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What happened to the PGA Tour?

doubledragondoubledragon Posts: 22,908 ✭✭✭✭✭

How do you feel about the PGA Tour being swallowed up by Saudi Arabia?

Saudi money in golf: Tiger Woods is now saying what once made Phil Mickelson persona non grata

Wednesday afternoon, hours before his return to the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods sat before a bank of microphones and uttered a line that would have lit the golf world on fire just a couple years ago.

“Ultimately,” Woods said, “we would like to have PIF be a part of our tour and a part of our product.”

“PIF” is the Public Investment Fund of Saudi ­Arabia, the source and driving force of golf’s current bone-deep schism.

Funny how perception can change completely in just a few short years.

Two years ago, Phil Mickelson turned the golf world upside down with his thoughts about Saudi Arabia’s regime and its potential effect on the PGA Tour.

"They're scary motherf*****s to get involved with," Mickelson said, in what has become one of the most famous quotes in golf history. "We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”

Six months later, as LIV Golf began operations, former U.S. Open winner and inaugural LIV member Graeme McDowell came under withering criticism for his answer to a question about how he could take money from a nation with documented human rights violations: "I think we all agree, the Khashoggi situation, that was reprehensible. No one’s going to argue that. But we’re golfers.”

The fury over the idea of Saudi money arriving in professional golf flared white-hot in golf media and Golf Twitter. The critics of LIV Golf invoked Saudi Arabia’s documented human rights abuses, condemning the entire LIV effort as “sportswashing” — an attempt to paper over a nation’s sins with the distracting spectacle of sports. Many players who remained with the PGA Tour bought into that line of reasoning, and so — publicly — did the Tour itself.

Around the same time McDowell made his comments, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan took aim at the source of LIV Golf’s funding, the Saudi Public Investment Fund. “I think you'd have to be living under a rock to not know that there are significant implications” to taking Saudi Arabia’s money, he said in an interview. “And I would ask any player that has left or any player that would consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

Now comes Woods, openly endorsing and advocating for PIF’s investment in the Tour. No apologies, no equivocations, no excuses … and no condemnation of Woods’ words. What was once radioactive is now the new normal.

Throughout the entire LIV Golf drama, Woods was savvy enough to avoid making moral pronouncements on the Saudi regime or its investments. It's no secret how much Saudi investment already runs through both sports and the greater world economy, and Tiger avoided taking any sort of stand that he might have to walk back … unlike the PGA Tour.

Compare that with Rory McIlroy, the only figure whose stature is comparable to Woods in the world of professional golf. McIlroy took a strident anti-LIV stance, only to find himself alone on an island when the PGA Tour negotiated a surprise cease-fire with PIF in June 2023. He was then forced into a reluctant, resigned compromise.

"You see everything else happening in the world, you see big private equity companies in America taking [Saudi] money — the biggest companies in the world,” McIlroy said last September. “There’s a lot of whataboutism and all that stuff, but at the same time, if this is what is happening, then the way I’ve framed it is that the world has decided for me.”

Compare that, too, with Mickelson — who, as it turns out, was right all along. Mickelson long thought the PGA Tour need to modernize the way it does business, but its leadership showed no interest in change. He realized the only way to force change was to use outside leverage. That force arrived in the form of LIV, that leverage came in the form of Saudi billions, and now the Tour has completely changed. Mickelson didn’t have the most artful way of achieving his goals, but he achieved them all the same.

Woods, as is his style, has played his own cards much closer to the vest, keeping to himself whatever moral or ethical reservations he may have about the Saudi investment. Wednesday, he kept his focus firmly on the economics of the deal, noting that the recent investment from Strategic Sports Group relieves short-term pressure on the Tour, and any Saudi money would be an enhancement.

“We're in a position right now,” he said, “hopefully we can make our product better in the short term and long term.”

Saudi Arabia’s human rights history hasn’t changed between Mickelson’s comments two years ago and today. Its repressive policies remain in place, and its leaders remain determined to crack down on dissent. The families of 9/11 victims and other critics continue to speak out against Saudi Arabia and its ruling regime.

But money speaks even louder. Money changes minds, shapes worldviews. Everyone involved from the PGA Tour side is comfortable saying that out loud now.

Comments

  • BLUEJAYWAYBLUEJAYWAY Posts: 8,014 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The financial system/currency is the tie that binds.

