Just last month, the PGA Tour — the pure, pure, ethically minded PGA Tour — was so aghast at having even a hint of association with Saudi Arabia, that, per GolfWeek, it blocked the Byron Nelson tournament from adding Raytheon Technologies as a title sponsor.
Raytheon is based in Virginia, but it is one of the world’s largest defense manufacturers. One of its clients for advanced missile systems? The Saudis.
For the PGA Tour — the pure, pure, ethically minded PGA Tour — this was a deal breaker. There was no way the PGA Tour — the pure, pure, ethically minded PGA Tour — could have even a single sponsor of a single tournament do even tangential business with the murderous Saudi Arabian government.
The PGA Tour — the pure, pure, ethically minded PGA Tour — was about freedom and human rights. It was completely against torture and abuses and certainly sportswashing, which is when bad people use the positives of competition to make themselves seem less bad.
The PGA Tour — the pure, pure, ethically minded PGA Tour — were the supposed heroes on the front line, maybe the last honest and upstanding enterprise on earth, as it tried to fend off the Saudi-funded LIV Golf tour. That’s how they told it.
Well, at least, until the money got good enough to sell out.
Tuesday it was announced the two tours would “merge,” although it looks a lot more like the Saudis just bought the PGA Tour like it previously bought so many of its top stars.
The PGA Tour gets to control the board that handles the actual golf, including the LIV and the DP World Tour (aka the European Tour).
The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, however, controls everything else. The PIF will be the exclusive investor in the new entity. It not only has the right to further invest but has “first refusal on any capital that may be invested in the new entity,” by anyone else.
This is a dream scenario for LIV. The Saudis basically now own an entire sport that plays in prominent markets around the globe. Sportswashing? They literally scrubbed up the entire thing. Its plan couldn’t have worked better.
The PGA Tour was always in a tough spot in this fight. The Saudis didn’t care about running a profitable business and thus could drop massive, and fiscally irresponsible, sums on top talent. In a long, drawn out business battle, it was by far the best resourced. It was always going to win.
Still, the PGA Tour looks awful here.
It’s not because it succumbed to the richer entity.
It’s not even because it, like nearly everyone else in the world, eventually got in bed with the Saudis or some horrific group. There is no question the Saudi Arabian government has proven its depravity — “scary mother[expletives]” no less than Phil Mickelson, its greatest supporter, called the group.
Business is business. Cast the first stone. This is how the world works. If you were looking to professional sports for your morality, you were going to be disappointed.
If the PGA Tour had simply acknowledged that all along, then so be it. Instead it spent a year and a half trying to invoke sympathy and support by claiming it would never sell out to such evil. Further, it denigrated anyone who did, attacking personal morals and questioning basic decency and patriotism.
It was all a hypocritical negotiating ploy. It was all a lie.
In the end it was the PGA Tour that delivered the ultimate betrayal, a secretly negotiated sucker punch on the unknowing pawns and useful idiots it used to wage its temporary public relations campaign.
Many PGA players took principled and honest positions about not wanting to do business with the Saudis, about the importance of sticking with the PGA Tour, about the need to turn down massive sums of money for the good of sport and society. They, apparently, weren't even a part of the merger discussion, with Collin Morikawa tweeting Tuesday morning, "I love finding out morning news on Twitter."
How does Rory McIlroy look and feel today? He was heartfelt. He was articulate. He was forced into an uncomfortable spotlight for him — a war of words and insults with Mickelson, who revels in such things.
And then the PGA Tour sided with Mickelson?
The PGA Tour took a big bag of money the exact same way commissioner Jay Monahan’s empty bag of righteousness once ripped Mickelson and Brooks Koepka and everyone else for doing. Monahan’s reward? He is now basically the commissioner of all of global golf, a promotion for his efforts.
And how about the 9/11 families, whose pain and purpose have understandably and sympathetically never waned from that awful day? The PGA Tour was happy to see their protests around LIV Golf generate headlines and sympathy, but in the end even they were just props. Pathetic.
The ethics mattered to some people. It mattered a great deal.
It just never really did for the PGA Tour — the pure, pure, ethically minded PGA Tour.
Good for the sport of golf that this division is over. Business is business and professional golf is a business.
The PGA Tour should have just admitted that all along, because LIV didn’t just win this battle, it completely exposed the PGA Tour for the frauds they always were.