The political, commercial, and sports aspects of the new Saudi partnership in golf are open to debate
The political, commercial, and sports aspects of the new Saudi partnership in golf are open to debate
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A popular slogan of the PGA Tour used to be “These guys are good.” The new tagline might read, “These guys are even richer.”
On Tuesday, the venerable PGA Tour revealed a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, the financier of its sworn rival LIV Golf, a breakaway circuit that has split the sport and sown feuds among its top players. The announcement was so shocking that many golf fans initially thought it was fake.

The deal means that the PGA Tour, which was built on the image of the all-American Arnold Palmer, who personified post-World War II US values, will now rest on a pile of money put up by the regime that the US blamed for the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers of the September 11, 2001 attack, and which has frequently been condemned by Washington for infringing upon the rights of women.

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After sinking the winning putt on the 18th green at Trump National Doral Miami during the LIV Golf Invitational – Miami’s team championship stroke-play round in October 2022, Dustin Johnson, captain of the winning 4 Aces GC team, celebrates with his teammates.
Shockingly, the PGA Tour has reconciled with a rebel group funded by Saudi Arabia. golf broadcast on LIV
The new reality of professional golf will undoubtedly result in a greater show for spectators, as the competing circuits will merge, the DP World Tour (previously the European Tour) will be included, and the game’s biggest names will play each other more often.

That’s OK with plenty of sports enthusiasts in the United States and internationally. On Sundays, they prefer to kick back and watch the last nine holes of their favourite golfer or their Gulf-owned Premier League team. Who could possibly hold against them a haven from the acrimony and tribalism of contemporary politics?

If the PGA Tour players agree to the contract, it will be a huge success. World golfers have a better chance of winning big, other circuits will be given a shot in the arm, and the government of Saudi Arabia and its ruthless leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), will be linked to one of the world’s most prominent sports assets all year long. The new deal also put a stop to any existing lawsuits between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.

However, for others, Tuesday’s peace agreement on the linkages brings up difficult moral questions. This not only highlights the way professional sports in the current day are subject to the richest bidders, but it also puts in the spotlight the hypocrisy of prominent PGA executives who had previously criticised players who migrated to LIV. For supporters whose beliefs and history conflict with those of the faraway and, at times, politically tense organisations who essentially control their clubs and top performers, this can only raise unpleasant issues.

Many PGA Tour players stated that they were unaware of the contract in advance, so PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan had some explaining to do, not least at this week’s Canadian Open. Last year at the same event, Monahan brought up 9/11, saying that two close families of his had suffered losses in the worst terror attack on American soil, and adding, “I would ask any player that has left, or any player that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologise for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

With the help of a flood of Saudi money, Monahan is now poised to become the de facto world golf leader outside of the four majors.

On June 2, 2023, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses an audience in Helsinki City Hall.
Blinken and Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Meet with 9/11 Families United said that Monahan exploited the tragedy as bargaining leverage in a commercial agreement to rejoin golf, which was a serious accusation. According to a statement released by the organisation, he “co-opted the 9/11 community last year in the PGA’s unequivocal agreement that the Saudi LIV project was nothing more than sports washing of Saudi Arabia’s reputation.” For example: “But now the PGA and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills, taking billions of dollars to cleanse the Saudi reputation so that Americans and the world will forget how the Kingdom spent their billions of dollars before 9/11 to fund terrorism, spread their vitriolic hatred of Americans, and finance al Qaeda and the murder of our loved ones.”

After what Monahan described as a “heated” meeting with PGA Tour players on Tuesday, he reversed his position and was questioned about it.

People are going to label me a hypocrite,” he said. When I made a statement, it was based on my knowledge at the time and on the perspective of someone who is attempting to compete with the PGA TOUR and our players.

Former major winners who switched tours last year, like as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, and Cam Smith, may be wondering whether their PGA Tour peers would be subjected to the same level of scrutiny over human rights.

One renowned golfer who is also a former president was thrilled with the transaction and looked eager to take part of the credit for himself. After the PGA Tour and other golf regulatory organisations distanced themselves from the current frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nominee because to his toxic political record, he allied himself with LIV. Trump has sponsored many LIV tournaments at his courses, which is consistent with his history of not cutting ties with the Saudis after Khashoggi’s murder in 2018, since the Saudis are such good consumers for the United States.

“This is a huge, stunning, and spectacular development for the fantastic game of golf. Best wishes to everyone! On Truth Social, Trump used all capital letters.

