Ben Coley’s thoughts on the Saudi-backed golf tournament
Let’s forget for a moment where the money comes from. Let’s forget for a moment what money is for. Forget Saudi Arabia’s execution of 81 men on March 12 and its detention of women who dared to protest that they had been sexually assaulted. Forget the toll of the war in Yemen, which the UN estimated had claimed 377,000 by the end of last year. Forget September 11. Let’s forget – not because that’s what they want us to do, but because it allows us to sweep through the mess for a moment and see what’s left.
The first LIV Golf Invitational, labeled ‘London’ despite being played in Hertfordshire, ended on Saturday and, from a sporting point of view, it was a farce. His vaunted team element didn’t work. None of the few big names made a significant contribution. The departure of the shotgun failed to improve the experience. The promised broadcast innovation meant a leaderboard that often told us what happened before we saw it, and paid propaganda that your average bully would have considered a little on the nose.
Charl Schwartzel was leading after the first lap, which held true long after he finished, and was never caught. Schwartzel’s reward for beating a player just below him in the world rankings is four million dollars, a fact that could not have escaped anyone who watched commentators excrete a variation of the word money before or after each move. . Otherwise, Schwartzel gets nothing: no major departures, no ranking points, no exemptions and no change in his prospects of playing for fellow countryman Trevor Immelman in this year’s Presidents Cup. These are the things he gave up when he joined the LIV Golf circus.
And it was, from the start, a circus. From faulty equipment to the mock draft, itself rendered useless by the tournament, to the complete lack of live scoring throughout day one, it was a grim display that started badly and got worse. In Saturday’s final round, the question was whether Schwartzel would win as expected or whether Hennie Du Plessis or Peter Uihlein could catch him. When Greg Norman signed up to be the face of LIV Golf, such a scenario would have been close to the worst-case scenario. Nobody, not even Schwartzel, really seemed to care.
If there was any success, it was the size of the crowds – many of them received free tickets after the initial prize proved as popular as an interview with Graeme McDowell. Perhaps YouTube’s numbers are considered another hit, around 100,000 tuned for the first round and a similar number by the end of the third. Then again, around eight million people watched a plane land in a storm a few months ago. Success, like many things, is a subjective matter.
Objectively, there were all sorts of issues with the format and the way it was presented.
Showing more shots, for example, is all well and good, but when you only have 48 players, and most of them aren’t playing well, there aren’t many shots that matter. In the third round on Saturday, Richard Bland appeared on screen, putting from long range. The caption read “this from earlier”; the putt never seemed to go in. In some ways it’s a nice change from the inevitability of what we’re used to, but more importantly it brought to light what we all know, but no one out there would admit: what consequence there is had only related to money.
No, it’s not about the money. This is an exciting new format and the opportunity to play golf again as a team. These teams were determined during a draft in London, with the exception of two: South Africa (Stingers) and England (Mavericks), which had been previously agreed. They were the two best teams on paper, undermining the very purpose of the draft, and they finished first and third, with the Stingers winning by 14 strokes. In the final round, Schwartzel and Du Plessis were apparently teammates whose sole purpose was to fight, much like Mickelson-Woods to a Channel 5 audience.
And what about the idea that the captain of each team would select the scores that will count? That, like the notion of securing a young, exciting and relevant member of the sport’s elite, had to be scrapped, probably because the people behind it realized what a completely stupid idea it was. At least it spared Torque GC Captain Talor Gooch having to go through the ritual of not picking Andy Ogletree every day. It’s no disrespect to Ogletree, it’s just that there’s never a scenario in which picking the worst golfer would make sense.
These weren’t the team’s only problems. We have the names, of course, none of which are good, many of which are actually very hard to say let alone remember. But above all, I wondered what would happen to the next draft. If Captain Gooch goes first, can he pick Bernd Wiesberger, like McDowell did last week? And if he can, exactly how many teams is Wiesberger allowed to represent in the eight-event season, who does he play for in the match play final, and how does that engender? there rivalries? Call me negative, but since none of the players are wearing their team merchandise, I’m starting to have doubts about the validity of tag team competition.
But the gunfire begins! Sure, what a brilliant innovation to bring a club game staple to a global audience. Except that means players complete their turns all the way through, with no way of knowing what’s going on elsewhere. This means that instead of scattering a series of key moments into a full scene, we have the prospect of too many things happening at once. Schwartzel’s dominance denied us a chance to witness it, but it will happen. And it won’t be as dramatic as a player standing on the fairway while someone on the green makes a game-changing putt. They would have been much better off all playing first and playing nine or 12 holes, but whatever.
As for who will even be involved next time in Portland, who can say. We now know that Pat Perez and Patrick Reed will join Bryson DeChambeau and likely a handful of other PGA Tour golfers willing to give up their memberships and go back to what they signed up for. It is their prerogative. Beyond these few additions revealed this week, the only other thing we know is that something has to give. LIV Golf has done much of its 48-player, 12-team format, but no one seems to be asking who makes room for Perez, a 46-year-old who conceded during his initiation interview that he’s coming in because his companion Johnson put up a good word.
Finally, the commentary, moderated by Arlo ‘someone in Chicago is after me’ White, who sometimes seemed like the first time he heard about golf was last Monday. Alongside him were former Golf Channel stalwart Jerry Foltz and Asian Tour commentator Dom Boulet, whose knowledge of lesser-known players made him a welcome addition. Or at least he should have. Every time I watched, every chance to educate, explore was wasted in order to giggle maniacally every time a good shot was hit, then quickly mention what it might be worth in US dollars.
A good comment wouldn’t have saved this, but it might have helped.
Saturday’s last round, the only one I attended, was a treadmill of nonsense, which I’ll try to sum up quickly. First of all, right after I tuned in, someone said “it’s a masterclass of Schwartzel and Du Plessis”, who at the time had played seven holes each and hadn’t made any birdie. Shortly after, “everyone birdied today” was our intro to the latest “Don’t Blink” highlights package, except over a third of the field had yet to birdie. .
It got much worse. “We got to see a two-shot swing!” Boulet said, eager to galvanize interest in the odd one-on-one, only for Foltz to step in with “only on individual standings…they’re on the same team.” Jerry, buddy, nobody cares about the team element. I cannot stress this enough. There were really no teams this week. Hisnibs is an illusion.
It wasn’t Foltz’s finest moment (it’s both the best and the worst, because I’m trying to write for the golf-loving YouTuber now). That came later when he was put on the spot by White, who asked what Reed would bring to the LIV Golf “family”.
Don’t say the fans like it
Don’t say the fans like it
Don’t tell the fans…
“Patrick Reed…the fans love him.”
And that pretty much sums up the whole thing. Don’t believe what you have learned, what you have seen. Believe what we tell you, no matter how absurd it may sound. We say it, we say it loud and clear, and so it must be true. This is how so many of the darker corners of the world now operate, and this is where golf could be headed if the pot of blood money is deep enough to cover the failures of a series of exposures. ill-conceived that dilute competition while helping Saudi Arabia achieve its goal of using sport to clean up its reputation.
Forgive me, I had promised to do as I was told and remove the politics from the sport. What a pity they also took away her heart and soul.