With LIV Golf Trump Is Helping the Saudis Buy Their Way Into American Hearts

For those of you who don’t know or aren’t concerned about the $84 billion industry of hitting a miniature ball into a 4-inch hole and a quarter with a flag sticking out, be a sport and save a moment.

Consider the meaning PG Wodehouse presciently assigned to a multimillion-dollar squad of qualified country club icons this week abandoning the lucrative PGA Tour of America for a fatter payday in Saudi Arabia’s breakaway series of golf tournaments called the LIV Tour. “To find a man’s true character,” said the beloved British author, “play golf with him.”

We now have a much better idea of ​​the true character of some of these golfers.

As the summer of the oil price shock hits the US, Saudi Arabia is taking its first step to use the kingdom’s oil profits to fund a hostile takeover of one of America’s favorite pastimes.

For the uninitiated, the most recognizable accessory on the tee box is the Par Aide Master Ball Washer. Manual contraption is necessary because a golfer’s balls get dirty, as does Saudi Arabia’s reputation. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s cleaning solution is the age-old practice of sports laundering, the burlesque application of large sums of money to a sporting team or event designed to clean up the mess.

Tiger Woods reportedly turned down $1 billion to join the Desert Rats, and the PGA banned malefactors from its locker rooms.

“Those who have decided to turn their backs on the PGA Tour in willfully violating a regulation (are) being notified that they are suspended or are no longer eligible to participate in the PGA Tour Play,” the PGA said in a statement Thursday,

Still, it’s easy to accept Saudi money, harder to justify it in public.

However, the Crown Prince remains intent on reshaping the global golf industry after a first venture into sports laundering last year, when the Saudis took control of Premier League football club Newcastle United and invested $900 million in holding an annual Formula 1 race in Jeddah until 2032. Seven-time British F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has publicly lamented and criticized the Saudi regime’s 2017 arrest of 14-year-old Abdullah al-Howatti, who was sentenced to death. two years later.

“It’s mind-blowing to hear the stories,” Hamilton said. “When you’re 14 you don’t know what the hell you’re doing for your life.”

Salman, 36, knows exactly what he’s doing.

Earlier this year, for example, Salman’s $600 billion Saudi Public Investment Fund paid over $1 billion in cash to buy the Swedish eSports company Modern Times Group, and a further $500 million to buy ESL FACEIT Group eSports tournament organizer. Salman’s other sports cleanup agents include a long-term partnership with WWE and the hiring of the Boston Consulting Group to start a lobbying campaign with the ultimate goal of FIFA granting the kingdom the rights to host a World Cup.

“Fans and spectators need to look beyond the glamor of these events,” says Minky Worden, director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of using sport to rehabilitate its global image, it would be cheaper and easier for Saudi Arabia to simply carry out fundamental human rights reforms and respect the basic rights of its citizens to improve its image and standing in the world.”

The new series of eight golf tournaments – prepared by two-time British Open champion Greg Norman and the kingdom’s General Sports Authority – begins at the Centurion Club outside London on Thursday and ends at Trump National Doral Miami. Pay no attention to the fact that the PGA in 2016 ended its long-standing relationship with the twice impeached US President Donald Trump’s Blue Monster course after he made derogatory remarks about Mexicans.

“The PGA Tour is taking the tournament out of Miami and moving it to Mexico,” Trump raged when he was told the World Golf Championship was no longer his for the market. “They are moving to Mexico City which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance.”

The PGA responded by withdrawing its 2022 PGA Championship crown jewel from the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey and sending the tournament to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Phli Mickelson and Greg Norman are two of the biggest names on the Rebel tour.

Luke Walker/WME IMG

But Trump and his golf partner Norman, aka the Great White Shark, also had a sort of insurance policy underwritten by their mutual friend Salman, who has been widely criticized for human rights violations and is accused of sanctioning the murder and dismemberment. of Istanbul in 2018. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump vocally pooped the CIA’s assessment that Salman ordered the assassination, refused to release the report as required by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, and sided with the kingdom’s assessment that Khashoggi was an enemy of the state. The lime continued after Trump. The Biden administration made the report public, confirming Salman’s leading role in the intrigue, but shortly after publication, the government issued an updated version that no longer included Salman’s name, officially absolving the Saudi heir of all responsibility.

Golfers call this a mulligan, the chance to make a second shot after the first has gone wrong by bad luck or a mistake. Re-doing is illegal under the rules of the USGA and Royal & Ancient, the two governing bodies of the sport. Any golfer who attempts this in a tournament is disqualified, banned from the course and shunned by other competitors.

However, a mulligan is hard for amateur golfers to resist and Norman admits that some of his fellow pros were drawn to another easy way out. Saudi money is “a very hard carrot to resist,” he said, specifically, a total purse of $25 million, fertilized with $20 million in individual payments and $5 million for the top three teams. The first seven LIV events will award the winner $4 million and the last-place golfer $120,000.

The amounts exceed any winnings the PGA Tour has available. In fact, LIV at the end of the season will drain a $30 million bonus on the top three. Trump’s Bedminster course hosts a LIV tournament in late July. The latest Saudi shooting at the Trump National Doral is slated to be a team championship with a prize fund of $50 million.

Trump is upbeat on the LIV Tour. The PGA and PGA Tour, Trump said on his Truth Social media platform, “have been taking advantage of players for many years. The ‘PGA’ has maximum tax-exempt status, makes a fortune and pays higher executive salaries than just about any of the (sic) very talented players can earn in a good year. LIV can change that!”

Is it any wonder that 36 of the top 150 professional golfers in the world, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood, have left the PGA so far?

“It’s a bummer,” is the interpretation of two-time champion Justin Thomas of the Saudi Arabian golf circus. “The day and age we live in now is so negative, you see that in sport and politics.” Warns celebrated professional Rory McIlroy: “Any decision you make in your life purely for money usually doesn’t end up going the right way.”

“The Saudis are scary motherfuckers to get involved with,” Phil Mickelson, LIV’s poster boy, told his biographer in February. As for how much the Saudis are compensating the three-time Masters champion to conquer his fear, “I believe the contract numbers should be private,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to be the case, but it should be.” It’s safe to assume that $200 million will dilute the moral stench.

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