Et tu, Bubba?
In the exodus of some of his prominent golfing cohorts from the old, fuddy, duddy PGA Tour to the sexy new LIV Tour, Bubba Watson avoided the rush for a while.
But eventually the lure of Saudi dollars was too much to ignore and Watson, a two-time Masters champion, became the latest prominent player to jump to LIV.
What was Watson’s explanation for his decision? He wants to grow the game of golf. The $50 million or so he got from LIV had nothing to do with it.
That payday was lowball compared to some of the checks people like Phil Mickelson ($200 million) and Dustin Johnson ($125 million) got to help LIV grow the game of golf. But Bubba is recovering from knee surgery that will keep him from playing until next year. No problem. LIV is happy to wait for another marquee name. And never mind that he has not won a tournament since 2018. A mere detail. LIV lives on the big picture.
The Watson announcement came on the eve of LIV’s latest show hosted by Donald Trump’s National Course in Bedminster, N.J. The ex-president touched off the festivities by playing in the Pro-Am kickoff, applying his own rules for counting strokes to the event. That’s OK because LIV has its own rules, too. Like 54 holes instead of the traditional 72 and no cut after two rounds and guaranteed payoffs to every player including the poor guy who finishes last.
Traditionalists are a little put off by this but hey, times they are a-changing. Hockey settles tie games with shootouts. Football overtimes give offenses the ball within the shadow of the goalposts. The three-point shot has become a basketball staple. Don’t even ask what is going on in baseball. So why not 54 holes for LIV, which used the Roman numeral for the name of its operation?
This whole affair is called sport washing, an attempt by the Saudi sponsors to use money and athletics to scrub its sketchy human rights history. If LIV’s challenge to the PGA works, we could see other new leagues challenging the NHL, NBA, MLB and of course, the NFL.
There is some history there. We all remember the World Hockey Association, the American Basketball Association, the Continental Baseball League, failed challengers to the established leagues.
And, oh, yes, the United States Football League. Donald Trump had a team in that one.