• Alistair Tait

Time For Dialogue Not Diatribe


Perhaps Champion Golfer of the Year Cameron Smith and European Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson’s alleged moves to the LIV Tour will force those at the top of professional golf to do what they should have done months ago: engage in constructive dialogue to come to an agreement every stake holder in the professional game can live with.


Dialogue is the only way to clean up the mess that is the current world of professional golf. Not diatribe.


It might even save the future of the Ryder Cup.


Stenson’s membership of the LIV Tour has been in the offing for weeks. I first heard about it from an extremely reliable source three weeks ago. According to James Corrigan of The Telegraph, Stenson is set to discuss the issue with the European Tour.


Smith refused to deny he was joining the LIV Tour in his winner’s interview following his Open Championship victory. Surely that would have been the time to scotch rumours that have been swirling since he appeared in the Saudi International in February.


Another trusted source told me of Smith’s defection to LIV yesterday – before he hoisted the old claret jug.


Who knows what’s currently going on behind the scenes in the dark recesses of the professional golf world, but if Smith were to join the Saudi-backed league, it would be a slap in the face to the status quo. How’s Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour going to feel about the Player’s Champion defecting to the evil empire? And having to ban said player?


Ouch!


Smith is the golden boy right now. Wonder how he’ll be seen if he does take the Saudi shilling. He’ll probably receive the same absolutely despicable treatment as has been meted out to Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.


These three and others must feel like Hester Prynne, the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter. Only instead of A for adulterer they must feel as if they’re wearing T for traitor on their shirts. No wonder Garcia is threatening to quit the European Tour.

“I have given more than half my life to the European Tour and I wanted to continue playing it, but I am not going to be where they don't want me,” he said. “It is very sad to receive such treatment for a personal and professional decision. If they treat you like that, it's not worth continuing.”

I’m no Garcia fan but I can’t blame him for telling his home circuit to get lost. Ditto for Poulter and Westwood, considering how they’ve been vilified for joining LIV.


Keith Pelley seems to have a very short memory. He’s forgotten how much these players have given to the Tour over the years. These three have been the backbone of European Ryder Cup teams for years. They’ve made a collective 28 appearances in the biennial match, playing on winning teams in a competition that has been a financial boon to the old world circuit for years, the rock on which the tour’s finances have been based.


Garcia has won more points in that effort than any other player. Europe probably wouldn’t have won the Miracle of Medinah if not for Poulter’s heroics, and Westwood has been a mainstay since 1997.


Poulter has made 391 European Tour appearances, Garcia 320 and Westwood 586. It needs to be noted that when Westwood won the 2020 Race to Dubai, he did so by playing 15 times in a Covid-affected year, 12 of which were “regular” European Tour events, i.e. not majors or WGC tournaments. Collin Morikawa played just 10 last year when he became European number one, with only three appearances in “regular” European Tour events.


Yet all three of the above, plus presumably Stenson, are going to be told they’re not welcome in a Ryder Cup. Really? They may all in the twilight of their regular tour careers, but they’d still be favoured in the heat of the Ryder Cup cauldron over many up and coming players. Europe still needs these players.


The time for diatribe, for recrimination, for pettiness and vindictiveness is over. It’s obvious the Saudis are not going anywhere. They have more than enough money to see this battle through, one that will surely hurt the European Tour more than the PGA Tour, no matter the so-called “strategic alliance between the two circuits.


It's time to get everyone around a table to talk, to do what’s best for professional golf rather than protecting vested interests.


If only.


Oh, look, a pink pig just flew past my window…


#JustSaying: “ “Ego judges and punishes. Love forgives and heals.” Anonymous

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