Professional Golf Needs To Take a Deep Breath
If you play golf and heard about the LIV tour, then you know the controversies surrounding it.
And yes, I did say controversies, as in plural. Golf needs to take a deep breath.
It appears everyone has an opinion about it especially as it is underwritten by Saudi Arabia.
The feel-good of golf disappears very quickly when discussions begin about this tour.
A world tour is nothing new. Greg Norman being involved in a world tour is nothing new either. Discussions about such a thing began in the latter part of the 1980s and ramped up in 1991. But what was that “world tour” going to look like?
From the eight-foot stepladder view, golf is an international game and Norman wanted to bring it to that level by getting the best to congregate at a venue and compete.
There are a couple of things rather quirky about the game at the “recognized” professional level. It prospers at the local levels when communities etc. “buy” into the success and charitable outreaches that will benefit from hosting such a thing.
The other is golf’s “Knights of the Round Table” must agree on such a thing to happen. Who are the knights you may ask?
Well, let’s just start with Deane Beaman and Tim Finchem for starters. Both were PGA Tour commissioners and became very aware of the world tour rumblings, but it was Finchem that put the kibosh on it.
Norman was not pleased and at the time, the golfing public (keep that in mind) could have cared less. Now enter Jay Monahan, the current commissioner of the PGA Tour. He has taken a firm and rightfully so, stance in holding the line in protecting the PGA Tour. He is doing his job.
The LIV compared to the world tour has legs, although not very long legs, it has entered the race for professional golf. And to listen to the likes of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, one would think they want security for their families first and foremost.
I would have to ask, “With all the money they have received in winnings and sponsorship dollars, who the heck is their financial advisor that they would be counseled into something they are trying to tell us they don’t already have? Security?”
Another point is: Please refrain from telling us how hard you work.
On tour, I put my time in, plenty of it. I have my scars and although my time on “tour” was not what I had hoped, my “work” was confined to hitting golf balls, running and a lot of it, and more hitting of golf balls. But the truth is, we play golf. Touring professionals don’t collect our community’s trash or go on a second shift patrol with the police department or run into a burning building to save a life.
Tour players don’t stock grocery shelves or work at a garage fixing cars. For that matter, they don’t get in the back of an EMS vehicle either.
Touring professionals are in one business and one business only, and it’s called, entertainment...for the golfing public. Ah, there it is.
I love golf. I love everything about it. What the game does for people and what it does to people. It can change you. It tests you; it challenges you and at times, it exposes to you just how well you can handle the shot “you have to hit”. It is without a doubt, the greatest game ever…in my opinion.
But the LIV or 18 under par tor or whatever you wish to call it, and what it now represents has an “icky” feeling to it. Guaranteed money and the well from which it is drawn has a distaste to it like no other in professional sports.
My perspective says Phil Mickelson apparently needs to be introduced to this concept: Not one person is greater than the game.
It appears as though Phil feels his play has “proven” himself and because of that, given him the “right to choose” where to play. In that light here is a stout piece of cud I offer for him and others to chew on.
Golf has always been performance-based. Always. It is how we got our champions. There are no guarantees in the game and just because you played well this week doesn’t guarantee you success in the upcoming week(s).
Imagine this preposterous similarity: NASCAR implements new rules. Everyone crosses the finish line tied for the lead and with no dents. Sounds like a blast to watch.
It used to be if you wanted to play on the PGA Tour, you entered to play in the PGA Tour Qualifying School. To be clear, there were no classes to attend. No teacher with the monotone voice of Ben Stein to listen to. Just anguish of a wayward tee shot. It was gut-wrenching golf for a total of three weeks played during the same time as the World Series.
That was the upside. One had to finish high enough out of a local qualifier to gain an entry to the regional qualifier. At the regional qualifier, some players did not finish in the top 125 on the money list and they would be seasoned and were a part of that field. There was a two-day cut.
Once you finished in the top 35-45 at the regional you went on to the national event where for six days you lived and breathed with every shot and of course after the fourth day, there was a cut. Now, the Korn Ferry Tour provides the next wave of players. I like this better. A player now has an entire season of golf to show their worth.
Once a qualified member of the PGA Tour, you receive literature on "what you can do and what you can't do" to be a “member” of the PGA Tour. There are rules in all things including Candy Land. It’s what makes it fair; for everyone.
And now back to Mickelson, et al. He doesn’t like the rules of the PGA Tour. He wants them to be changed and in particular, when a member would like to play in a non-sanctioned PGA Tour event when it is being played at the same time a PGA Tour event is being played.
Here is where it gets sticky.
You see, without the players, there is no PGA Tour and without the PGA Tour, well I doubt very much anyone would have recognized the names of Phil Mickelson or Greg Norman.
The events to win are in fact on the schedule of the PGA Tour and other professional tours worldwide that are considered by the powers to be, worthy of their better players receiving invitations to play in The Open, the US Open, The Masters, and the PGA Championship.
Those are the events that get you into the annals of golf’s esteemed history. The names who made our game what it is today reside on those trophies. Do they think those should change too?
Regardless of one’s opinion of the LIV, which by the way is the Roman numeral for 54 or -18 under to a par 72 layout, it is here and where it goes from here is yet to be seen.
Since I operate a facility there has been only one person who when asked about the LIV said, “Who cares? I just like to watch golf.” See there, “icky”.
I have been in love with the history of our game. It stands for something and because of that, our game has a feel to it like no other.
From its earliest time to today golf has been replete with "colorful" individuals who have played it going back to a fellow named, Tom Morris Sr. or as we have learned to refer to him, Old Tom Morris.
He would win the second, third and fourth Open Championships starting in 1861 and ending his run with a fourth in 1867. He fathered a son known as Young Tom Morris who won four Open Championships in a row picking up where his father left off beginning in 1868. They played keeping the integrity of the game intact (not damaged or impaired in any way) and established great meaning to winning The Open.
Then there’s our own Bobby Jones, who left the game at the ripe old age of 28. He brought to us the first Grand Slam in 1930 and four years later presented us with what some would say is the greatest gift of all, Augusta, and The Masters’. In 1958, confined to a wheelchair due to his bout with syringomyelia, he was presented with the Freedom of St. Andrews at St. Andrews University.
Jones became the second American to receive such an honor with the first being, Benjamin Franklin. And because of Bobby Jones, winning the Grand Slam as an unpaid amateur an incredible achievement was born, putting even more emphasis on the value of winning a major because of what it means. It’s history. And history comes from a study of past events, particularly human affairs. What we did and how we did it.
Who will the next great player be that will give of him or herself to make better the game? To show us all that remembering from whence they came is but the start. To shoulder and protect the values that so define the game of golf. That money is fleeting and with that so is fame lest it is swallowed by the riches of the game instead of honoring it. And now in a specific sense, where does the money come from?
Who will it be that will show the great responsibility of standing for something called integrity and having the character to protect the valued history of the grand journey if they dare to embark? For that is where Old and Young Tom Morris, Bobby Jones, Harry Vardon, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Charlie Sifford, Francis Ouimet, and other bishops of the game will always stand inviting candidates to fill the open pews in golf’s fabled abbeys.
They are waiting and so are we.
I am reminded of something my father told me a very long time ago. “Son” he started. “If you stand for nothing, you will be swayed by anything. Be careful of what wind you put in your sails.”