Watching Rory McIlroy win the PGA championship (the FedEx Cup) on Sunday in Atlanta, I was reminded of that benevolent and flat warning given to us by a professor at the beginning of a semester at the university.
The Northern Irishman, who was six shots behind for the final round, achieved a spectacular comeback. He handed over a card of 66, 4 under par, and took advantage of the collapse of Scottie Scheffler to finish the season in first place in the world rankings and pocket the orderly bag of 18 million that accompanied it.
Poor Scheffler, who had spent 24 of the last 25 weeks at the top of the charts and won his Masters in the spring, chose the worst time to have a bad day at the office. His 73 card (3 hits above par) earned him second place and a bag of 5.75 million. So he left 12.25 million on the table.
So Rory McIlroy was crowned FedEx Cup champion for the third time in his career, which is absolutely extraordinary. However, in lifting the trophy, the most avid defender on the American circuit could not ignore the fact that his roster of opponents differed considerably from that of just three months ago.
When 2020 season champion Dustin Johnson accepted $ 125 million to jump the fence and join the Saudi LIV championship in early June, all the spotlight and almost all the contempt was directed at him.
How could one of the best golfers on the planet and Wayne Gretzky’s son-in-law, as much as he offered, agree to join a totalitarian regime that scoffs at human rights and dismembers, in a foreign land, the journalists that displease him?
For simply making a call for the Saudi circuit to be born in February, Phil Mickelson was then considered a pariah by his peers.
A few days after the announcement of Dustin Johnson’s departure, Mickelson officially joined the first wave of defectors. Before he had hit a single ball and despite being at the end of his career, the leaders of the LIV circuit granted him a 200 million contract.
In my June column on the subject, I speculated that LIV league recruiting would get easier and easier over time. And that after seeing a number of their golf buddies ally with the Saudis, PGA golfers would have cared far less about their reputation or ethical considerations like
sports wash o respect for human rights.
Events have changed. Several dozen PGA Tour players quickly changed their jackets, including big names like Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer, Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, and Bryson DeChambeau. Doing the tally, we now see that over 20% of the 40 best players on the planet have defected. It’s nothing! And that’s not all.
The PGA house is on fire.
Despite an extraordinary meeting of players from the American circuit held last week and moderated by Tiger Woods, on Sunday we learned that another wave of starts is brewing. Young emerging talents like Mito Pereira and Joaquin Niemann will also leave the PGA, as will veterans Mark Leishman, Harold Varner and Cameron Tringale.
A few weeks ago, world number 2 Cameron Smith was added to the list of players seduced by the unlimited financial resources of Saudi promoters. This news has had the effect of a stab in the heart for the leaders of the PGA, who are desperately trying to retain his best talent.
However, even as their scholarships increase, it’s hard to see how Americans will be able to compete. The LIV circuit obviously does not seek profitability and its promoters are directly linked to the hundreds of billions of the country’s economic development fund.
In addition to the pharaonic contracts granted to the players, the total bags of the tournaments
ordinary LIV Tour are 30% (25 million) higher than PGA tournaments. The player who finishes last is still guaranteed a scholarship of $ 120,000.
What is unfolding before our eyes is absolutely extraordinary. Less than a year ago, the PGA Tour was seen as an unshakable international sporting institution. However, it only took a few weeks for it to become a house of cards of sorts.
To overturn everything, it was enough for the leaders of a totalitarian country in need of a discreet power (called soft power in international relations) decide to spend a few billion. They have thus appropriated a significant portion of the best talents on the planet. And frankly, where we are at, it’s very difficult to see how this bleeding can be stopped.
Let Rory McIlroy take a good look around. Left, right, front and back. Because on the same date next year there may be two or three that won’t be there anymore.
The leaders of sports championships such as the ATP, the WTA or some professional boxing bodies should perhaps pay close attention to what is happening in the world of golf.
Of course, the Saudi recipe could easily be replicated.