News   |    June 13th, 2022

ON PAR?

Golf has been the latest sport to fall into widespread debate as we watch yet another attempt at a separate entity being setup in order to shakeup the traditional elite level competition. The PGA Tour is typically regarded as the pinnacle of Golf, a circuit founded in 1929 it boasts a roster of the very best athletes to take to the courses across both the United States and North America. This system worked well, as hopefuls would improve their rankings and strive to gain membership onto the tour, it would give a clear route and ambition for golfers to work toward. Moreover, it would provide a platform whereby the very best athletes all compete on one stage, intensifying the exemplary competition, infatuating fans across the world.

However, like anything in sports, the environment is ever changing. LIV Golf are a separate entity with Saudi-Arabian backing, with an ambition to attract some of the best golfers and form a new competition. This has caused quite the stir, as it directly challenges the PGA Tour. With an array of different terms and conditions, a prominent pull factor for athletes is the potential to earn an exceptionally increased amount of money.

In retaliation, most recently the PGA Tour have announced that all current LIV Golf participants and members will be suspended and not only be ineligible to participate in PGA Tour events and Presidents Cup, but those who have formally resigned from the PGA Tour will also be removed from the FedExCup points list. LIV Golf participants will also be ineligible to compete in other PGA Tour-sanctioned competitions, such as the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada, and PGA Tour Latinoamerica. The suspensions will not apply to any of golf’s majors, as the PGA Tour does not run those events.

Jay Monahan (PGA Tour commissioner) accompanied the statement by saying “These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons, but they can’t demand the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, and platform as you. That expectation disrespects you, our fans, and our partners.” Monahan also references the talk of money in the letter, following the decision of LIV Golf to sign bonuses to star players, which would exceed as much as $200m (€187m), and individual LIV Golf regular season event purses of $25m, far above most PGA Tour events.

The letter also individually names 17 players in the initial set of suspensions, a group that includes Mickelson, former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and Kevin Na, among others. Monahan continued “You are the PGA Tour, and this moment is about what we stand for: the PGA Tour membership as a whole, it’s about lifting up those who choose to not only benefit from the Tour, but who also play an integral role in building it. I know you are with us, and vice versa. Our partners are with us, too. The fact that your former Tour colleagues can’t say the same should be telling.”

Unsurprisingly, the feud endures as LIV Golf provide a counteracting statement of their own – “Today’s announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members,” LIV Golf said. “It’s troubling that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing. This certainly is not the last word on this topic. The era of free agency is beginning as we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London, and beyond.

Nobody wants to see a sport let alone golf become a divided community, split through personal gain and corporate greediness. On one hand we notice an entity wanting to change the dynamics of the sport, aiming to diversify the rules and create a new league differentiated by perhaps a contemporary yet money and decentralised orientated ethos. On the other, we understand an ethos entrenched by history, pride and a centralised system that has and looks to continue providing a platform where the best golfers in the world can compete on the largest stage of all. One thing is for sure however, golf as we know it may never be the same, the question is will it be for the benefit of the individual athletes or the sport itself?

Alfie Bobbins, - Integral Sports Management.

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