150th Open Championship: as golf returns to its home, it is played against the backdrop of the biggest threat

Long gone are the days when men played in costumes and used wooden clubs in a sport that has since grown into a multi-billion dollar business.

However, since the oldest tournament in this sport takes place at the “home of golf” – in St. Louis. Andrews, Scotland – For the 150th time, traditional funds face the biggest threat in over half a century.

Birth LIV Golf invitation series shocked the sport, dividing the players, organizers and fans on who is wrong, who is right and what the future of sport should be.

The juxtaposition of golf’s most historic and famous tournament, held on its oldest course, with this new menace in the background, especially with LIV golfers playing in groups alongside their critics in Scotland, provided an exciting perspective.

break out

Since 1968, the PGA Tour has not faced a greater structural threat than the LIV Golf series.

Although the tour was officially founded in the 1920s, the modern organization that we now know gathered in late 1968 after a group of players pulled out of PGA of America over a pay dispute.

It has since grown into a major driving force in golf, hosting major tournaments around the world outside of the four majors.

Not only is prize money steadily rising, but – along with the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) – the PGA Tour has also made great strides in expanding opportunities in golf, a previously closed sport.

Despite this, breakaway golfers who have joined the LIV Golf tour have cited issues with the current setup and Commissioner Jay Monahan’s unwillingness to listen to what they believe will improve the PGA Tour as reasons for joining the lucrative tour backed by Saudi Arabia.

LIV golfers will earn significantly more by playing in far fewer tournaments. As multiple major tournament winner Phil Mickelson saidbeing able to maintain a work-life balance was a key reason for him joining.
Japan's Keita Nakajima in action during a practice round ahead of the 150th Open in St. Louis.  Andrews.

Such reasoning has drawn rebuttals from some PGA Tour players, including perhaps the game’s most famous player, Tiger Woods.

“I don’t agree with this [the players’ decision to join LIV Golf]”, the 15-time top winner said on Tuesday. “I think what they did was they turned away from what allowed them to take this position.”

Seven-time PGA Tour winner Billy Horschel briefly addressed some of the complaints from LIV Golf players, saying earlier this month that those players who left “made their bed.”

“They decided to play this tour and they have to play there. They shouldn’t be returning to the DP World Tour or the PGA Tour,” said Horschel.

“To say that they wanted to also support this tour, whether it be the DP or the PGA Tour in the future, by playing the LIV Tour is complete nonsense. These guys made their bed. They say that’s what they want to do, so just leave us alone. “

Horschel said that Monahan and the rest of the PGA Tour staff worked “tirelessly” so that the players could “reap the financial rewards” and that criticism of the tour was also criticism of its members, the players themselves. He acknowledged that some players were “more upset than others”.

He added: “I won’t see my family for five weeks, but my wife and I decided so. Am I crying about it? No. I am living my dream trying to play professional golf and support my family financially. . “

Zach Johnson makes his approach to the 18th playoff green during the final round of the 144th Open Championship on July 20, 2015.

Questions

The LIV Golf series has certainly made a splash.

The tour, which is backed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) — a sovereign wealth fund led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — has promised to offer players the chance to play fewer tournaments for a significant increase in prize money. Money.

However, the source of the money and the players’ decisions to forego established golf tours have drawn criticism from many,

The players are accused of being active in Saudi Arabia’s sports laundering regime, a term used to describe corrupt or authoritarian regimes that use sports and sporting events to whitewash their image internationally.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been accused of using sports laundering to divert attention from the country’s grim human rights record.

Tiger Woods kisses a claret pitcher after winning the 2000 Open Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews.

Bin Salman was named in a US intelligence report as responsible for approving the operation that led to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, though he denies any involvement. Human rights groups have also criticized the country for carrying out mass executions and for its treatment of gay people.

Journalists regularly put pressure on players about the ethics of receiving money from such a source. During his press conference ahead of last month’s first LIV Golf tournament, Mickelson repeatedly stated, “I do not condone human rights violations in any way.”

For some, the backlash has done damage.

“I can’t turn on my Instagram or Twitter account until someone tells me to go die.” – Graham McDowell said earlier this month. “I’m just sorry I didn’t say anything. I wish I could sit there and shake my head and say, “No comment,” but that’s not who I am.”

These are not considerations that Willie Park Sr. and Old Tom Morris should have been thinking about back in 1860. The days when players could focus solely on their sport and avoid answering tricky questions are long gone.

Like footballers signing for Newcastle United backed by Saudi Arabia or Qatar-backed Paris St-Germain, golfers joining LIV Golf will have to answer questions about human rights and sports washing.
Jack Nicklaus waves on the Swilkan Bridge during the 134th Open Championship held at the Old Course in St Andrews from 14 to 17 July 2005.

But both factions will travel to Scotland with high hopes to play in the Open Championship on Thursday.

Against the backdrop of history and the greats that came before them, this modern battle will take place between rebels and conformists, between the new and the established. This could be the start of a new era.