Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.
Dublin, Ohio – The old hit from last year was right and time hasn’t advanced on the basic truth a bit:
Go on, take the money and run.
Yes, the old Steve Miller anthem. Yes, crunch is the name, the best way to sell a 45. It doesn’t mean that anyone listens to music at 45 anymore.
When Dustin Johnson’s parents were home, 45 was a thing and Apple Records was the Beatles’ record company. Things change, often in the name of more money. Father’s time may be undefeated but so is the lure of money.
Today in golf there is one story and not the leader of the first round at the memorial. This is it: Dustin Johnson took the money, north of $100 million, according to a published and authoritative report, by James Corrigan of telegraph, in Great Britain. He will join the Saudi-backed LIV golf chain.
Talk about taking the money and running. For years, Johnson was a patron of the Royal Bank of Canada also known as RBC. Sponsor of next week’s PGA Tour event, the RBC Canadian Open. Johnson was front and center. But he does not play in them. Because he will play in the first LIV event in London instead, Three Days, 54 holes, no cut.
The official word from RBC is that they are “very disappointed”. Well, what did you expect them to say? They are Canadian!
If you know anything about Dave Winkle, Johnson’s longtime agent and president of Hambric Sports Management, there is no way to encourage Johnson to take that step. He has spent 35 years developing relationships with RBCs, UBSs, and AT&Ts. There is no real math out there. There’s just, “Dustin’s a great guy and you’ll love hanging out with him in the field and at the bar.”
RBC’s money was in the millions for sure. But it wasn’t like $100 million. So Dustin Johnson took the money and ran. You can write a children’s book about it. It will not be long.
Dustin Hunter Johnson is a tall man with a trim beard who plays a sport called golf. Your mother, father, or guardian may “work” in an industry such as hospitality or computers. But professional golfers play a sport called golf. This is their job.
Dustin Johnson is 37 years old. He has two children and owns a jet ski, boats, and other watercraft. He loves water. There are many pictures of him surrounded by water.
For many years, Dustin liked to play most golf in the United States in a league called the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour made him rich and famous and Dustin loved to be rich and famous.
In 2020, he won a prestigious old golf tournament called the Masters, not far from where he grew up, in Columbia, South Carolina. He was happy! So was his fiancée and his agent! Also, Dustin’s brother, who worked with him carrying his older brother’s golf bag on the course and across the parking lots.
You may find this interesting. All major golf tournaments allow golfers to borrow cars. Sometimes cars are returned at private airports with hamburger wrappers in the back seats and other leftovers. (Detritus can be your word of the day. One day you might even see it in the SAT!) Thankfully, there are other people out there who clean up vehicles when you bring them back. Very few people see these people.
Two players finished a tie for second place in the Masters when Dustin won. One of the golfers was from South Korea and the other from Australia. Golfers from all over the world want to play the Masters.
But after Dustin won the Masters, his golf scores weren’t as good as they used to be. He stopped playing well in the biggest golf tournaments, the ones that make the golfer rich, famous and the envy of his peer group. For you, your peer group can be the other kids you play with on the playground. Envy is what you feel when Sally jumps on the monkey bars and rushes through and you can’t. If it makes you work harder, that’s fine!
Then one day some wealthy men in Saudi Arabia offered a large sum of money to play golf in a new league called LIV Golf Series. No country in the world produces more oil than Saudi Arabia. The richest people in Saudi Arabia are amazingly rich! They can buy pretty much anything they want! For example, they recently purchased Dustin Johnson’s golf services! Since he was pretty good at golf, Dustin used to be the envy of his peer group. But do you think they envy him now? Will he make new friends while playing in this new league? Time will tell!
Greg Norman has been saying for months that the LIV series he runs could be an “additive,” and could make the global golf cause bigger and better. I would say in theory this is true but in real life it would prove incorrect. In a sense, the PGA Tour has ended its founding principles. Nobody calls it a tour anymore, with golf bums moving from town to town, like a roving carnival to entertain the citizens and raise some money for local charity. No one is calling the Pebble Beach Pebble Beach Championship any longer. Golfers say AT&T. Fans and broadcasters do it too. They know who pays the bills. It has been that way since the late 1980s.
But what remained was the peer group, others could not envy to play and get the results of the championship. That spirit remained.
There is a lot of golf on TV now. It’s after a similar period, except for the Grand Slam events and some other special weeks, like the Players Championship and the Ryder Cup.
The Saudis saw an opportunity here, not to make money, raise money for charities, or make a show for locals. The opportunity they saw was to appear more common, like modern society, with golf as a prime example of comfort from the entertainment category.
I think the thing that bothers me here is that golf and the PGA Tour have done a lot for Dustin Johnson. He can do whatever he wants, of course, and he is. He’s not hurting anyone here except for the system he made. He leaves behind more than he knows.