An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that Patrick Reed "bailed" on a scheduled charity event. The event was canceled due to scheduling conflicts, and Reed donated equipment to the charity. The column has been updated.
Even before the 54-hole tournament along the Potomac River in Loudoun County gets underway Friday, it has a Trumpian feel to it: If you say something enough, you can will it into reality and get people to believe that fiction is fact.
Like former U.S. Open champ Bryson DeChambeau, on the good LIV does.
“Over the course of time, like many have said, you’ll see what good and what positive impact we’re having,” said DeChambeau, who finished tied for fourth, six shots back of Koepka at the PGA Championship. “And what we continue to keep doing every single tournament and growing and helping out the communities and inspiring junior golfers, helping people that are struggling, you’re just going to see more and more of that.”
Like former president Donald Trump, on his course here.
“I think it’s one of the best properties anywhere in the world for golf,” he said.
Forget the former president for a moment. It’s such a sham and a shame that a handful of the world’s best players take these faux stances and deliver them with straight faces at vapid tournaments. They left the PGA Tour for LIV not because of some desire to grow the game or impact communities. They left for money. So just say it.
“I don’t care what anyone says. It’s about the damn money,” LIV’s Harold Varner III told The Washington Post’s Kent Babb earlier this year. At least he’s honest.
The rest are beholden to no one other than their Saudi overlords, and they have a keen understanding of that. LIV may not have a future in the public sporting consciousness. But it might still have a future luring players from the PGA Tour into obscurity, except when they play majors. How is that?
“Unlimited money,” Trump said. “I think the tour made a major mistake by playing games. They have unlimited money, and they love it, and it’s been great publicity for Saudi Arabia.”
Trump is right about the first part: unlimited money. The murderous regime of the Saudi Arabian government funds LIV with a bottomless pit of lightly laundered cash though its financial arm, the Public Investment Fund. It’s amusing that LIV stopped releasing its minuscule television ratings on the CW because the ratings don’t matter to the circuit’s bottom line. This isn’t designed to be profitable. It’s designed to sportswash the Saudis’ heinous record on human rights.
But is Trump right about the great publicity for Saudi Arabia, when so much media coverage amplifies those travesties? It’s not just that, according to the CIA, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian dissident who became a contributing columnist for The Post. It’s that the regime has repressed women and that identifying as LGBTQ can be punishable by death. Which doesn’t even get to the senseless, years-long war in neighboring Yemen, which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
Is that great publicity? Is it good for golf?
“To raise the question whether LIV has been good for the PGA Tour is to miss the very human and most important point of the whole issue of sportswashing,” tweeted Brandel Chamblee, the former pro and longtime Golf Channel analyst who has been a critic of the forces behind LIV. “It is bad for the people who continue to be oppressed by the man who funds LIV Golf. And as I have said many times, like the pollution that hangs over our biggest cities, its darkness is better seen from a distance and its stench is too easily dismissed as the smell of commerce.”
Did someone say commerce? LIV will play three of its 14 events this year at Trump courses, lining the former president’s pockets.
“They want to use my properties because they’re the best properties,” Trump said. “There’s no property like this.”
The truth is that Trump is eager to back LIV because golf’s other governing bodies have pushed him aside. The PGA Tour no longer hosts what was once a signature event at Doral, just outside Miami, which Trump now owns. The R&A hasn’t staged a British Open at Turnberry since Trump bought it. And the PGA of America stripped the 2022 PGA Championship from Trump’s New Jersey property five days after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Even with all the blowback, LIV is trying to tightly control its message. Don’t buy it. No matter what LIV or its players say, the focus just won’t be on whether Phil Mickelson’s HyFlyers can beat Sergio Garcia’s Fireballs in LIV’s weekly (weakly?) team competition. According to their own website, “The HyFlyers are here to transform golf, transcend their opponents, and transport the sport into a new era.”
Please. The three shotgun rounds over Memorial Day weekend may draw some galleries to this course, which actually is beautiful. The drinks will be cold. The views will be gorgeous. The golf will be meaningless.
That’s not because of the players, because through two majors this year, LIV golfers have a win, two ties for second and two ties for fourth. Some of them can still play.
It’s because the money behind the entire operation comes from an oppressive regime that has terrorized its own people. LIV isn’t transporting golf into a new era, regardless of how many times its players stand before microphones and argue that point. Rather, it’s tarnishing the legacies of those players who cash those massive, dirty checks.