Golf leaders need to speak up, but they remain silent

Golf leaders need to speak up, but they remain silent

Sober golf has traveled a long path from societal ignorance and neglect to the moral abyss on which it balances precariously today.

The game’s various leaders got their PR equivalent on Tuesday, when it was announced that stars such as Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Louis Oustoizen would join. She plays in the first tournament of the much-discussed and internationally criticized Saudi golf league, which was funded by the people who murdered and dismembered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

This week, which had been expected and discussed for months, came the abhorrent and unprecedented decision by some of the world’s most famous golfers to go into business with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Bin Salman, who funds LIV Golf for the Saudis, has punished Khashoggi’s murder, according to human rights organizations and intelligence services.

Certainly golf stakeholders—the American Golf Association, the PGA Tour, Augusta National, and the PGA of America, among others—were willing to answer with virtuous words that would permeate the honorable game for decades, making future generations Proud, and sets manners. A high ground where men like those above are not allowed to return to their midst for a long time, perhaps forever.

It turns out they weren’t ready at all. They responded hesitantly, relying on previous statements, saying almost nothing while they thought they were saying something. Augusta National is no longer email. The USGA, which hosts the men’s US Open in two weeks, said it reserves the right, “as we have always done, to review the status of any competitor on a case-by-case basis.”

The US PGA said it was “inappropriate and premature” to speculate on the future. The PGA Tour looks set to fire Johnson and those other hollowpoints on the Saudi roster, but it won’t officially announce it on Wednesday.

One wonders what would so infuriate this older club of boys (and some girls) if their players were dealing with killers they weren’t doing for them?

This systemic societal failure of golf leadership – look at the way the sport has treated black men for decades, and how it treats women to this day – was brought about by the 37-year-old Johnson, a seemingly two-time winner deciding to erase his entire reputation for what he appreciates. With $125 million, the Saudis handed him over.

Johnson is so lacking in moral substance that he has signed up to play in next week’s Saudi opener in London – let’s call it the Blood Money Open – knowing that it runs counter to the RBC Canadian Open, which he has pledged to attend at least in part because it is sponsored by RBC.

Make it sponsored. RBC ended their relationship with Johnson on Wednesday afternoon. As RBC just learned, Johnson means absolutely nothing.

In February, Johnson said: “Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of speculation about an alternative tour; much of it seems implied and my future in professional golf. I feel now is the time to put an end to this speculation. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour. I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best Tour in the world and for all that it has given me and my family. While there will always be areas where our Tour can improve and evolve, I am grateful for our leadership and the many sponsors who made our first PGA Tour Golf.”

On May 31, he was outside the door of the Saudi event in London.

Dustin Johnson, ladies and gentlemen.

Johnson, Garcia and the others, along with their role models Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson, will say this is about their freedom as golfers to make the money they want to make it so and escape the shackles of oppressive multi-million dollar tour life. But not this. It’s all about greed. Pampered rich men want more and more.

Golf has forever told us that it is built on the pillars of honor, dignity, sportsmanship and fair play. Unfortunately, that interface has collapsed. Today’s golf, epitomized by Johnson and his cohorts, is about selfishness, combined with a startling lack of moral judgment.

The people running the game need to speak up against that loud, bold, and immediately. Silence is no longer an option.

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