This week’s event in Saudi Arabia is the latest chapter in a power struggle with the PGA Tour just beginning

Bryson DeChambeau at the 2021 Saudi international.

Halfway around the world, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson will soon make a statement without saying a word as they play at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in Saudi Arabia.

These big three, each of whom is an independent contractor, will essentially say that they are happy to accept Saudi money when it is thrown at them.

The money should start at $2 million and increase up to $10 million. These are spawn fees based on the player and their draw power. Who can blame them? Back at Pebble Beach, the PGA Tour doesn’t offer an appearance fee — at least, not like the Saudis do.

The Tour states that players cannot receive appearance fees, but it allows these bonuses to be wrapped in a different paper. The Tour’s approach is a nod and nod to major sponsors, who pay players to come to small dinner parties, or offer sponsorship deals with the understanding that the pro will be playing in their event. For example, Dustin Johnson now plays RBC Heritage every year, but he was away every year before signing with RBC.

Of course, there are players who turned down the money from Saudi Arabia to play their event this week.

Defending FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay is at Pebble Beach this week, despite being offered an appearance fee to play in the Middle East.

“It’s a multi-factor decision,” Cantlay said. “I love Pebble Beach, so I’m very happy to be here this week because it’s one of the best golf courses on the Tour and one of my favorites.”

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan would welcome Cantlay’s decision, as developments off the Red Sea coast are problematic for a Tour that has not been pushed by outside influences or its own players since its inception. inception in 1968, when the Players Division of the Tournament split from the PGA of America.

Monahan’s problem is much bigger than a Saudi fee-for-service system. The newly named International Series is a 10-event Asian Circuit streak that will take place in countries outside the traditional Asian region, including the Middle East and England, which are traditional homes for the DP World Tour. , the new partner of the PGA Tour. .

Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf Investments, is one of the architects and in announcing the new series on Tuesday the 66-year-old Australian went beyond announcing new venues in Thailand and England. He looked like a man at the head of a circuit ready to upset the hierarchy of golf.

“We identified a new opportunity from a lost opportunity, and I say that with all sincerity,” Norman said. “The missed opportunity that people should seize; other institutions should adopt. We’re very, very respectful and will always be open, and I’ll always be a healthy, friendly competitor, and that’s important to know, because the market is huge and it’s open to everyone, and we’re going to have these open ways.

In a nutshell, Norman has thrown down the gauntlet to the PGA Tour, the European Tour and everyone else that the Asian Tour isn’t going to concede to any other tour. They seem ready to spend whatever it takes, as LIV announced that it had increased its total budget to $300 million, a $100 million increase, while stating that “we believe in the future of the future of the game of golf”.


Where it is, anyone’s guess.

I happen to think that LIV Golf Investment, the International Series and the desire to expand and develop the game are all part of a larger plot to control professional golf, with Norman as the self-appointed monarch.

Too strong?

Norman tried to shove a golf world tour down commissioner Tim Finchem’s throat in the mid-90s, and now, 25 years later, Norman is back and this time the Saudis are reinforcements.

The dream is proclaimed to be to expand the game, and while that may be a by-product, it’s all about control.

At the end of the week someone will be crowned the winner in Saudi Arabia and the same will happen a few hours later in California and then the golf world will go back to normal until the next proclamation from Norman or his group LIV.

Tuesday’s press conference was a small skirmish, with possibly a war in the future.

And if there is a war, let’s be clear, it’s all about control and power. The PGA Tour and its supporters don’t want to give it up.

The reason the Big Three players, along with around 20 other members of the current world top 50, are in Arabia this week is for one thing: the money. There is nothing wrong with that.

At the same time, Tour pros lend some credence to the Saudi bid to upend world golf. Ultimately, the only way for a potential coup to happen is for the players to support it.

All of the Saudis’ money means nothing without the players – the named players – who take part in their events.

So don’t be fooled by what is happening in Saudi Arabia this week.

Whenever you hear for the sake of the game, which Norman repeated at the Saudi press conference this week, you should know that the real reason is power, because spending millions of dollars in appearance fees for multi-millionaires has absolutely nothing to do with growing up the game.

Ed. To note: Sports Illustrated’s parent company, Authentic Brands Group, has a licensing and endorsement partnership with Greg Norman. ABG is not a party to this agreement.