Money talks and the PGA moonwalks

How will the merger of the PGA with LIV Golf (an upstart, Saudi oil money-backed, player-friendly tour) work? My guess is that in each tournament they would split the 18 holes. The legacy PGA Tour would control holes 1-8 and finishing holes 12-18. The UAE/Saudis are responsible for holes 9-11. 

If I were a PGA Tour player under Sharia Law/Saudi rule, I would be very careful to get very clear what they mean when they say “the cut” line in their events.

I guess I need to be careful reporting on the Saudis; I could become a member of the dismembered Royal Family. But here goes. 

The PGA (Professional Golf Association) has had a de facto monopoly over U.S. golf for a hundred years. The Saudi Crown Prince, not even a golfer himself, decided to use his country’s Public Investment Fund to start a rival golf tour and call it LIV Golf. Maybe the aim was to gain international credibility after likely murdering journalists, or maybe the Saudis saw a weak monopoly.

For sure, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this provocation was funded by Biden cutting our oil production. At one point the price per barrel shot up to over $100. 

The Saudis had a good couple of years repairing their reputation. COVID helped them stay out of the news since suicide bombers had to work from home. But this move will either help them or it will just remind everyone of the Saudi human rights record. Either way, it turned the golf world upside down.

The LIV Tour paid players more — lots more. Phil Mickelson reportedly got $200 million (or probably his bookie did). Greg Norman, the rabble rouser, also got a chunk. 

The first move by the PGA was to thumb their crest-jacketed noses at LIV Golf as crass and not going to last. Major players like Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson signed up with LIV and were guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars, a lot of it up front. The PGA was harsh, initially saying that it would suspend players who decamped to the rival LIV Tour. And they did suspend 17 players. 

Then the PGA, trying to keep other golfers on the plantation, marched out patsies like Rory McElroy and others to browbeat and shame those who jumped ship. 

Donald Trump warned the players very publicly that they should take the money from LIV, and that it would merge with the PGA one day. Well, it did, but somehow folks are mad at Trump for seeing it coming. As we know, there is no room in society or politics for someone to be right. It just makes people mad. We as a society would rather someone be obsequiously nice than correct. 

I love golf and free markets. This is a lesson in both. I started playing golf in college when I was young and not very good. But after years of hitting balls, playing once a week and lessons, I am no longer young.

The Department of Justice Antitrust Division got involved. It had the elements the “Deep State” needs to litigate, it will get them press, and 99% of PGA players are Republicans. Thus, HQ in Washington approved. 

At issue is that the PGA calls itself a “membership organization.” Unlike the NFL, the NBA and many SEC football teams, players play for, and are paid by, their teams. In golf, they are “independent contractors” like a plumber or a bag man for the Biden family. You get a percentage of what you bring in (but always “10% for the big guy”). 

The PGA is the only game in town and is probably a monopoly. The LIV deal outed the PGA as such. The PGA then had to make peace with the players who did not leave for those LIV big bucks and with the DOJ. Monopolies are good for the monopolists, but not for the consumer or the workers.

I hate it that the PGA did not see this coming and has to sell out to the Saudis in a weak position. Golf is about tradition, as I found out on recent trips to England and Scotland. I spent time in the St. Andrews emergency room. Not to bore you with details, but in my opinion those Old Course ball washers have a dangerously confusing name.

A libertarian op-ed humorist, stand-up comedian and award-winning author, Ron does commentary on radio and TV. He can be seen on CNN and Fox, and can be contacted at Ron@RonaldHart.com or @RonaldHart on Twitter.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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