When politics and golf collide!
Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and rugby, to mention the most popular team sports at the professional level worldwide, allow free agency in one form or another. The idea is for a player to be eligible to sign with other clubs or franchises — i.e., one not already under contract to any specific team. The term "free agent" is also used in reference to a player who is under contract at present but who is allowed to solicit offers from other teams. In some circumstances, the free agent's options are limited by league rules.
What about golf? It's obviously not a team sport, except for the Ryder Cup, the President's Cup (alternate years), and now the Olympics (every four years), but in these events, the team concept is so different that it's apples and oranges to compare competing teams to the Yankees, the Cowboys, the Lakers, the Bruins, Real Madrid. So golf not being a team sport means no league controls, and professionals can compete as they see fit, right?
As Johnny Carson used to tell Ed McMahon, "you are wrong, moose breath." That league is the PGA Tour, which rules pretty much with an iron fist. Should Tour players wish to compete in an event or circuit the Tour does not recognize, they must apply for a waiver, which may or may not be granted. It's unclear what legal recourse a player has if the Tour rejects the application. Players who ignore the Tour's decision will not be allowed to compete in Tour events. It'll be back to the bad old days of exhibition golf, illegal gambling, and money under the table. Pro golfers had such a bad reputation in those days that they weren't allowed in the clubhouse. Ben Hogan changed all that.
Enter Greg Norman, who won an impressive 89 tournaments worldwide, including 20 on the PGA Tour. Norman upset the golf world big time recently when he announced the creation of LIV, a mega-purse league financed by Saudi Arabia. LIV plans to hold its first tournament in London in June. Seven other events are planned, according to the league website. So far, PGA Tour winner Robert Garrigus is the only Tour pro known to have applied for a waiver. European tour stars Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, who also play on the PGA Tour, may be considering joining Norman's league. On the other hand, major winners Dustin Johnson and Rory McElroy have turned thumbs down, as has Tiger Woods, the Tour's top draw. Phil Mickelson jumped into the LIV fray in February, got hit with negative publicity when he needlessly injected politics into the debate, and has been quiet since.
What's at issue here is a no-brainer. Either we have a free labor market or we don't. Either we have free competition for labor or we don't. Okay, some restrictions are reasonable, especially in team sports, to avoid chaos, ensure team loyalty over decades of competition, and so on. But golf is not a team sport. Who on Earth roots for...the PGA Tour, or any other tour, for that matter? These governing bodies are just a bunch of unaccountable bureaucrats earning big money while touring pros do the heavy lifting to bring in advertising dollars, TV viewership, and tournament crowds.
There is a win-win argument as well. "Growing the game" is one of the goals trumpeted on Golf Channel and repeated routinely by Tour officials, players, sponsors, and on-air pontificators. What Norman is trying to do is perfectly in line with that goal — even more so. Let's keep in mind how incredibly hard it is to gain admission to the PGA Tour. Players go through qualifying school (Q-School), held only once a year, which is an expensive, nerve-wracking, and grueling six-round ordeal. Knowing they could earn a living on LIV would take a lot of pressure off. If they do well on LIV and wish to do so, it should be possible to return to the PGA Tour without passing Q-School.
Anyhow, it's an idea whose time has come. I wish Norman the best of luck with it.
Arnold Cusmariu is a regular contributor to American Thinker. His book Logic for Kids is forthcoming from Jenny Stanford Publishing.
Image via Pxhere.