Golf’s Unedifying Power Struggle
“Unedifying.” That’s the word that springs to mind surrounding the power struggle currently taking place in professional golf.
And many of us think our game is a cut above other sports. Sorry, but when it comes to professional sport, power and money are what matters. And this grand old game isn't much different from other professional sports.
More and more I’m reminded of George Peper’s words at the 2010 Association of Golf Writers’ Dinner at St Andrews. With then PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and former European Tour Chief Executive Ken Schofield sitting just a few feet from him, Peper delivered an excoriating reminder to arguably the two most powerful men in professional golf when he said:
“Golf isn’t about FedEx Cups and Race to Dubai points. If professional golf were to vanish from the earth tomorrow, golfers around the world would observe a moment of silence and then go right on playing the game they love. They’d hardly notice the professional tours had disappeared. Golf would carry on.”
Spot on then, and spot on now. If anything, the current power struggle will only alienate average golf fans more. They’re the 99% who play this game, and many of them couldn’t care less about what happens for the 1%, no matter what the professional tours tell you.
Of course, we’ve been here before. Older readers will remember the acrimonious battle involving the Professional Golfers Association and tour professionals intent on setting up a professional circuit in the 1970s.
Remember the “Gang of Four,” on the 2008 European Tour, when Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer demanded an Extraordinary General Meeting to push for an independent audit of the European Tour books.
How about David Duval’s call for Ryder Cup players to be paid? Or when the European Tour presented the PGA with a fait accompli when it came to a share in Ryder Cup profits?
Now we have a repressive regime in Saudi Arabia threatening the status quo, the PGA Tour threatening to revoke memberships of players who sign up to the rival tour, the European Tour intimidating Ryder Cup stalwarts by telling them they will be ineligible for Ryder Cup captaincy if they join the new league, and managers and players drooling over more money than many of them are worth.
And it’s all about power, money and vested interests. So much for golf’s reputation as the “honourable game.” Unedifying perhaps doesn’t even come close.
Still, there is one positive from this whole PGA Tour versus Saudi Arabia scenario: it’s shone a light into Phil Mikelson’s true character. It’s not true that you have to play golf with someone to find out their true character, all you have to do is dangle large cheques in front of them to find out what they’re really like.
Mind you, golf fans got a true glimpse into the man that is Phil Mickelson when he publicly trashed Tom Watson in the aftermath of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Unforgivable.
How do you spell “charlatan?”
#JustSaying: “In golf, as in other sports, the trick is to keep ahead of the game. Once a ruling entity allows itself to be overtaken by events, the initiative is lost and, with it, authority.” Laddie Lucas, from his book John Jacobs’ Impact on Golf