There isn’t a single kid alive praying they’ll grow up to be just like Adrian Otaegui, Andy Ogletree or Hennie du Plessis. Nor, dare I say, might anyone harbour ambitions to climb on the shoulders of giants like Ian Snyman, Laurie Canter, Oliver Bekker and Itthipat Buranatanyarat.
I’ll bet that even if a genie in a bottle offered you half-a-billion dollars as an inducement, you couldn’t tell me the career highlights of Turk Pettit?
I’d be gobsmacked if any of these names ring even the quietest of bells. Nevertheless, they will go down in history. These eight individuals represent one-sixth of the advancing battalion doing the honest work in the LIV Golf Series’ self-proclaimed mission to “modernise and supercharge the game of professional golf through expanded opportunities for both players and fans alike”.
The LIV Golf business model has some reasonable rigour to its design, which is non-reliant on out-and-out Nevilles. That said, it’s a money pit, where any return on investment could be decades away, if the concept survives and doesn’t flame out.
Pay a few “anchor” drawcards, such as Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, wicked retainers of $140 million and double-that respectively, to weld themselves to the Saudi caravan of courage and people’s curiosity and incessant attention will inevitably follow. Right? Well, yeah, maybe.
Phil Mickelson, Rafael Nadal and Dustin Johnson.Credit:Getty
Tiger Woods, it is reported, was offered almost a BILLION DOLLARS to sign on. Which itself demonstrates just how out of control the Saudis are with their seemingly limitless riches.
Woods is the greatest golfer to ever live, but he’s also borderline crippled. To put it into perspective, the LIV bagmen offered the equivalent of the total prizemoney available on the PGA Tour this season as an appearance fee for someone who can’t manage competitive rounds on four consecutive days.
Yes, Woods defecting would have constituted a destructive blow to the PGA Tour and golf’s establishment. Is that what Greg Norman and those who he dances to the tune of actually want? Quite why someone would be interested in watching the YouTube or Facebook livestream of LIV’s first tournament has as much to do with an interest in actual golf as the Lingerie Football League did to gridiron.
Watching Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell duke it out won’t be anything resembling a pure sporting spectacle.
Sergio Garcia plays out of the rough on the fourth hole during his opening round on Thursday.Credit:Getty
Sure, all have won majors except for Poulter and yes, there’s been no greater talisman for the European Ryder Cup team than the Englishman, provided you leave Seve Ballesteros out of the equation.
But Kaymer has played dreadfully for years now. McDowell’s 2010 US Open win was a droll performance and fabulous accident all at once.
Garcia’s eventual triumph at Augusta National in 2017 will only ever be matched by his penchant for bad manners. If Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau go as well, good riddance
Are any of them the magnets LIV sorely needs if it’s to make good on its mission statement? No. Nor Mickelson and Johnson.
That LIV Golf, as a concept, has morphed from modernising and supercharging into a “golden parachute” platoon for the not-quite-immortal 40-somethings, is one thing. It’s nigh on impossible, though, to think that any of this will ever matter in anything aside from a money sense.
People are going to get really bored, really quick, if all that’s supercharged is the bank accounts of some competitors. And the confected, little league teams concept is unadulterated junk, viewed through whatever prism.
You have to ask whether the decisions made by Lee Westwood, Mickelson and Kaymer to take the money and join the “revolution” says more about their private reckoning with their dissipating abilities than it does about anything revolutionary.
If Mickelson has been plied with a $200 million retainer, good luck to him.
Same goes for Kaymer and Westwood, even if they’ve been secured just one-tenth of that amount. Each is a professional athlete; they do this for the money. Blame them at your peril, they’re not trained monkeys.
Nadal’s 14 French Open wins now equal the entire grand slam haul of Pete Sampras, the standard by which all male players were judged just two decades ago.Credit:Getty
Nobody should for a second begrudge them navigating the rapids of the rivers of gold. Not in circumstances where each of them surely must look in the mirror each morning and realise that their respective chances of continuing to compete week-in, week-out with Jon Rahm, Cameron Smith and Scottie Scheffler have an ever-shortening half-life.
Not a single player will make anything other than money. And that’s not to criticise LIV from the lazy perspective of citing the House of Saudi’s human rights abuses. The PGA Tour hardly eschews any interaction with China.
What a juxtaposition, then, is offered by Rafael Nadal’s improbable (and that’s no typo) victory this week on the red clay of Paris. Indeed, what a starkly blinding contrast. Because it mattered.
Sure, Rafa had won at Roland Garros a mere 13 times since 2005. And sure, he was playing with a left foot defect so chronic, and so needled-up, that if you took to his ankle with a buzzsaw he’d hear it coming but not feel it cut. And sure, nobody, ever, had won the French Open aged 36 (nor 35, for that matter).
Nadal’s annihilation of Casper Ruud was equal parts ferocious, incomprehensible and downright glorious. In cradling The Musketeers’ Cup yet again, Nadal won as many French Opens as Pete Sampras had won major titles, in a career which was the standard-bearer when he retired two decades ago.
If you were to aggregate the career records of Andre Agassi and John McEnroe, they won just one more grand slam than Nadal has won French Opens.
If you’ve not figured it out, I adore Rafael Nadal. What he’s achieved in 2022 thus far defies any predictions for the final chapter of his career. Nadal is a remarkable athlete, who continues to leave a legacy which is uncharted.
By contrast, the only mark which the LIV International Series is destined to make is a gaping hole in the stratosphere, burned through by the billions thrown at this venture for no identifiable, sensible business purpose.
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