The important downside with golf’s most weird spectacle is that it is not actually a event in any respect. There is no lower, no sense of jeopardy. There aren’t any world rating factors to amass, no Ryder Cup spots to chase. The solely intrigue lies in watching a few phenomenally wealthy males turn out to be even richer. For a day at the very least, there is a sure novelty in seeing Centurion, a company resort course beside the M25, supply an occasion whose prize purse is 66 per cent larger than that of the Masters. Beyond that, it turns into a soulless exercise in avarice.
Greg Norman, LIV Golf’s grasp puppeteer, is utilizing a company strategy often known as the “whale tactic” to attempt to make the present credible. In Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, he has snared a powerful pair of whales, with two extra main champions to come back in Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed. But past this pod of whales is a disconcerting quantity of plankton. After 18 holes, the highest of the leaderboard options such gamers as Phachara Khongwatmai, Hennie Du Plessis and Laurie Canter, all of whom would wrestle to be family names in their very own dwelling rooms.
Still, organisers didn’t stint on the portentous gestures, with a squadron of Spitfires flying overhead for the shotgun begin. In the studio, Arlo White’s gushing commentary was as efficient a piece of Saudi propaganda as if scripted by state tv in Riyadh. And be in little question, everyone concerned in this gaudy enterprise is studying from a script. All gamers, if requested why they’re becoming a member of this breakaway, are underneath formal written directions to reply with evasions together with “I love playing golf” and “the format is exciting”.
The jury is out on the thrill issue. For a tour styling itself as revolutionary, some components had been stubbornly standard, not least the choice to ship gamers out in threeballs or the truth that rounds nonetheless dragged on for 4½ hours. The biggest curiosity was the group equation, however when your group names – the Cleeks, the Crushers, the Hy Flyers – sound just like the offcuts from some ghastly Eighties online game, this grew to become an equally tough promote. For a tour drowning in sovereign wealth, the packaging was cheesy.
As ever, the celebrities claimed their proper to silence on any thorny questions afterwards. But their complicity in sport’s most brazen case of sportswashing can’t be swerved. LIV Golf is even uglier as a idea than the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Formula One drivers solely flip up in Jeddah as a result of their sport compels them to, however these golfers, from a position of immense privilege, have consciously chosen to align themselves with an odious regime.
That brings a political dimension to this saga, whether or not the gamers prefer it or not. Golf, on the highest stage, is an amoral business: simply as many gamers defied a world sporting boycott to compete in apartheid South Africa, so Gary Player designed a course that became a playground for the Burmese navy dictatorship. LIV Golf is an extension of that ignoble historical past, the place multimillionaires launder the popularity of a brutal kingdom on the pretext that their households want the money. Poulter, who continues to behave as if this is all some buddy caper, can solely stare upon his financial institution steadiness in surprise. But finally, this gluttonous circus redounds to no person’s credit score.