Thursday, June 16, 2022


 Stanley – Thursday


The normally staid world of golf is currently being wracked with controversy, and not of the sort when Henry Fotherington-Bogsworthy surreptitiously nudged his ball into a more favourable lie.

Golf is often described as a gentleman’s or gentlewoman’s game because players are generally responsible for calling violations of the rules on themselves. The popularity of the game as a spectator sport has grown enormously over the past decades, helped by superb craftsmen of the game, such as Tiger Woods, large purses to be won, and enormous rivalries created, stoked by television and sponsors.


As a viewer of golf on television, I love to see the tension grow as a tournament moves towards it final holes. It is remarkable to me that several players may be vying for the trophy, separated by a stroke or two after four gruelling days of play on some of the most difficult courses in the world. The level of expertise is awe inspiring and continues to rise.


From the players’ perspective, the prizes to be won at each tournament are mouthwatering, with the winner often taking home well in excess of a million dollars, with millions more lavished on the top players in the form of sponsorships. Almost as important to the players are the world rankings. Every tournament sanctioned by one of the ruling bodies from around the world counts, with the biggest events, such as the four majors, counting the most.


Until recently, everything seemed to be hunky-dory for all interested parties. Then something happened that is threatening to tear the world of professional golf apart.


Enter the LIV Golf Invitational Series, masterminded by Greg Norman of Australia, and funded by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, known as the Public Investment Fund.

LIV CEO Greg Norman

It has offered staggering amounts of money to players to leave the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour. Legendary American player, Phil Michelson, for example, accepted a reported $200 million to change affiliations. Other players, such as recent world number 1, Dustin Johnson, have been payed similar amounts, while lower-ranked players may have received much smaller amounts, that were nevertheless enormous.

There will be only eight LIV tournaments a year (as of now) each with a field of 48 players. The prize money for each tournament is breath-taking. The total prize money for the first LIV tournament, which was held at the Centurion Club in England two weekends ago, was $25 million, which is twice the amount for the PGA Tournament being held in Brookline, outside Boston. this weekend. For example, the winner at the Centurian Club was South African Charl Schwartzel. The South African team, in a new competition type, also won the team event. Schwartzel took home prize money of $4.75 million on top of whatever he was paid to switch allegiances. 


So why the fuss?


Criticism of the LIV tour comes in different flavours. 


The first flavour revolves around Phil Michelson. After  acknowledging that Saudi Arabia had a “horrible record on human rights” — including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist — he them embraced a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ that put hundreds of millions of dollars in his pocket. Michelson didn’t do himself any favours when he then accused the PGA of ‘obnoxious greed’, despite having won 45 PGA-sanctioned tournaments, earning a fortune in the process.

Phil Michelson

Players like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy criticised Michelson, with the latter calling Michelson’s comments ‘naïve, selfish, egotistical, ignorant.’


The second flavour of criticism has been the quality of players jumping ship. McIlroy was dismissive of the players in the first LIV tournament. ‘I certainly don’t think the field is anything to jump up and down about,’ he said. Many regard the LIV players, in general, as players who want less competition and more money  – that any responsibility to and loyalty to the organisation (the PGA) that gave them the opportunity to be so successful has been pushed aside.


The third flavour of criticism is that splitting the talent pool will inevitably lead to there being less interest from the public. How can there be a Number 1 if the players are not all competing against each other? Although, of course, there is a lot of self-interest involved, the PGA has used this flavour to strongly oppose the creation of an opposing tour. On 9 June 2022, it announced that its members who participated in the first LIV Golf tournament were no longer eligible to compete in PGA tour events or some international events, such as the President's Cup. The gauntlet is down.


My own views are very conflicted. 


On one hand, I believe that individuals have the right to do the best for themselves and their families. From a financial perspective, the players who have moved to LIV will definitely make more money. 


On the other hand, abandoning the very organisation that helped make them successful seems to be an abdication of responsibility, an entirely selfish decision. I would perhaps be more sympathetic if these golfers were in dire financial straits.  But that's not the case: all of them have already earned millions of dollars. They have lost my admiration and my trust.


As I sit, eyes closed, listening to what my instincts are telling me, my path forward becomes clear. My Anglican-School education pushes me in the direction of believing that PGA players have a duty to support the PGA, which continues to support them at a level that would have been incomprehensible a decade or two ago. Furthermore, I believe the Saudi involvement is purely to whitewash their human-rights violations. 

I lived through the apartheid era in South Africa, when many sportsmen and sportswomen wanted to let South Africa continue to participate on the international stage. They argued that politics should be kept out of sport. They were wrong. Politics already controlled every aspect of sport in South Africa, preventing anyone who wasn't White from competing on an equal footing. For golfers who have moved to the LIV tour to ignore the Saudi record on human rights is to tacitly condone it.

So I have decided that I won’t support the LIV tournaments, and I won’t watch any of them. I don't think that the creation of the LIV series will help golf in any way. To the contrary, I think it is and will continue to damage the game.


PS 1: Where did the name of Greg Norman’s tour come from?  LIV in Roman numerals means 54, which is the number of shots you would play if you birdied every hole on a standard 72-par golf course. It is also the number of holes each LIV tournament will be played over rather than the normal 72 holes. 

PS 2: I am back in Minneapolis after being delayed in Denmark due to a surprising positive COVID test at Copenhagen airport. I was asymptomatic. Fortunately I could isolate at Mette's home rather than at a grungy hotel. The strange things was that I had had typical COVID symptoms a couple of weeks earlier while on a boat trip down the Danube. However, I tested negative four times on the journey.


Upcoming events

September 2022: Release of the eighth Detective Kubu mystery, A Deadly Covenant.

September 2022: Bouchercon in Minneapolis



  1. Sorry about the Covid. I had the same experience. My thoughts on Golf and LIV are equally conflicted and I think for now at least I will follow your lead.

  2. I do wonder about golfers. The golf golden child in the family goes mad when I tell him it's a game, not a sport. He goes a funny colour of purple. Then I force him to watch the Tour De France. Why is hitting a ball in a hole so much more profitable than suffering on a bike for three weeks?