What are a rank and file European Tour members going to be thinking on the 12th of June when they look at the final leaderboard of the inaugural $25 million event on the LIV Golf Investments Tour at the Centurion Club and realise they’re better than the guy who won it?
Imagine if a journeyman pro pips star names Kevin Na, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood, who have reportedly signed up to the LIV Tour, to the $4 million dollar first place cheque while the winner that same week in the European Tour's Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed earns approximately $340,000?
How’s that going to go down?
While I don’t know the breakdown in official prize money at Centurion, it seems obvious several good finishers are going to nett more than the first place prize in Sweden. Indeed, a good result at the course near St Albans could go a long way to setting up someone financially for life, since it will no doubt mean appearances in the other seven LIV Golf Investments tournaments scheduled for this year.
Think there might be a wee bit of envy among some/many European Tour pros? Might players who turned down the chance to join the new circuit be having a wee rethink? Yes, and yes are the clear answers to those questions.
We don’t know the full list of names signed up to the Greg Norman backed circuit other than the above mentioned four. However, with a bulging total prize fund of $225 million this year alone, and a slush fund said to be in the neighbourhood of $2 billion, there should be no shortage of players queueing up to join the new circuit, especially Europeans.
Say what you want about Norman, but he was spot on when he told Daily Telegraph golf writer James Corrigan:
“There's a $4m first prize. I hope a kid who’s 350th in the world wins. It’ll change his life, his family’s life. And then a few of our events will go by and the top players will see someone winning $6m, $8m, and say ‘enough is enough, I know I can beat these guys week in week out with my hands tied behind my back’.”
The previous week’s $2 million International Series England Tour event at Slaley Hall, an Asian Tour event, will determine five places into Centurion. The top three players on the Asian Tour order of merit at the conclusion of that tournament, plus the top two players in the field not otherwise exempt get places at Centurion. I wonder how many players will be thinking of taking a tilt at the Northumberland course to try to grab a spot.
As I’ve said many times, I’m no fan of Saudi Arabia, nor am I a spokesperson for LIV. “Sports washing?” Of course it is. Other countries not exactly bastions of liberal democracy have used the same tactic for years, and golfers and golf tours have had no qualms about accepting money from repressive regimes.
And as distasteful as the source of the LIV money is, that source is going to draw players in the same way Aramco has attracted LET players, and the Saudi International enticed big name players with wads of cash when it was a European Tour event for three years.
I once interviewed Englishman Peter Mitchell, a three-time European Tour winner, who gave me a great insight into the minds of many tour professionals when he said:
“We’re all mercenaries. Put 18 holes on the M1, put up a decent prize fund and you’ll get a field.”
LIV is offering more than “decent” prize funds. Much more.
The PGA Tour has much less to lose from the new circuit for obvious reasons: great prize funds every week, brilliant pension fund and U.S. players have shown a reluctance to travel over the years. As for the European Tour, it is much more vulnerable. You can bet those European Tour players not in the world top 50 and therefore not eligible for the majors and World Golf Championships, and players coming to the end of their careers will be taking a serious look at joining Norman’s proposed conquest.
Why wouldn’t they try to cash in?
Those two weeks in June at Slaley and Centurion will make for interesting viewing.
Will envy encourage a European exodus?
#JustSaying: “Money. It's a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.” Rogers Waters, Pink Floyd