Tuesday, August 9, 2022

“LIV Golf defectors like Sergio Garcia are trying to bring down the whole Tour – that’s not right”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

An anonymous player who has won the DP World Tour and represented Europe at the Ryder Cup speaks to Kevin Garside about the ‘all-out war’ tearing golf apart

One of the achievers, a player who has won the DP World Tour and represented Europe at the Ryder Cup, would only speak under the guise of anonymity, so deep is the bitterness and resentment that surrounds the game he loves and does fed him. Mr X, as we might call him, laughs at the idea that recent defector Stenson, he believed, could have continued in his role as Ryder Cup skipper.

Beyond the Henriks and Sergios, the Brysons and the Brooks, the base despairs of what has become of their game. Ordinary Tour players, lucky enough to win a tournament here or there, or, more likely, engaged in an annual battle to keep their cards, sit in their groups over beers trying to figure out the aftermath of LIV Golf’s attack on the old norms and structures of sport.

When the Ryder Cup ax fell on Captain Henrik, Mr X was reflecting on a conversation at the Irish Open involving a group of players in the bar. “We’ve been in a few Guinnesses, which helps make the world go round. The feeling was that Europe was now divided in the team room,” he said I.

“Let’s say, for example, Sergio played. It wouldn’t feel right. When I was playing he was as good as anyone when it comes to being there as a rookie. The feeling you got from him about why we’re here, Seve, Faldo, all that stuff. There was a feeling of coming together as a tour that week despite playing on the PGA Tour 80 percent of the time. Now it would be extremely divided.

“It’s so disappointing. As a layman, I had a few pictures in my exercise books. One in front and one behind; one from Tiger, one from Sergio. What he has said in recent weeks is shocking. He goes to the dressing room in Germany [BMW International Open in June] on Saturday night and starts ranting in front of Bob McIntyre and a bunch of other guys, basically saying, “You guys are all screwed, I can’t wait to get off this tour”. I don’t understand how you get to this point if you’re a decent person. Why become bitter. Why? You started on this platform. Why are you taking it down? This is a real problem.”

While the PGA Tour has banned defectors from all of its events, the DP World Tour has imposed only spot sanctions and has been successfully challenged by Ian Poulter to allow him to play at the Scottish Open, where many DP World Tour defectors have emerged as a result . Poulter claims everything is rosy behind the scenes that friendships have not been compromised. Mr. X calls that b******.

“Scotland was strange. I was warming up in the physio truck and Adrian Otaegui was there with a shoulder injury,” he recalls. “He had the doctors scan it and then asked them to set up a rehab program. This is a service that the DP World Tour offers to the players. Now he’s gone to LIV and come back and still wants all those things. I told the physios that wasn’t true. They said they had no choice. We must treat him the same way. It just doesn’t feel right.

“Justin Harding walked the track. Justin is a good guy. A couple of guys yelled, “You just wanna run away?” It was a banter, but there was an underlying meaning as well. It hurts the players, not just them, the caddies, the staff. It feels like they are trying to finish the tour. It feels so wrong.”

The DP World Tour and PGA Tour responded to the LIV threat by forming a strategic alliance that effectively puts the former under the protection of the latter. For now, the sport’s two main tours are holding the line, but the partnership isn’t popular with everyone. Some DP World Tour players believe the organization should have aligned with the Saudis.

Mr. X supports moving to the PGA Tour but acknowledges that this is not a majority view. “If there was a vote between what we have now or a Saudi-backed DP World Tour with checks for $5million (£4.2million) a week, whatever it is, I think we do would be divided.”

The concern is not just for professional play, but for the impact of the LIV model on the ecosystem as a whole. “If you come through as an amateur you know the route to the DP World Tour or PGA Tour. I don’t want that threatened. What’s the path for 15-year-old amateurs who dream of playing on tour? what happens to it I never want that to be lost.”

There is also a risk to the integrity of the current model of cash incentives for the best amateurs. “I remember Faldo saying you have to win to change your life. Whoever wanted the bigger house, the nicer car, had to win. My concern is with these amateurs who attract them. They are offering $5m (£4m) to come and play. My agent had to pay my room bill when I started. I didn’t have a pot to piss in. You did the shit jobs. David Howell stacked shelves at Sainsbury’s. I worked behind a bar. Great fun, but you don’t want to do that forever. It fuels your hunger.”

The cash avalanche promised by the LIV Golf model has changed the rules of engagement and burned through any moral resistance of players in dealing with a toxic regime. The experience for the majority is not the money picture that LIV paints.

Most of those who flirt with the top 100 would happily make £100,000-150,000 a year, less than Nottingham Forest newcomer Jesse Lingard makes in a week. “When someone throws you at big numbers, you have to think about it. Fair enough. It’s life changing. The reality is that you cannot ignore that.”

The DP World Tour is supported by funds from the United Arab Emirates, described by Amnesty International as one of the most brutal police states in the Middle East. The Tour has been taking place in the Gulf region for more than a quarter century. While the Saudi association is uncomfortable, golfers not only point to the Saudi presence in other sports but also in commerce and politics as the governments of Britain and America are happy to sit around a Saudi table. There is an acceptance that accommodation must be achieved. It’s duplicity that tears the sport apart.

“I don’t know how this ends. There is total war at the moment. I don’t know how it got to the point where former DP World players are trying out the tour which gave them the platform to take the opportunity with LIV. Nobody has a problem with them leaving. Just go and play don’t feel like you have to diss the tour.

“It was painful in London. If I were in this position, I feel like I know enough about myself as a person to just be honest. It’s so obvious why they are there. The money. Just say it.”

- Advertisement -
Latest news
- Advertisement -
Related news
- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here