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  • Alistair Tait

Golf history for sale to the highest bidder

The Los Angeles Open sounds far more intriguing to watch than the Genesis Invitational. The former sounds like a golf tournament, the latter like a gathering for religious students selected to delve deeply into first chapter of the Holy Bible.

In the beginning, golf tournaments had names that pretty much advertised what was in the tin. A golf tournament was in Los Angeles, therefore it made sense to call it the Los Angeles Open, or the LA Open. Even the latter name pretty much tells you all you need to know. The Genesis Invitational? Is it being played in Jerusalem?

The Los Angeles Open hasn’t been the Los Angeles Open since 1994 when Corey Pavin (pictured) was crowned champion. Back then its proper title was the Nissan Los Angeles Open. Then the city name quietly disappeared and it became the Nissan Open, then the Northern Trust Open, the Genesis Open and now the Genesis Invitational. Poor mixed up tournament; it just can’t make up its mind.

You have to admit the Nissan Los Angeles Open sounds better than the Genesis Invitational; at least golf fans know what tournament is being referred to.

I’m not picking on the Los Angeles Open, er, Genesis Invitational out of spite. It’s just a further sign of how much influence money has over the game. When sponsors say jump, professional tours ... well, you know how it goes.

It happens in Europe too. For years Europe’s elite turned up to play in the Dutch Open, inaugural year 1912. Now they compete in the KLM Open. Again, wouldn’t you rather win the Dutch Open rather than the KLM Open, as if you’d won a corporate outing?

At least The Netherlands still has a tournament, but national titles have disappeared. There were fears the French Open was a goner when it didn’t appear on the original 2021 European Tour schedule despite a history stretching back to 1906. Luckily it will go ahead this year, albeit with a weak purse and a weak field. It, like many current national championships pushed into the background by the advent of bigger purse events, is surely on life support after recent heady times as a Rolex Series event.

Sadly, national titles seem as unattractive as cosmopolitan city titles nowadays. The Belgian and German Opens used to be European Tour mainstays. The Belgian Open began in 1910 and ended in 2000 after Lee Westwood joined a list of champions with names like Faldo, Clarke, Olazabal, De Vicenzo, Van Donck, Cotton, Hagen, and Massy.

The German Open, first played in 1911, disappeared in 1999 along with a trophy etched with luminaries such as Woosnam, Montgomerie, Langer, Ballesteros, Jacklin, De Vicenzo, Thompson, Van Donck, Locke, Cotton, Taylor, and Vardon.

Seriously, why has golf allowed historic tournaments to disappear? The Western Open, established in 1899, was once considered on par with the majors, but vanished in 2006. Talk about a Who’s Who of golf history. A scan of the winners’ names is like walking through the Golf Hall of Fame. Yet the tournament just disappeared into the ether.

Still, next week we have the WGC–Workday Championship at The Concession. (Who comes up with these tournament names?) Which WGC event is that, I hear you ask? Is it the one the Mexican Government once sponsored? The former Cadillac WGC? The CA (what did CA stand for?) or American Express WGC? It’s not the same one Dell Technologies sponsors, is it? How about Accenture? Er, Andersen Consulting?

Tiger Woods has won 18 WGC tournaments. Wonder if he can name the sponsor of each one? Bet he has no problem with correct titles of his 15 majors.

I’m in the golf business and I struggle to come up with sponsors’ names. Years ago, I went to the launch of a new Ladies European Tour event at Brocket Hall. After a press conference with Laura Davies, the LET chief executive, and the company CEO putting up the cash, I asked fellow journalists over lunch to name the tournament sponsor. No one could remember, me included, and there were eight of us. No surprise the Cantor Fitzgerald Laura Davies Invitational lasted one year and was gone forever. A bit like the Western, the Belgian, and the German Opens. At least Los Angeles still has a golf tournament. Too bad it isn’t still called the Los Angeles Open, a far more appealing title than the Genesis Invitational.

Golf history. It’s for sale to the highest bidder.

Anyway, must dash: I’ve recorded the first round of the Los Angeles Open, sorry, the Genesis Invitational, and I want to find out which hole has been nominated as the AON Risk Reward Challenge. So exciting. Don’t tell me. You’ll spoil the fun.

#JustSaying: “In a major championship you don’t care about the money. You’re just trying to get your hands on a piece of silver.” Nick Faldo

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