Saudi-backed golf tour deserves to be ignored, its players deserve to be pariahs

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • A new Saudi-backed pro golf tour will have its first event this weekend.
  • The first event will feature a weak field. None of the world' top-10 players will compete.
  • The most high-profile player in the field is former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

They’ve made their decisions.

For the professional golfers who have signed up to play in this weekend’s Saudi-financed LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club near London, it’s abundantly clear that one factor trumps everything else — cash.

Now they must live with the consequences of those decisions, including irreparably damaged reputations, lost sponsorships and possible bans from major tournaments.

The repressive Saudi regime, known for killing journalists and dissidents and denying basic human rights to many, is obviously trying to use its breakaway LIV series as a form of “sportswashing” in an attempt improve their tarnished worldwide reputation.

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The players who have elected to play in the inaugural LIV event this weekend know that. They are not stupid men.

Still, they are choosing to ignore that fact because the Saudi government is waving an enormous amount of money under their noses.

Need proof?

Taking the cash: The most high-profile players to announce their intentions to play in the first LIV tournament are Dustin Johnson, the former No. 1 player in the world, and Phil Mickelson, a six-time major champion.

Johnson’s play has fallen on hard times as of late. He’s dropped to No. 15 in the world. Maybe that’s why he chose to accept the Saudi cash. He’s certainly not making the prize money that he earned in previous years.

That may be why he suddenly reversed course and, after previously saying he was committed to the PGA Tour, decided to join forces with the Saudis.

Of course, the reported $125 million the Saudis offered him likely helped to change his mind, too. Johnson is already a rich man, having made more than $74 million in tournament earnings, but he obviously wants more, and he’s willing to accept blood money to get it.

So is Mickelson, who basically fell off the face of the earth after making some outrageous comments in relation to the Saudi-backed tour. That led to his hiatus from the game for months. He will, unfortunately, emerge from exile this week.

So, too, is two-time major champion Greg Norman, the LIV Golf CEO and the driving force behind the tour, and the other players committed to the new series.

Weak field: Thus far, the field for this weekend’s LIV event is thankfully pitiful. None of the top 10 players in the world are in the field, and only four of the top 50 players have signed up. Let’s hope it stays that way for future LIV events.

Even more importantly, the world’s most popular player, Tiger Woods, and the game’s greatest-ever player, Jack Nicklaus, have thus far expressed no interest in the Saudi-backed tour.

Nicklaus says he was offered $100 million for his involvement and Woods reportedly was extended a high nine-figure deal.

Ignore the tournament: Given that backdrop, we encourage all sports fans to do one simple thing with the LIV event this weekend — ignore it completely.

Don’t watch it. Don’t read about it. Don’t pay any attention to it. That will deny the Saudis their most cherished desire with the tour — eyeballs and ears for their propaganda.

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Moreover, we encourage sponsors to drop players who participate in LIV events, just as Royal Bank of Canada did with Johnson.

Finally, we hope the PGA Tour will ban the players in this week’s LIV event from competing in PGA Tour events and we hope the organizers of golf’s four major championships will follow suit.

There must be penalties for the players who are willing to sell their integrity.

They need to be made golfing pariahs.