Why is LIV Golf controversial? Trump’s association with LIV; Barkley’s possible move
While LIV Golf is packed with Saudi money, it’s considered by some to be morally bankrupt. Everything you need to know about LIV here; Trump, Barkley, PGA
The newly-emerged LIV Golf tour has been the first and only rival to the U.S.-based PGA Tour, which has been the only golf tour we’ve known since 1929.
Several popular names have jumped the pond from PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed golf circuit including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and several other heavy hitters that have caused an uproar in the golf world. (Find full list of players below).
Even Cameron Smith, who just earned the world champion title at St. Andrews, might be possibly joining the golf startup.
LIV Golf attracts more Americans
LIV Golf hasn’t only lured these former PGA Tour golf players, but they also have and continue to secure deals with public figures and big names in and out of the golf world. One of golf’s biggest media personalities, David Feherty, left NBC Sports to join the LIV Golf broadcast team, while TNT basketball analyst, Charles Barkley, is also considering making the move.
And most recently, the former US president, Donald Trump, has publicly supported the new league and urged PGA players to ‘take the money now.’
But just why is LIV Golf attracting all these individuals and Americans? We can’t help but dig deep into the reasons behind why these public figures, professional golfers or even former presidents, are interested in making that move to a Saudi-financed league that, shall we dare say, negates the value of human rights?
Why is LIV Golf controversial?
LIV Golf is backed and funded by the Saudi Arabian government’s Public Investment Fund. The Saudi regime has often been criticized for its handling of human rights over the years, including its assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, therefore the controversy. The nation’s government has also been associated with the 9/11 attacks, even though they have not been directly linked to them; 15 of the 19 men who hijacked planes that day, however, were Saudi nationals. (The Saudi government has denied any involvement.)
Why are PGA Tour golfers going to LIV Golf?
Money is the key word here. LIV Golf offers a $20 million purse for the individual competition with the winner earning $4 million and the last place earning $120,000.
Due to Saudi backing of LIV Golf, some paint the money as “blood money,” accusing the regime of “sportswashing” its image by backing the league.
Regardless of where the money is coming from, LIV offers much higher contracts for its players than PGA does; in 2021, the average PGA Tour player earned just under $1.5 million.
Why is Saudi-Arabia backing the LIV Golf league?
Saudi Arabia’s backing of the new series is one of the ways the oil-rich monarchies attempt to change how they are viewed by people in Western countries and improve their countries’ international profile, according to Ben Hubbard, who has written a book on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and his kingdom’s motivations.
That’s why investing in international sports and cultural institutions has been accelerating since 2015, including hosting Formula One races, professional boxing matches, and buying up European soccer clubs (Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund led by the crown prince, acquired the Premier League club Newcastle United in 2021.)
Investing in golf, however, seems to be Saudi’s attempt to pursue a wealthier demographic of an older and more professional sport/market, which is exactly what Trump is all about.
The reason why Trump backs LIV Golf
The former US president is not only closely associated with golf and owns 17 golf courses worldwide, but he also has a close relationship with the Saudi crown prince. In fact, two of the LIV Golf Series events will be at Trump-owned courses: the first at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. in late July, and the season-ending team championship at Trump National in Doral, Miami in October.
That makes Trump’s involvement with LIV also revengeful, since PGA stripped his Bedminster course from hosting the 2022 PGA Championship after the riot at the US Capitol in January, 2021. The event eventually moved to Southern Hills in Oklahoma.
That’s why Trump urged PGA golfers to join the LIV Golf Series on Monday via social media:
Trump on LIV Golf: “Saudi money is unlimited”
Following the events, Trump also spoke highly of the executives and CEO of LIV Golf earlier this year, “I made a deal with them,” Trump said. “They’re very good people. They’re very fine people. Greg Norman’s been a total gentleman, you know, and he’s wanted to do this for years and now he has the right backers because, you know, [the Saudi money] is unlimited. They can do the job right. I think when you put up first-place prize money for $6 or $7 million, I think a lot of people are gonna be showing up, to be honest with you.”
While all is fun and games for the 45th US president, Trump never mentioned anything regarding the murder of Khashoggi or the outcries of the families of 9/11 victims who deemed joining LIV events as “sportswashing” Saudi Arabia’s image in exchange for “unlimited money.”
But it is true that Trump has never put ethics ahead of business. And seeking revenge while encountering success is all the better for the former president.
List of PGA players that went to LIV golf
Here is the full list of former PGA Tour players to join LIV Golf, in order of the Official World Golf Ranking:
Dustin Johnson (USA)
Brooks Koepka (USA)
Abraham Ancer (ESP)
Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)
Bryson DeChambeau (USA)
Kevin Na (USA)
Talor Gooch (USA)
Patrick Reed (USA)
Sergio Garcia (ESP)
Richard Bland (ENG)
Shaun Norris (RSA)
Matt Jones (AUS)
Matthew Wolff (USA)
Pablo Larrazabal (ESP)
Phil Mickelson (USA)
Sam Horsfield (ENG)
Lee Westwood (ENG)
Ryosuke Kinoshita (JPN)
Scott Vincent (ZIM)
Ian Poulter (ENG)
Bernd Wiesberger (AUT)
Hudson Swafford (USA)
Oliver Bekker (RSA)
Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN)
Justin Harding (RSA)
Carlos Ortiz (ESP)
Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA)
Laurie Canter (ENG)
Branden Grace (RSA)
Charl Schwartzel (RSA)
Hennie Du Plessis (RSA)
Phachara Khongwatmai (THA)
Sihwan Kim (USA)
JC Ritchie (RSA)
Adrian Otaegui (ESP)
Hideto Tanihara (JPN)
Martin Kaymer (GER)
Jediah Morgan (AUS)
Blake Windred (AUS)
Wade Ormsby (AUS)
Ratchanaon “TK” Chantananuwat* (THA)
Peter Uihlein (USA)
Ian Snyman (RSA)
Graeme McDowell (NIR)
Travis Smyth (AUS)
Viraj Madappa (IND)
Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA)
Turk Pettit (USA)
Oliver Fisher (ENG)
Chase Koepka (USA)
Andy Ogletree (USA)
James Piot* (USA)
David Puig* (ESP)
Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra (ESP)
Kevin Yuan (AUS)