What’s the old saying, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? The golf world is still reeling from Tuesday’s seismic betrayal, with the PGA Tour—in a flagrant display of greed—forming an unlikely partnership with its sworn enemy, LIV Golf, in all its Saudi-tainted blood money.
Fans aren’t happy and neither are most players, having their long-held suspicions confirmed that, deep down, the PGA was just as spineless and corrupt as its competition, the difference being that LIV, at least, never made a show of being morally superior or lecturing us on Saudi Arabia’s disgraceful history of human rights atrocities.
Principles be damned. Golf’s integrity was always for sale—they just needed to negotiate the right price. What’s left to say except for that the PGA Tour, after cosplaying as freedom fighters for the better part of a year, finally showed its true colors. Well, just one color, actually—green like money, and lots of it, perhaps enough to legitimize a dangerous regime that oppresses women and gays while inciting violence against journalists who expose their misdeeds.
The sad truth of “sportswashing” is that it works. The Middle East’s sports influence is growing with soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema both leaving Europe for Saudi Arabia (Lionel Messi considered a similar move before ultimately pivoting to MLS). Newcastle United is already bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) while Premier League rival Manchester United is currently weighing ownership bids from Qatari and Saudi investors.
The sportswashing phenomenon was never more prevalent than at last year’s World Cup, which saw FIFA bend over backwards for oil-rich Qatar, turning a blind eye to the miserable working conditions faced by laborers tasked with building stadium infrastructure, thousands of whom died. It’s not just Saudi Arabia, either. Russia and China have employed similar tactics, using their recent Olympic and World Cup hosting stints to mask widespread corruption and human rights abuses.
The discourse surrounding LIV has never been more toxic, undermined by empty platitudes and public relations spin, none more self-serving than the feeble defense offered by Bryson DeChambeau, who, over the course of five surreal minutes on CNN, managed to 1) downplay the events of September 11th (“nobody’s perfect”), 2) applaud himself for helping grow the game of golf and 3) frame Tuesday’s merger as a “win” for fans.
Bryson DeChambeau, an early recruit to the Saudi-backed LIV tour, on the PGA merger shocker and criticism from the families of 9/11 victims: pic.twitter.com/i1R6AWjw1Z
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 7, 2023
DeChambeau’s messiah complex here is almost comical, pushing the delusional narrative that he and other tour defectors had altruistic motives, crediting Greg Norman and the minds behind LIV with shepherding the sport in a brave new direction. You sure the $125 million wired to your bank account didn’t have anything to do with it?
Ever the contrarian, Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd gave a lengthy monologue marveling at our collective outrage and virtue signaling, accusing LIV opponents of grandstanding behind their computer screens. “The only people with morals and values in the world are never offered big money or enormous opportunities,” argued Cowherd. “I’m not in your shoes. I don’t know what it means for your family. Maybe it gets your kids to college, I don’t know.”
"I was offered six figures to do stuff with LIV Golf, I was invited to tournaments, I said no thank you. But I didn’t lecture sportscasters that did, I didn’t lecture anybody that did." pic.twitter.com/68hDw2TFGv
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) June 6, 2023
That’s one way to look at it, though it’s not as if DeChambeau was struggling to make ends meet before LIV came along with a blank check. Between his $33 million in PGA Tour winnings and lucrative endorsement deals with Puma, Bridgestone, Rolex and Bose headphones, DeChambeau already had enough money to last a lifetime. But he wanted more and, in the end, so did PGA commissioner Jay Monahan, who is rightly being raked over the coals for his hypocrisy, complicit in the same sportswashing grift he denounced with righteous fervor only months earlier.
It’s front-running at its finest, feeding our most innate survival instincts. It’s hard to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions about America in its current fractured state, but if there’s anything we’ve learned about this maddening enigma of land and water, it’s that we love to back a winner. Amin Elhassan made this observation on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, noting America’s frustrating habit of cozying up to bad actors, not because we believe anything they stand for, but because POWER is everything. It’s not a trait to be proud of, though as business interests continue to infiltrate our every thought, honor and virtue are evaporating all around us, naïve remnants of a society that has largely dispensed of anything that might resemble a moral fabric.
"There seems to be a real comfort with attacking these people…up until the money hits your account…That's kind of been America's relationship with dictatorships around the world: They're evil until they're on our side." – @DarthAmin on PGA/LIV.
— Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz (@LeBatardShow) June 6, 2023
Usually averse to politics, Pat McAfee made an exception when LIV came on the scene last year, presenting the nihilist view that, as willing participants in late-stage capitalism, all of us make moral compromises in our daily life, whether it’s buying supplies on Amazon or watching TikTok videos on an iPhone made in China. It’s a staggering thought, the kind of grim reality that might paralyze us, assigning consequences to all our actions, many of which we’re not even conscious of.
While compelling in its cynicism, McAfee’s thought experiment shouldn’t be seen as permission to abandon our moral principles, reducing us to a binary existence with no room for nuance. Life isn’t about being perfect, but rather making a concerted effort to be better each day, even knowing we won’t always be our best selves. It’s easy to get twisted in a philosophical knot, rafting the treacherous seas of right and wrong, but there’s one thing all of us can still do—try.
“[Logan] fed a certain kind of meagerness in men. Perhaps he had to, because he had a meagerness about him. And maybe I do about me too. I don’t know. I try,” Ewan Roy articulated while giving his brother’s eulogy on the penultimate episode of Succession. “I don’t know when, but sometime he decided not to try anymore.”
Ewan obviously wasn’t talking about the PGA Tour, but he may as well have been. Maybe we’re powerless to stop it, our cries for help lost in a noiseless void, but that doesn’t make Tuesday’s events any less heartbreaking, marking the day the PGA Tour finally stopped trying.