week on the four days of The Open Championship I will be rooting for three of my favorite players — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas — and rest assured I will be the gentleman spectator I have always been, but in my head I will be loudly booing Phil, Dustin, Brooks, Patrick, Ian and Sergio Garcia for their making a mockery of golf.