    Successful transactions:Tookybandit. "Everyone is equal, some are more equal than others".
  • stevekstevek Posts: 27,700 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Gee, professional golfers play for the money? Who knew?

  • perkdogperkdog Posts: 29,463 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Money talks.🤷

  • doubledragondoubledragon Posts: 22,908 ✭✭✭✭✭

    They'll be taking over the NBA next.

    Can Saudi Arabia Derail The NBA?

    Draymond Green was among the players who explained that a move to Saudi Arabia wouldn't be out of the question ion the price was right.

    Since joining the NBA after high school in 2003 Lebron James has been the focal point of NBA coverage. The “Lebron Era” is now in its twilight and the new “Wembanyama Era” is emerging.

    Currently, the NBA is the best and most popular basketball league in the world. But there is a new existential threat to its dominance.

    With salary restrictions in the new collective bargaining agreement and barriers of entry to young players, the NBA has put itself in a position to be gutted by someone willing to pay players more money.

    In today’s reality, the NBA could easily be the next target of the Saudi Sports Investment Fund.

    Saudi Arabia Has Funds To Diversify Into Sports and The NBA
    With a reported $620 Billion dollars in its arsenal, the Saudis are already making professional footballers (soccer players) offers that have the biggest names in the NBA offering their services.

    Saudi Arabia desperately needs to diversify its country’s wealth portfolio, and buying the third most popular sport in the world makes sense.

    Basketball fans around the world are making plans to tune in and witness the beginning of the “Wembanyama Era” of the NBA, but what they don’t realize is that it may also be the last era of the NBA.

    The United States has always been the home of the best basketball players in the world. As the rest of the world is catching up with the US, the pay disparities between the top NBA players and the top Euro league players are quite clear.

    While Jaylen Brown just became the NBA’s first $300 million player, the highest-paid Euro League player Nikola Mirotic is only making around $5 million.

    The thought of basketball players being offered more to leave the US seems unfathomable to the average NBA fan. But this is the reality for sports fans in Europe already.

    All The Top Footballers Left Europe

    If you look at the top 10 highest-paid footballers only one of them still plays in Europe. Cristiano Ronaldo signed a two-and-a-half-year $200 million dollar contract.

    Neymar signed a two-year $300 million dollar deal, with a potential additional $400 million worth of commercial opportunities and a $500,000 bonus every time he posts about Saudi Arabia on social media.

    The one top footballer to still play in Europe is Kylian Mbappe who turned down $700 million, to stay in Europe to play for PSG for around $332 million.

    When the news of Mbappe turning down his Saudi deal NBA stars like Lebron James and Draymond Green all made posts stating their willingness to move to Saudi Arabia for the right Price.

    Giannis Antetokoumpo will not stop tagging the team Mbappe turned down saying that they should sign him instead.

    With it being more and more common that the best player on an NBA team is from Europe like Antetokoumpo or Wembanyama Saudi Arabia is a much shorter flight for what’s sure to be equal or better money than what the NBA can offer.

    Saudis Already Took Over Golf

    Basketball may not be that popular with the Saudi audience, so maybe instead of recruiting NBA talent to the Saudi domestic league, they would just start a new basketball league in the US. Similar to what they did with LIV Golf.

    In just two years’ time, LIV signed all the top golfers most notably Tiger Woods got $800 million. Liv then was able to force the PGA into a merger just for survival.

    A new Saudi league would not have salary caps a one-and-done rule, or even a draft, they’ll just be able to offer top talent more money than the NBA can without major reformation. Would NBA fans still regularly tune in to games if the best player on the Lakers was someone like Jaxson Hayes?

    If the Saudis were to start the process of an NBA takeover look for veteran players like Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard to be the first to go, Westbrook is now making the veteran minimum, and the new CBA all but disqualifies Leonard from future max contracts. Stars like Antetokoumpo would likely leave as soon as their NBA contract was up.

    The NBA Could Be A Backup League For Young Players
    To put into perspective what an NBA alternative means to young players, let’s look at Wembanyama. His 4 year $55 million deal is the best a rookie can get in the NBA

    He’ll be making around $13 million dollars a year for 5 years before he’s eligible for a big payday. In 3 years a new US-based Saudi League could offer an 18-year-old Cameron Boozer $50 million a year at the start of his career while a better player like Wembanyama will still be making $13 million a year with his Spurs contract.

