Who cares who wins?

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The absurd riches that are presently flooding the sport may end up finishing it.
Posted on
April 29, 2024
by
Robert Green in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Guy Kinnings, chief executive of the European Tour Group, spoke last week about the possibly impending talks regarding prospective co-operation between the main tours and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the backers of LIV Golf. “The more you read headlines about viewership figures going down,” he said, “people realise if they don’t move quickly there will be lasting damage.” What I think we do know is the ‘solution’ that the main tours will come up with in order to address the issue: throw more money at it!

PGA Tour Enterprises has had a cash injection of $1.5 billion from a consortium called the Strategic Sports Group, a situation which has caused some PGA Tour board members (but not Rory McIlroy!) to feel there is now no need to negotiate a deal with PIF. With some of this money, the Tour has decided to reward its members for not going to LIV. There are strings attached - this is manifestly not a cash injection - but reportedly this might mean $100 million eventually making its way to Tiger Woods. Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner who refused to meet with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of PIF, before all hell broke loose, albeit he has done since, is somehow still in his job, which now seems largely to consist of doling out other people’s money in an effort to prop up a discredited organisation which Jon Rahm might not be the last big name to quit.

In the Iain Carter book Golf Wars, to which I referred in my last blog, Giles Morgan, who was previously in charge of HSBC’s wealthy support of golf, said: “The reason why I’m so glad I’m not at HSBC any more is that, knowing the bank, there is no way I could have got those big numbers through, but I wouldn’t have wanted to. Would I want to be seen as the person feathering the pockets of 250 people maximum? I don’t think so.”

Another recently published golf book is Rainmaker, the story of ex-IMG ‘super-agent’ Hughes Norton who, back in his heyday, managed the business affairs of first Greg Norman and then Tiger Woods. That’s some LIV/PGA Tour nexus there! Towards the end of his book, Norton wrote: “There’s a sense that’s golf’s fan base is waning, perhaps becoming both bored and peeved by the decadence of the show-me-the-money era. Professional golf, if it isn’t careful, may well become a victim of its own greed.”

He may have a point. If one of the reasons for LIV Golf to come into existence was to grow the game, as Norman insisted (although no one believed him), it may be that the absurd riches that are presently flooding the sport may end up finishing it. It won’t harm the golf that really matters - the golf that we play with our friends; nor the major championships, which thankfully the tours have no control over; and nor the biennial magnificence of the Ryder Cup. But if giving Tiger Woods another $100 million, with or without strings, is the best plan Monahan has for making use of his new-found largesse, why should any of us care for very much longer about the damaged ‘product’ his organisation provides?

 

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com

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About Robert Green

Robert Green is a former editor of Golf World and Golf International magazines and the author of four books on golf, including Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius. He has played golf on more than 450 courses around the world, occasionally acceptably.

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