PGA Tour reacts to LIV Golf and Ryder Cup captain makes his feelings clear | Michael Arace

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The LIV Golf tour, a propaganda arm of the Saudi Arabian government, tees off for the first time on U.S. soil Thursday. Its event is being held in Oregon, just outside Portland. It has a field of 48 players, or 33 more than were killed by the Saudi Arabian government in a mass execution on one day in March.

Oregon senator Ron Wyden is among those speaking out against LIV Golf. Wyden doesn’t want a Saudi-backed golf event in the Portland area. He mentioned Saudi human-rights abuses, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

LIV Golf: Controversy continues to follow ahead of tournament near Portland

Bryson DeChambeau: On Saudis and LIV Golf: 'People will see the good they're doing'

Brooks Koepka: Cites injuries, family for joining Saudi-backed tour

Phil Mickelson now plays in Saudi-funded LIV Golf events despite once admitting the Saudi's "horrible record on human rights."
Phil Mickelson now plays in Saudi-funded LIV Golf events despite once admitting the Saudi's "horrible record on human rights."

Wyden specifically cited the case of Fallon Smart, who was 15 when she was killed by a Saudi student in a hit-and-run in 2016. It happened in Portland. “60 Minutes” did a piece on it.

Wyden said (per the AP): “It's wrong to be silent when Saudi Arabia tries to cleanse blood-stained hands, in the fight for Oregonians to get justice — Fallon Smart was killed very close to our house in Southeast Portland, and the person charged with the crime, a hit-and-run death, was, based on all the evidence, whisked out of the country by the Saudis before he stood for trial.”

Phil Mickelson, who tends to incur gambling debts, and Greg Norman, who is running LIV Golf with a set of blinders and a bag of money, have been the poster boys for the new tour.

To date, LIV has had one tournament, in London three weeks ago. Former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel claimed the top prize of $4 million, the largest winner’s check in the history of the sport, and added another $3 million to his purse for leading his randomly selected team to the lowest score.

The money is mind-boggling. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are among the big-name players who reportedly accepted nine-figure sums to join Shark’s tour.

We all must look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we’d do if someone offered us $100,000,000 to play three rounds with shotgun starts every three weeks. That is enough money to buy a conscience – as DeChambeau admitted, in so many words.

“Golf is a force for good,” DeChambeau said Tuesday. “As time goes on, hopefully people will see the good they’re (the Saudis) doing. And what they’re trying to accomplish, rather than looking back at the bad that’s happened before.”

Maybe DeChambeau will paste a little picture of Fallon Smart on one of his golf shoes. Thoughts and prayers.

LIV tournaments are no-cut, and the prize money is guaranteed. The last-place finisher in London, Andy Ogletree, finished 24-over and took home $120,000. For a once-promising young player like Matt Wolff, among the latest to make the jump from the PGA Tour, the setup is incredibly alluring.

Imagine being a college hotshot with the Shark at your door, offering you free money. Who needs the grind it takes to make it on the PGA Tour?

Mickelson was right about one thing: The PGA Tour needed to be pushed into making some overdue changes. And it has. On that front, the news flowed fast and heavy this week.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced an expansion of its partnership with the European tour (the latter of which is particularly threatened by LIV).

Access to the PGA Tour will be expanded to include more European players, more players coming up through the Korn Ferry Tour and more players coming out of Q-school. Beginning in 2024, the PGA Tour will have a January-to-August schedule and will include eight elite events with $20-million purses.

“The game of golf is rallying,” Monahan said.

The four majors are not run by the PGA Tour and, at this point, LIV players have access to them. One would expect that will continue, given that the majors are money-making machines in their own right and the prospect of having the world’s top players in their fields – without exception – means more money for the majors.

That said, there was a particularly interesting wrinkle in the golf news when Zach Johnson, the captain of the U.S. team that will compete in the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, laid out the rules for participation in the sport’s greatest grudge match.

“In order to play on the Ryder Cup team, whether you’re a top-six or a (captain’s) pick, you must garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America. In order to garner points through the PGA of America, you have to be a member of the PGA of America. The way that we’re members of the PGA of America is through the PGA Tour.

“I’ll let you connect the dots from there.”

LIV Golf is a tool for the Saudis to cleanse their image. It offers life-changing money for many players. One of the ways it can change an American player’s life is the prospect of perpetual disqualification from the Ryder Cup.

That's one price tag.

marace@dispatch.com

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: LIV Golf tour: PGA, European tours announce reforms