The first Saudi rebel tour gets under way in June with Phil Mickelson poised to line-up alongside Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter in St Albans. Participation in the tour may cost players dearly depending on how Ryder Cup teams and the organizers of the four majors view the event. But are our readers saying about the controversial tournament?
We asked for your comments on the ramifications of the tour and our chief sports writer Oliver Brown has responded to some of the best of them.
This will be great for golf, the players, the spectators and the TV audience. Watching golf had become boring, same old boring commentators during ad breaks in America, very soft greens for target golf. We need to see more playing of all golf shots in general and not jumping from one putt to another with many minutes taken up with lining up a putt.
Kerry Packer really changed the cricket for the benefit of the players and the watching public. I think in time we will feel the same about this breakaway from the way golf is administered and broadcast at the moment.
Where golf has grown stale is in its over-reliance on 72-hole strokeplay. Lee Westwood argues there is no more exciting moment in the calendar than the first day of World Matchplay in Texas, where 32 head-to-head contests provide a precious deviation from the norm. The Saudis’ rebel tour should provide more coverage of the shots that matter, with all eight events adhering to shotgun starts. But this will not be a Packer-esque revolution without the finest players. It needs more than a mercenary Phil Mickelson signing up if it is to succeed globally.
Brilliant – this example by at least these few eminent players will widen the split rapidly and many more household names should start appearing. Could be a bright new dawn if handled properly.
I doubt it. Most of golf’s “household names” are rich enough without Saudi blandishments. Rory McIlroy is not alone in the view that an extra £ 50 million is unlikely to change his life. He inhabits a vast mansion in West Palm Beach but admits that he still only uses “the same three, four rooms”.
It will be enormous hypocrisy for the DP World Tour to ban European Tour players.
Yes, there are double standards everywhere you look. For a start, the European Tour has re-branded under the name of a Middle Eastern company. It also allegedly sought a larger deal with Saudi Arabia at the height of the pandemic. For it now to threaten lifetime bans of any players seduced by the same bottomless pit of sovereign wealth seems two-faced at best.
I don’t see what the problem is here. We live in a capitalist system / society. If I want to set up any kind of rival business in any industry I have the freedom to do so. The employees and consumers have a choice. Why should the PGA (because that’s who really is behind the opposition to this) dictate where a sportsman can earn his or her living.
It is dictating because it is desperate to protect its investments. In the end, it cannot block players’ freedom of trade. But given the bounties the PGA Tour offers, with £ 350 million in annual prize money, it does not seem outrageous that it expects a modicum of loyalty in return.
What’s interesting is the lack of condemnation for Ian Poulter, he is allowing others to take the flak and hiding behind them.
You are right that Poulter has escaped the worst of the backlash. Partly it is because he has banked so much public goodwill for his Ryder Cup displays. There is also a nagging question: why, at 46 and with his chances of main tour victories fast receding, should he not be at liberty to cash in? Certainly, he is far from philosophically opposed to sharing in Gulf riches. When I wondered once why the winner of the Race to Dubai needed a Rolex thrown in with a huge check, he replied: “It’s called a bonus.”
Golf is in danger of making itself even more ridiculous than it is already. Not by taking Saudi money but by introducing silly purity tests and underlining that it has a closed-shop, old-school tie mentality.
The concept of a “closed shop”, popularized by the ill-fated European Super League, does not truly apply in golf. Players are free to jump ship to the Saudi project if they wish. The tours are simply making clear there will be severe and lasting consequences for doing so. I can understand their intransigence. It is not just the credibility of established tournaments at stake, but their very existence.
I can’t think of one Saudi golfer playing professionally on the main circuit. Like the footballers at Man City they are merely entertainers to these regimes in an attempt to make them respectable in the eyes of the world.
It is a time-honored Saudi tactic, the claim that their only motive is to “grow the game”. I remember the meeting of the country’s sports minister in December 2019, when Anthony Joshua fought Andy Ruiz Jnr in Riyadh. He assured that the objective was to inspire a generation of local schoolchildren to take up boxing. There are few signs of that pledge bearing fruit. It is the same in golf: the Saudi Invitational has been on the calendar for three years, but there is not a single Saudi representative in the men’s top 1,000. So, let us call this breakaway what it is: an unedifying cash-grab doubling as a cynical effort to airbrush the kingdom’s rancid human rights record.