Never has that axiom been truer than it has proven to be in the country club world of professional golf where paydays can be plentiful.
And in the case of Saudi Arabia, and its sketchy human rights record notwithstanding, money doesn’t just talk. It shouts.
When the regime decided it needed some recreation from the routine daily abuses, it chose golf and invented its own circuit of events. To pull this off, it would need an exploding checkbook and it had one at the ready.
Old pal Greg Norman became the face of the Saudi-funded venture as chief executive and commissioner. Play got underway with the LIV Golf Invitational, a 48-man event at London’s Centurion Golf Club. The event carried $25 million in prize money with first place worth a cool $4 million. In addition, there are fancy appearance fees and a guaranteed six-figure payday for each of the 48 players in the 54-hole event with no cut.
Sign me up!
In no time flat, a fistful of prominent professional golfers headed by Phil Mickelson, acting as Norman’s chief recruiter, booked flights to England. Money wasn’t just talking. It was yelling at them.
Included in the exodus was Dustin Johnson, a two-time major tournament winner, most recently in the 2020 Masters. His payday for that victory was $2,070,000, about half the first place payoff of the inaugural LIV event. He also got a nifty green sports jacket.
Johnson resigned his PGA membership along with the other golfers who migrated to the Saudi operation. That group, of course, included Mickelson, one of major golf’s most recognizable names.
Mickelson had been on a self-imposed break from tournaments during which time he issued harsh comments about the PGA Tour where he has 45 tournaments in his career with purses worth $94 million over 30 years. That’s peanuts compared to the reported $200 million the Saudis paid to reel him into their operation.
Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, was not amused at some of his prominent members showing up on the roster of a rival tour. He responded by suspending 17 players for abandoning the PGA for an abundance of good, old fashioned greenbacks. Or whatever the color of Saudi currency happens to be
Nothing is forever in golf though. Mickelson made that clear when he announced on the eve of the first Saudi event that he would be playing in the next two majors—the U.S. Open next week and the British Open next month.