When the US Open begins on Thursday, focus will not just be on the competition but how the players react after the shock announcement last week that the PGA and DP World Tours are merging commercial operations with the rebel LIV circuit.
The multi-billion-dollar investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has brought to an end a year of dispute in the sport that forced players to choose sides. Though Rory McIlroy has said the PGA Tour now has a “brighter” future because of the PIF deal – he has also called for consequences over breakaway players who “irreparably harmed” the Tour.
Guardian readers from around the world have been in touch to share their reactions, with many golf fans expressing dismay at the PGA Tour’s decision and airing concerns about Saudi Arabia effectively taking control of top-level golf.
As John, a retiree from Paris, says: “The objection for many will not be that billions may pour into the sport, but that the Saudi government will be in charge – not just a government with no history or tradition of golf, but with a very dubious (to say the least) record on human rights.”
“This merger demonstrates the weaknesses on both sides: the PGA needs cash, the PIF wants credibility,” adds PK from London.
Andrew, a copywriter from NYC who has been playing golf since he was 12, is one of many to make the wider point about sportswashing. “Everything is for sale in the modern world and it makes me feel sick. Despite being a great sports fan, I have not watched the World Cup or the Olympics for some years. I also have stopped watching the Premier League as it does not stick to its own rules on suitable ownership. Abu Dhabi has never been a fit owner for Manchester City and the Saudi Public Investment Fund is not a fit owner for either Newcastle United or world golf.”
Jerry Johnston in Australia says: “Sport has always been the last line of defence in a world where political or economic realities make it too difficult for governments to hold countries accountable for human rights abuses. The deal between the PGA and LIV has eliminated this last line of defence. The pretence that we care is over – for what? More money?”
Many amateur golfers feel let down by the PGA. “I am saddened that the PGA has sold its soul to the Saudi foundation and I continue to admire the players who remained with the PGA and did not sell out,” says Pamela, a retired nurse practitioner from Los Angeles. “I agree with McIlroy that the LIV players need some penalties and should not be not allowed to waltz back into the PGA like nothing has happened. I am not certain how much I will continue to watch PGA events in the future.”
Louis Boulerice in Canada says: “I love golf. I play golf. I have been watching golf on TV as a way to be close to my dad for decades. I love the game, but it’s just been sold to greed. I am not wasting another hour of my time watching and cheering players on TV. The players are so good, but I just cannot support an organisation that values money over the game.”
Others are philosophical about the partnership. “Professional golf is like most professional sports – all about money,” reckons David, who has played the sport for more than 50 years. “The Saudis coming in is probably good news as it stops all the media sniping between the two sides.”
“It’s down at the grassroots where the most anger or dismay at this sudden rapprochement is found,” notes John, a pensioner in Germany. “It does rankle quite a lot, especially after hearing all the fighting talk that came out of the leaders of the PGA and DP World organisations.”
And Russell Pearse, in Sydney, asks: “Where is the honour and integrity in this? For me at the grassroots level, I will continue to honour the rules and traditions of the game, calling penalties on myself if necessary, playing the game out of love and passion and fun.”