Nothing funny about this money

Saudi investment in golf

Saudi investment – funny money

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


Last Tuesday, the much-heralded LIV Golf International Series announced a schedule of eight tournaments that will take place between mid-June and late October with a gross prize fund of $250 million. Given that, as you will be aware, this is the vehicle fronted by Greg Norman and driven by Saudi Arabian money, you may feel that ‘gross’ is indeed an appropriate word. Certainly it is probably not coincidental that each of the first seven individual 54-hole tournaments will carry purses of $25 million, which will be $5 million more than was on offer at the PGA Tour’s Players Championship the previous week.


Saudi investment – funny money

The first tournament will be at the Centurion Club near St Albans from June 9-11. The third, incidentally, from July 29-31, will be at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey, the course that was going to have hosted this year’s USPGA Championship until its proprietor became a key player in the violence that unfolded at the Capitol in Washington on January 6 last year. (The final event, a team championship, will be held from October 28-30 at a venue to be named: Trump National Doral, anyone?)


Saudi investment – funny money

Norman announced that invitations would soon be sent to 250 players inviting their participation. Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood will be among these but how many other players you have heard of will be likely to give this serious consideration, especially given the prospect that accepting the Saudi dollars might mean exclusion from the PGA Tour or the European Tour?…

….sorry, the DP World Tour. Which leads us on to the next saga of golf and iffy finances. As you will know, last autumn the European Tour rebranded itself the DP World Tour and declared how pleased it was that ‘World’ was now in its name because that more reflected its business model. On Friday, the DP World Tour emailed promotional material about some upcoming tournaments. Also on Friday, P&O Ferries summarily sacked 800 British crew via Zoom and said it would be hiring cheaper labour. The parent company of P&O is DP World, which recently announced “record” profits of $3.8 billion, up by 15%. The company also has a £146 million deficit in its pension fund. That’s pretty much the precise amount it has “spaffed” (to borrow from Marina Hyde in The Guardian) on its investment in what was the European Tour. Maybe that new-look name doesn’t look quote so good today.


Saudi investment – funny money

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Still, it wasn’t all sad news to do with golf on Friday, which saw the release of the film The Phantom of the Open. (I can see what they were trying to do with the title but I don’t think it quite works.) Starring Mark Rylance, it’s a comedic drama based on the forlorn attempt of Maurice Flitcroft to try to qualify for the 1976 Open Championship – ‘Seve’s Open’, the one won by Johnny Miller – even though he couldn’t really play golf.

Amid the grim reading elsewhere, at least that provided some cause for a chuckle. [Pause] Come to think of it, though, if Greg Norman doesn’t get his 250 acceptances, maybe there’ll be places in those fields for some other people who can’t really play golf?

Saudi investment – funny money

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com

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