Anger, confusion surrounds 2023 U.S. Open after PGA Tour-LIV Golf deal

Jun 14, 2023, 6:15 PM

A practice round prior to the 123rd U.S. Open Championship at The Los Angeles Country Club on June ...

A practice round prior to the 123rd U.S. Open Championship at The Los Angeles Country Club on June 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Golf is no longer a gentleman’s game. It has become a sport of betrayal.

At the 2023 U.S. Open, you can almost feel the moral high ground sinking.

One the eve of our nation’s national championship, there is a strange brew swirling at the Los Angeles Country Club. Members of the PGA Tour are angry, confused, embittered. Members of the LIV Tour are smirking, taking victory laps and doing their best not to strut like peacocks.

Meanwhile, the man who secretly helped meld the two entities while throwing his most valuable stars under a bus – PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan – has left his post for medical reasons. I’m guessing he will never return.

The new venture is not official. Congress is reportedly investigating, and some politicians are irate with Monahan. In a letter sent three days after the announcement, Monahan blamed Congress for leaving the PGA Tour exposed and vulnerable, forced to fend for itself against a relentless Saudi Arabian takeover. Monahan said Congress backed off “ostensibly due to the United States’ complex geopolitical alliance with the Kingdom.”

In other words, they sold out long before he did.

Either way, the damage is done. The PGA Tour’s duplicity and hypocrisy has alienated the biggest stars in the stable. Rory McIlroy had been outspoken and heroic in his defense of the PGA Tour, almost to the point of exhaustion. Jon Rahm emerged as a great ambassador, a young superstar not looking for the easy way out, a player who championed the value of legacy and history. Tiger Woods turned down a reported $700-800 million to break ranks, even calling for the ouster of LIV CEO Greg Norman.

They were the big names out front, doing the heavy lifting, taking most of the shrapnel for their commissioner.

But it’s more than just the headliners. Many Tour players were offered big money to join the LIV Tour, declining on reasons of morality, integrity, duty or fear. They were told they would be banned from the PGA Tour if they joined up with LIV, possibly banished from all major tournaments, exiled to a career without definition and meaning.

And just last summer, Monahan linked the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to the regime in charge of LIV golf, uttering a line that will forever haunt him: “Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

Now, there are other questions. Does Saudi Arabia own golf? Who is really in charge? Will the LIV Tour disappear altogether? How can the PGA Tour welcome back players who crossed lines and litigated against them while making good with those who remained loyal? And will we really be subjected to team golf in the future?

The biggest question: Why?

Why did the Tour have to act now? Why did Monahan not have time to meet with Woods and McIlroy, at the very least? There are wild conspiracy theories. There are people who believe golf is just catching up to the rest of the world, a world that only cares about power, money and winning at all costs.

But golf was supposed to be different, a sport that adhered to a strict code of conduct and etiquette. Where honesty and integrity demanded the self-reporting of miniscule infractions from a rules book thick enough to be used as a stepstool.

Alas, LIV Golf disrupted and divided the PGA Tour. For most golf fans, it created a clear delineation between good and evil. The defectors and mercenaries even looked the part, a collection that included some of golf’s least popular personas. The PGA Tour insisted they would prevail in this sacred battle only to capitulate in stunning fashion, surrendering to a bottomless pit of oil money.

They took the money and the deal that Woods would not. Tiger has yet to speak, and when he does, I hope he anoints himself as commissioner of a new tour to be funded by Nike and all his favorite corporations.

For now, the reverberations have shaken the sport, its top-line professionals and a nation of weekend hackers:

Because it feels like the bad guys win and corruption prevails. Like always.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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