Those who defend the LIV golfers argue that the players had no option but to put their own interests above of any moral considerations when they decided to work with the Saudis, a calculation that echoed decades of US foreign policy. Indeed, President Joe Biden had urged for the kingdom to be regarded as a “pariah” on the 2020 campaign road because of Khashoggi’s murder, only to come to the kingdom as president and fist-bump MBS when he required an increase in oil price output to bring down American petrol costs.

On Tuesday, after the announcement of the LIV/PGA alliance, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the Crown Prince in Riyadh.

Difficult Ethical Issues
It has always been a bit of an antiquated notion that politics and sports should be kept apart. After all, the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup are two of the most politically charged events on the world. As a result of massive TV rights deals, the highest-paid athletes in contemporary sports like football, F1, and NBA earn millions of dollars annually.

But because of how golf has been marketed, the LIV/PGA Tour arrangement announced on Tuesday exposes moral problems with startling clarity. The source of the sport’s new financial lifeblood is obvious in a context where players often call penalties on themselves and where pundits revere elite players in hushed tones as paragons of gentlemanly behaviour, patriotism, and family values.

The PGA Tour’s new relationship with Saudi Arabia is the most high-profile case yet of “sports washing,” the practise by which authoritarian governments try to improve their international reputation by courting the world’s most notable athletes despite widespread condemnation of their political systems and human rights records. Attempts at political action at the 2008 Summer and 2022 Winter Olympics in China were generally unsuccessful due to the country’s authoritarian governance, leading to accusations that China had a hidden objective. Another instance of a country using its economic might to project a fresh image to the globe was Qatar’s hosting of the globe Cup in last year. FIFA’s claims of inclusiveness were undermined by many scandals that unfolded throughout the tournament, including those involving LGBTQ rights and the treatment of workers who constructed the stadiums.

To ensure their continued prosperity once their carbon energy supplies are spent, countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others are investing heavily in tourist, entertainment, and sports infrastructure.

This reflects the worldwide redistribution of wealth and influence from Western European capitals to the growing markets of the Middle East, India, and China. Like golf, football is raking in the dough. In the UK, for example, working class football teams that have been integral parts of their communities for decades are suddenly controlled by foreign energy magnates. The United Arab Emirates headed a consortium that purchased Premier League powerhouse Manchester City. And since a Saudi Arabian-led group purchased Newcastle United, Magpies’ supporters have to weigh the ethical implications of their allegiance (or lack thereof). And the Indian Premier League, which offers high payments for a truncated version of the game, has revolutionised cricket throughout the world.

Cristiano Ronaldo, a legend of the sport who has played for the best teams in Europe, is finishing his career on the high wage of the emerging Saudi league. Adding insult to injury, on Tuesday, the Saudi club Al-Ittihad announced the acquisition of French striker Karim Benzema from Real Madrid.

Unanswered questions in sports
As many sports questions have still to be addressed regarding the PGA Tour and LIV Golf’s new relationship. To maximise profits, the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the PGA Tour, and the DP World Tour have formed a partnership to merge their respective commercial golf companies and rights (including LIV Golf) with the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s. According to CNN, a PGA Tour spokeswoman said that the agreement does not constitute a merger.

As Monahan put it, “after two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” praising a “transformational partnership” that would “benefit golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners, and fans.”

Governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund Yasir Al-Rumayyan told CNBC he anticipated the collaboration to be finalised within weeks and, in a remarkable move, disclosed that he had only minutes before contacted LIV icon and Hall of Famer Greg Norman about the proposal.

Due of LIV’s big signing bonuses and huge purses at far fewer tournaments than the PGA Tour, the primary US circuit introduced its own select “designated events” with increased prize money to compete for the PGA Tour’s best players. Bitter legal fights between the two parties have finally been settled.

Whether or not LIV stars will be permitted to compete in PGA tour tournaments like The Players Championship, which they were previously prohibited from, remains to be seen.

Next, we don’t know how the current PGA Tour players will react.

Collin Morikawa, the 2012 British Open champion, said, “I love finding out the morning news on Twitter.”

The abrupt statement did not elaborate on the future of LIV tour events, which have failed to attract a sizable television audience. Although Monahan did not explicitly state it, the statement did give the impression that the new organisation will be using the team event concept established by LIV to supplement the conventional solo tournaments in golf.

On Tuesday, Mickelson was the golfer who seemed to be the happiest. The three-time Masters winner was a vocal proponent of LIV, a breakaway he said would revolutionise the structure of professional golf and provide better benefits for players, and he received the greatest criticism for leaving the PGA circuit for a reputed big payoff.

When asked by golf writer Alan Shipnuck about the realities of working with the Saudis, Mickelson was candid, calling them “scary mtherf*kers to get involved with” in an interview he subsequently claimed was off the record. Shipnuck has said in writing that he never made such an offer to Mickelson.

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