    Saudi Arabia Gives Crazy Perks And NBA Players Would Have 0 Taxes

    On top of the potential increased salaries, Saudis are known to reward players of their clubs immensely. Remember when the Saudi team beat Argentina in the Group stage of the World Cup, and the entire team was gifted a Rolls Royce?

    Sometimes fans, yes fans, not team owners will gift players rolex’s for a good performance. All of Neymar’s expenses in Saudi Arabia are covered by the Club and there are no taxes on his salary.

    When You break down an NBA star like Steph Curry’s yearly salary about 55% of it goes to taxes, and then agent fees are on top of that.

    Even if the Saudis started a new league in the US they’d be able to play 3 or 4 times more, making Steps yearly take-home pay inflate from around 28 million a year to around 100 million a year. Which league would you play in?

    It’s Just Hypothetical…. For Now
    While the topic of this article is completely hypothetical at this point in time, there is nothing stopping the Saudis from doing this, their wealth is unimaginable to most people. Even if they spent all $620 Billion dollars on their sports investment fund they could replenish to a substantial amount easily.

    Will the Wembamyama Era be the last era of the NBA? Do you think the Saudis will come for basketball? Or do you think the NBA will be able to survive anything that comes its way?

  • doubledragondoubledragon Posts: 22,908 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is absolutely fascinating to me, what we have here is a TV ratings battle going on. Let me say this, I have followed the pro wrestling TV ratings wars for years, first it was WCW vs WWE in the mid to late 90s, and WCW actually managed to overtake WWE for 83 straight weeks at one point, but it all fell apart eventually and WCW folded and was swallowed up by WWE, and WCW no longer exists after being bought out by WWE. Now the same thing is happening with the AEW wrestling promotion, they were founded in 2021 by Tony Kahn, Shad Kahn's son, and AEW came out of the gate on fire, even managed to overtake WWE in the TV ratings for a while. Now, AEW is failing miserably against WWE in the TV ratings wars, and it looks like AEW could be heading down the same path as WCW. AEW is struggling mightily, despite signing new wrestlers every so often to try to boost ratings and ticket sales, they are still failing to compete with WWE. So that brings us to the PGA Tour vs the LIV tour, it appears that we have a bit of a similar thing going on with the golf situation, LIV is getting their butt kicked by PGA in the TV ratings. I'm going to follow this and see how this plays out over time, I love a good TV ratings battle.

    LIV Golf TV ratings show clear winner in PGA Tour war after Jon Rahm signing

    Even after splashing to secure Jon Rahm and other stars ahead of the 2024 season, LIV Golf cannot keep pace with the PGA Tour's leading television viewership numbers

    LIV Golf is struggling to attract golf fans to tune in on broadcasts of the controversial breakaway circuit despite spending big money on new acquisitions like Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

    Hatton became the latest big name from the PGA Tour to defect after reigning Masters champion Rahm joined the controversial breakaway league last month. The Saudi-backed series league secured Rahm’s services by inking him to a deal worth up to £450million - and Hatton followed suit with a £50m move of his own.

    However, the star power has failed to attract fans. The final round of LIV Las Vegas drew 297,000 viewers on the CW, with the telecast ultimately finishing 51st for all sport programs that day - level with the Golf Central pregame show ahead of PGA Tour coverage.

    The PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open was immense in comparison, tallying 1.7 million viewers as it ranked third in sports programming for the day. When the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was suspended due to weather, LIV Golf’s Mayakoba event produced a record audience of 432,000 but still lost out to a CBS Sunday re-air of the third round of the PGA Tour event, which brought in three times as many viewers.

    Ultimately, it seems fans resonate more with the history, tradition and legacy of the PGA Tour. LIV Golf remains lagging behind when it comes to attract viewers, which deeply affects the circuit’s ability to secure a broadcast partner for early tournament coverage - and without fan interest, LIV’s long-term future is undoubtedly limited.

    Given LIV’s model, it remains to be seen just how willing Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund will be to consistently throw lucrative sums at top players if dollars fail to translate into viewers.

    LIV has a revenue-sharing deal with the CW, which broadcasts the final two rounds of each event but the first round is aired on YouTube and the CW app - so no television revenue is generated for a third of the tournament.

  • doubledragondoubledragon Posts: 22,908 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 20, 2024 4:41AM

    The PGA Tour should've looked at what happened in the Pro wrestling ratings wars, should've held your ground.

  • doubledragondoubledragon Posts: 22,908 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Love this stuff, eat it for Breakfast, love a good TV ratings battle.

