Lo and behold, professional golf has, at least momentarily, embraced a truce. The Great Golfing Compromise of 2023 came to the shock of absolutely everyone, for not a single soul saw this group hug as a reality. The PGA-LIV fissure looked like a rivalry that would last for years, getting contentious before it ever got chummy, but all has now, at least on paper, been resolved. The two tours have become one meaning we can all just get along. Well, everyone except Rory McIlroy who continues to fight an enemy that no longer exists.
As with any other historic battle between good and evil, the masses were instructed to pick a side. We were suckered into believing there was good and bad in their simplest terms. But things were not that simple as these words were irrelevant to begin with. After all, we’re talking about golf, where good and bad have been historically quantified by a single stroke.
It amazes me how no one saw this coming, the hush hush shell game played to perfection. With social media meaning everyone with internet access is now an information outlet, news of the merger between the PGA Tour (the “good”) and the LIV Tour (the “bad”) shocked sports fans around the world. Not a peep of information was leaked until moments after the two tours signed on the line that was dotted.
Calling the LIV/PGA relationship prickly would be understating the obvious yet this all happened so quickly we were robbed of the chance to see how nasty things could get. Maybe that’s why Rory is still carrying that torch.
LIV hasn’t even been in our lives a full calendar year. Odds are you probably didn’t even catch a tournament. It’s a newborn baby that barely learned how to walk, never mind say “Dada.” Netflix released an eight-episode reality TV show outlining the dissension between LIV and the PGA. While individual golfers were the focus of the show, the increasing number of them opting for LIV was a theme that loomed large in the background. PGA players that sided with LIV and its lump sum paycheck were ostracized, laughing all the way to the bank on their road to exile. Those who stayed loyal were portrayed as just that, carrying on the integrity of the game. Athletes like Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy declined the heartiest of paychecks, allegedly, that symbolically would have been cut by Phil Mickelson himself. If nothing else, Lefty would have been in the room, smiling his smile, while those multi-million-dollar checks were written by evil, robe-cloaked sheiks who made their fortune thanks to all of us driving Expeditions. Those sheiks, we were told, were human rights violators. And they might be, but not more so than any of us back here at home.
The LIV and PGA were supposed to create rival leagues that would last for years, LIV’s plans to revolutionize the sport countered the PGA’s refusal to embrace change. PGA golfers would prove to be better, until they wouldn’t. It turns out the LIV guys were practicing their craft. One need look no further than the once dejected Brooks Koepka who got his career back on track with a vengeance. Apparently, $100 million buys a lot of golf lessons. Four years without a major saw Koepka contend for a Masters crown and win the 2023 PGA Tournament. So much for who’s got the better golfers.
Nope, on Tuesday, the tours united under one roof. The PGA, who once fervently lambasted the LIV exodus miraculously changed their tune and decided the money their former golfers were leaving for wasn’t that “bad” after all. The Tour went from taking a moral stand, encouraging us to do so alongside it and acting like the scorned lover to embracing an institution it once stubbornly wanted no part of, and dropping all suits and countersuits involved in the divorce proceedings.
After a brief spat, Mommy and Daddy have got back together and with all due respect to the Isley Brothers, there is now love between the sheiks.
Throughout it all, I kept thinking about Ian Poulter, an aging former PGA Tour golfer with no major victories who appeared conflicted by the decision to join LIV but in the end opted for the $20 million paycheck. And why wouldn’t he? The odds of him making that much over the rest of his career remains highly unlikely.
The obvious losers here are those who turned down that paycheck, like the self-proclaimed “sacrificial lamb” Rory McIlroy who nobody informed he doesn’t have to hate LIV anymore. Turns out he hates the wrong Tour.
To recap, in a matter of months, we went from traitor-gating Dustin Johnson for cashing a $125 million paycheck to realizing he was the smartest guy in the room. The PGA Tour remains who we thought they were, what Dave Zirin called “a bunch of ham faced, julep drinking, amoral scoundrels.” As usual, I couldn’t agree more.
I wonder what the PGA guys think about the Tour’s sanctity right now.
Words like “collaborative” and “constructive” were used in the PGA’s statement about the union, which is all a load of horse shit. This is not about how repulsive or hypocritical the PGA Tour is. Any of us who bought into their high-and-mightiness were oblivious in the first place. Theirs is an American institution (or at least was before they sold out to the Saudis) that’s predicated first and foremost on turning as large a profit as possible. I don’t fault them for it. I fault the media for telling us what to think and those of us who ever fell for it.
I can’t help but compare this to Major League Baseball’s steroid scandal, how one moment we painted Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as national heroes, then turned on them with one fell swoop of the needle, as if we didn’t know what was going on all along.
To this day, we view Clemens and Bonds as the bad guys, as those who cheated the game, just as we were told those LIV golfers weren’t true to theirs. What does an institution have to do with how true one is to the game? It turns out the PGA Tour pulled the golf towel over our eyes, and it was covered in soot.
Was this all a preconceived ploy to get us to talk more about golf, with poor Rory McIlroy offered not even a raincheck? Was this the Tour realizing ratings were down with LIV’s biggest names now beating PGA players? Did the Tour throw in the towel before taking any worse of an L or did they recognize we would soon all get smart to their shadiness so why not cash in while the getting was good?
Either way, I watch the sport because I want to see good golf and could care less what the PGA Tour calls their new conglomerate. Why should I when the only one cheating the game is them?