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  • Alistair Tait

Why The Saudi Double Standard?

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Maybe LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan should be put in charge of all of professional golf. There might be less toxicity and more common sense in the professional game as a result.

She could certainly teach the men a thing or six when it comes to diplomacy.

Asked by The Times golf reporter Cathy Harris during the Amundi Evian Championship if she would consider speaking to Saudi-backed LIV Golf about potential investment in the women’s game, she replied in the positive:

“It’s my responsibility to evaluate every opportunity,” Marcoux Samaan said. “I would engage in a conversation if it would achieve our aim of promoting women’s golf, but there needs to be input from players and sponsors. There’s a lot of factors to consider before we do business with LIV Golf. … working together is always better than a fractured organization.”

Considering PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan refuses to engage with the new tour and European Tour chief executive has done a volte face and declared Saudi Arabia a no-go area after three years of sucking up to the Saudis, Marcoux Samaan seems part Kofi Annan.

Dialogue with LIV Golf? Who knew?

Monahan seems to have been placed on a pedestal in some quarters for his refusal to speak with the Saudi-backed league. Has Marcoux Samaan been derided for openly admitting she’d talk to LIV officials? Not that I can see.

As former colleague Beth Nichols recently reported, some top women professionals appear no different to many of their male counterparts at the prospect of Saudi Arabia helping them make more money from playing this stick and ball game.

“Everybody has different opinions in terms of what the guys are doing,” Maria Fassi told Nichols, “but then when it’s switched to us, it would be very hard to say no to that.”

Nichols also reports that Cristie Kerr thinks “'the entire tour’ might leave if faced with the opportunity to earn life-changing money.”

The game’s top men have been pilloried by all and sundry for jumping to the lucrative new circuit. Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and others were excoriated for cashing in on Saudi money in the inaugural LIV tournament at the Centurion Club. A week later, the Ladies European Tour turned up for the Aramco Team Series London, with a couple of players allegedly receiving appearance money to be there instead of the corresponding Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give on the LPGA Tour. Were there howls of protest that Europe’s top women were taking cash from the Saudi state owned petroleum company? Not a peep.

Europe’s top women have been cashing Saudi cheques since last year. There are six Aramco tournaments on this year’s Ladies European Tour schedule worth $6 million, roughly a quarter of total LET prize money. As Nichols also points out, some top women sport Saudi and Aramco logos on their clothing. Note the logo on the cap of Women’s British Open champion Anna Norqvist (pictured). Yet there isn’t same invective launched at the women for taking Saudi “sports washing” money.

Why not?

I’m not calling for the game’s best women to be pilloried for deciding to take the Saudi shilling: goodness knows there’s enough toxicity in professional golf right now. I’m just trying to get my head around the double standards that make the men targets of considerable abuse while the women get a free pass. Shouldn’t it be the other way around given Saudi Arabia’s historic treatment of women?

Answers on a postcard please.

#JustSaying:“Women playing golf in trousers must take their trousers off before entering the clubhouse." Sign that once hung – briefly – at Royal St George's Golf Club in the 1920s.

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