  • perkdogperkdog Posts: 29,463 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It would make me laugh hysterically if the Saudi's started a league and plucked NBA stars with the lure of even more stupid money,

    As I said before Money talks and these guys will walk for the right price

  • stevekstevek Posts: 27,700 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Just a hunch but I'd say for a few reasons that NBA players would be more inclined to be enticed to play for another country than would golfers. I think in the overall scheme of things, that golfers tend to lean more conservative and therefore would be more loyal to country. Whereby overall NBA players tend to lean left and would have less loyalty to country.

    That being said, and what has already been said, enough money trumps all when it comes to making money in sports. However it depends also on endorsement deals, etc. If an American athlete is making big money on endorsements for American companies, probably wouldn't be a good look suddenly playing for a foreign country. He very well could lose those endorsement deals.

    Even Herb Brooks, the "American hero" coach of the 1980 Olympic hockey team which we all know that story. Years later went and coached the French Olympic hockey team in 1998. My guess it was for the money. So much for loyalty to the US hockey team.

  • Alfonz24Alfonz24 Posts: 3,042 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Isn't the nba already controlled by china and the shoe company's slave made shoes in china.

    #LetsGoSwitzerlandThe Man Who Does Not Read Has No Advantage Over the Man Who Cannot Read. The biggest obstacle to progress is a habit of “buying what we want and begging for what we need.”You get the Freedom you fight for and get the Oppression you deserve.
  • burghmanburghman Posts: 804 ✭✭✭✭

    Not sure it’s fair to do a comparison of PGA and LIV TV ratings… not saying that LIV would win on an equal playing field, but it’s on The CW while PGA is on major networks. Who watches The CE? We’ll, I like Penn and Teller Fool Us, but that’s my own problem :D

    Maybe I’m thinking old school, but I never look at The CW on my guide or on streaming services, whereas CBS/NBC/ESPN have robust histories with sports - many people say “hey, it’s Sat/Sun afternoon, don’t have anything going on, let’s see what sports are on” and go right to the 3 major networks and ESPN first - as well as popular standalone streaming services.

    No doubt they’re a distant second, but exposure is a factor in that. Probably still a distant second regardless.

    Jim

  • galaxy27galaxy27 Posts: 7,128 ✭✭✭✭✭

    i follow golf very intently and i bet i've watched a grand total of 2 minutes of all LIV events combined since its inception. and the crazy thing is, there are a ton of guys who are playing in that league that i happen to like. i just can't get on board with the concept. to me it's gimmicky and nothing more than a sideshow. with that said, there's a LIV tourney here in Houston the first part of June and i will most likely venture out to see what's up in the flesh. plus, i need to pester a few of those guys for some graph endeavors that i have going.

    macro view: what's happening is beyond bad for golf and it's not sustainable. a schism that prevents the world's best golfers from regularly competing on the same stage improves the sport said no one ever. but, such is life when a titshon of money is involved. kudos to guys like Scheffler, McIlroy, Spieth, Thomas, Cantlay, Schauffele et al. -- marquee names whose will to etch their names into the annals of golf takes precedence over the price tag in which they can be bought.

  • DarinDarin Posts: 6,297 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @galaxy27 said:
    i follow golf very intently and i bet i've watched a grand total of 2 minutes of all LIV events combined since its inception. and the crazy thing is, there are a ton of guys who are playing in that league that i happen to like. i just can't get on board with the concept. to me it's gimmicky and nothing more than a sideshow. with that said, there's a LIV tourney here in Houston the first part of June and i will most likely venture out to see what's up in the flesh. plus, i need to pester a few of those guys for some graph endeavors that i have going.

    macro view: what's happening is beyond bad for golf and it's not sustainable. a schism that prevents the world's best golfers from regularly competing on the same stage improves the sport said no one ever. but, such is life when a titshon of money is involved. kudos to guys like Scheffler, McIlroy, Spieth, Thomas, Cantlay, Schauffele et al. -- marquee names whose will to etch their names into the annals of golf takes precedence over the price tag in which they can be bought.

    Speaking of graph endeavors………
    “I will indeed honor this request”

    Heard from jsa lately?

    Love that last sentence about Rory and the others. 👍

    DISCLAIMER FOR BASEBAL21
    In the course of every human endeavor since the dawn of time the risk of human error has always been a factor. Including but not limited to field goals, 4th down attempts, or multiple paragraph ramblings on a sports forum authored by someone who shall remain anonymous.
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