Whether you have ever watched golf, played golf, or none of the above, you have probably heard of LIV Golf in the last few months. LIV Golf is the new Saudi-backed professional golf tour that aims to compete with the PGA for the top golfers. All other professional golf tours serve as feeders for the PGA or are smaller location-specific tours. However, this new tour is so controversial that it has taken the golf world by storm and even been mentioned frequently on non-sports news due to specific issues.
LIV has caused strife among golf fans, many of whom are split about whether or not golfers moving to this new tour is warranted and understandable. Many fans find the move hard to understand, especially for players like Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau who still win on the PGA Tour. For players like Phil Mickelson, it makes sense that he would go where the money is. Even though he is a legend on tour, he is close to the end of his career. The monetary gain of moving to LIV makes sense. The problem is the human rights violations of the country that runs the tour; it also seems awful to have to answer questions about said human rights violations at press conferences instead of your golf game.
One controversy, in particular, is the families of 9/11 victims contacting players who have defected to LIV, like Mickelson. Their issue with this new tour is that American players are supporting a tour that is backed by the government that was heavily investigated for having citizens involved in the 9/11 attacks. Considering this, it is understandable why these families are hurt by the actions of these famous American golfers. These families have sent letters to players of the LIV Golf tour but have been particularly concerned with Mickelson as he seems to be the only one who has responded publicly.
This new tour has fostered polarization in the golf community and amongst the players themselves. Players now see their former teammates and friends who have defected to LIV as the enemy instead of a fun competition. Golf is an individual sport so technically everyone is your competition, but there is a difference between someone who is your competition and someone who is your enemy. Many players have spoken out openly against LIV Golf and the strain it has had on the PGA Tour and individual golfers this season. LIV defectors have chosen to say the same things about the PGA, going as far as to file a lawsuit against the PGA for defamation. This rift continues to get larger and larger, so much so that events like the Ryder Cup may never look the same. The Ryder Cup is an event where team USA plays against team International. This event is populated only by players on the PGA Tour. Now that so many have defected to LIV, it brings into question who will be eligible to play in the Ryder Cup, and if they even want to. It’s hard to have the best golfers in the world all play on the same team when they won’t even look at each other.
Golf is not a team sport, but it is a sport meant to be played with others. The camaraderie among players is not hard to see when Rory McIlroy (PGA champion) served as an usher at Sergio Garcia’s (LIV defector) wedding. Now those two friends most likely aren’t even speaking due to this rift. When the professionals can’t agree on how the sport should be played and who it should be funded by, what does that mean for the rest of us? Fans of the sport have also chosen sides, many of them following their favorite players over to LIV. It’s hard to say when this will end, but fans of golf and the professionals themselves should not let this affect their friendships. Unless their friend defected to LIV.