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  • Alistair Tait

The height of golf hypocrisy?

Does anyone else see the sheer hypocrisy in the response from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan (above) and European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley to the proposed new Saudi-backed golf league?

Once again, I’m not an advocate of the proposed new tour, nor a spokesman. I‘m certainly not a supporter of the Saudi regime. However, I fail to see why the PGA Tour should be so vociferous in its opposition considering sport at the highest level is the ultimate example of free market capitalism. As Thomas Boswell wrote over 30 years ago:

“The tropical elegance of stops like Doral is a mask of the Tour, which is, in fact, pure lasses-faire capitalism and Social Darwinism placed behind a thick glass partition of good manners.”

Doesn’t that philosophy dictate competition is good? Why is it all right for the notion of survival of the fittest to play out between PGA Tour ropes, but not outside them?

For years the PGA Tour has lorded it over every other tour. Quite right too. It’s the biggest, the best and the richest. I’ve never heard a peep out of PGA Tour headquarters about the European, Asian, Australasian or Sunshine Tours posing a threat to the PGA Tour. Yet a new circuit props up and suddenly the PGA Tour goes into attack mode.

As a close friend told me this morning while discussing this issue, it looks like the PGA Tour has suddenly turned into a trade union, shutting up shop and threatening to hang “scab” labels on members if they dare step out of line.

For year the PGA Tour has been quite happy to allow its members to travel the world and play other circuits to make themselves richer on fat appearance fees. Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Patrick Reed all travelled to Saudi Arabia this year and each collected reported appearance fees of between $1-2 million.

Complaints from PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra? None. Just the sound of silence. Yet if they dare play in the new league they are threatened with expulsion?

For years we’ve been told tour players are independent contractors, free to play wherever they want provided they meet their PGA Tour and European Tour obligations. Surely they can still meet those obligations and play in the proposed new league? Guess they’re not as independent as they thought they were.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’d have thought the PGA Tour would have a hard time legally if it tried to ban a player who plays in the new league when members have been playing on different tours around the world for decades.

Is the sense of hypocrisy growing on you? No? Try this then: At Quail Hollow this week Rory McIlroy labelled any player who played in the Saudi-backed league “money grabbing.” He also defended the PGA Tour’s $40 million Player Impact Programme as a “great initiative.”

Wait, is this the same Rory McIlroy who’s benefitted from money grabbing appearance fees throughout his career?

Apparently the Player Impact Program is a “great initiative” because it rewards players for their popularity and what it can add to the PGA Tour, but if popular players are lured to the Saudi-backed league they are “money grabbing.”

Surely it’s not just me who sees the utter hypocrisy coming out of Rory’s mouth. If he doesn’t want to play the new circuit fine, but why should others not be able to do so?

For decades the European Tour has freely allowed members to play all over the world. So many hold dual membership with the PGA Tour that it’s hard to count. Not one word of criticism from successive European Tour bosses, just a constant line about increasing playing opportunities for tour members.

Quite right too. They should be free to play wherever they want provided they fulfil their European Tour membership requirements.

Yet Pelley has joined forces with Monahan in condemning the proposed new league:

“We are aligned with the PGA Tour in opposing, in the strongest possible terms, any proposal for an alternative golf league,” Pelley said in a statement.

This from a man who has quite happily taken Saudi money to stage tournaments in Saudi Arabia for the last three years.

Presumably existing alternative golf leagues are okay because they don’t threaten the “strategic alliance” between the European and PGA Tours.

But again, what happened to pure, laissez-faire, free market capitalism? Why are the European and PGA Tours running scared? Surely if the PGA Tour is confident in the product it's selling then it will easily see off the Saudi threat? I guess free market competition is only good for some when they’re winning.

The height of golf hypocrisy? Sure looks that way.

#JustSaying: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.” Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street

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