WHEN does a drop become a torrent? When do we reach critical mass in the great game of golf’s angels and demons? With each week, the PGA Tour seems to absorb increasingly difficult lessons about what it means to no longer be the biggest boy on the court. Few will have been deadlier than this, and within that, we may eventually trace the most concussive point of this Civil War to 6:07 p.m. Wednesday.
There were no surprises in LIV Golf’s confirmation that they had signed Brooks Koepka – it was widely reported earlier in the week – but it was Machiavellian thoroughness in how the message was timed. which seemed significant. That’s because he came minutes after Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, took his place at a press conference to announce his countermeasures against a “foreign monarchy that spends billions of dollars to buy golf”.
Greg Norman’s Rebels had waited up to their necks for Monahan to explain his plans before pressing the button to send, and suddenly they celebrated that a massive name had jumped into the Saudi abyss (the number of Koepka was around $100 million, if you must know).
To say the gloves came out with the timing of their release would be to forget that they were ditched for knives, swords, maces, and axes by both sides weeks ago. The real impact of the maneuver was that it fell just as Monahan was playing a trump card, which was the money splash.
The key here is that Koepka almost certainly knew more money was heading to the PGA Tour. He had spoken to Monahan as recently as Monday and it should be noted that they are friendly enough that the PGA boss attended the former world No.1’s wedding less than three weeks ago.
For that reason, it would be naïve to think that Koepka had no advance warning of what would be discussed with 100 PGA members at a meeting on Tuesday – that the Tour is pumping an additional $54 million into prize funds for eight events and plans to launch a vast amount more to a fall series that looks suspiciously like the LIV formula.
With all of that in mind, and despite previous assurances, Koepka opted to leave anyway, without even letting Monahan know it was a signed deal.
If it was brutally cold, that also played a bit to a point Monahan made in his opening remarks: “If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are tickets to a dollar, the PGA Tour cannot compete.” He tried to fight the money with money and a tone of righteousness and succeeded in record time in proving his own argument that such battles with the Saudis are foolishly waged.
Which brings us back to critical mass. How many defectors are enough to tip the balance? When does LIV win? Arguably one answer to that is that they won’t do it without Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, or at least some combination of Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth or a few select others who might be considered the biggest names in golf. Norman’s task will be immensely more difficult if LIV does not succeed in the political fight to be eligible for the majors from 2023 – without this platform, their men of immense wealth will wither away in competitive irrelevance.
But maybe a better question here is has the PGA Tour ever lost? Time will tell what happens around the huge unknowns of the majors and the Ryder Cup, and indeed the longer-term position of the DP World Tour beyond Friday’s sanctions, but there is no doubt that Koepka leaves a terrible hole and that the PGA Tour takes on critical water volumes.
That first LIV field at Centurion was laughable, in its own way, given some of the names that made up the numbers. But it’s a serious group playing in Portland at the end of the month – in addition to Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia and the others, they now have Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Abraham Ancer. In other words, LIV Golf players have represented nine of the last 21 major tournaments.
Whether many golf fans will want to watch their LIV exhibit series is up for debate. What can be said with much more certainty is that the PGA Tour, for all its competitive and historic legitimacy, cannot afford to lose many more star attractions.
DO FANS CARE ABOUT SAUDI SPORTSWASHING?
ANTHONY JOSHUA and Oleksandr Usyk posed for the cameras during a promotional tour in Saudi Arabia this week. It brought to mind some of the awkward questions we asked Joshua about sports washing ahead of his Andy Ruiz rematch there in 2019, and from there you wonder if those topics, worthy as they are , move the dial for many fans of a given. sport. I discussed this the other day with a prominent boxing figure who said, “If bettors don’t give a damn about Daniel Kinahan and everything that happened there, why do you think that they would give two s*** about that?’ Depressing but probably true.
SERENA STILL THE QUEEN OF SW19
SERENA WILLIAMS is back and the All England Club’s tears of joy must have threatened the prospect of playing for much of Wimbledon’s first week. Thirteen different women have won singles at 20 Grand Slams since Williams last won one, in 2017, and as a quick quiz, try to name seven of them. Strong competition is the essence of sport and the Women’s tennis has it in abundance, but even at 40, and without playing a serious match in a year, Williams will be a street’s biggest draw.
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Saudis may not need many more defectors to win Gulf’s bitter civil war
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