The PGA And LIV Golf Decide To “Make Nice”

The subject today is golf – sort of.  It has little if anything to do with the game played by amateurs and professionals; it has only a passing relationship with the tournaments that many fans watch on weekends in the summertime; it has to do with settling the year-long spitting contest between the PGA and LIV Golf.  The two entities have merged; they now sit in serenity circles singing Kumbaya after each one declared the other to be demonic for the last year or so.

Judging from the commentaries in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the merger, the opinion leaders here in the US who dwell on golf matters are most unhappy with this outcome.  Recall that almost all of these commentators have spent the entirety of the confrontation between the PGA and LIV Golf squarely on the side of the PGA and accused any and all persons who chose to align themselves with LIV Golf as lowlifes who accepted blood money from irredeemably evil folks in Saudi Arabia.  Yesterday, they learned that their champion in the fight had reversed course and has now chosen to “make nice” with those same irredeemably evil folks.  The commentators are not happy.

Sally Jenkins is – in my opinion – the best sports columnist of the day; she has been as avid a supporter of the PGA for the last year as anyone.  Here is the start of her column today in the Washington Post and here is a link to the entire column if you want to read all of what she has to say:

“What’s the going rate to turn an American executive into a boot boy for a despotic torturer such as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? Just how worn out are the knees of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan’s pants legs?

“But let’s start with this simple question first: Why would the PGA Tour join forces with a vermin-populated fourth-rate start-up such as LIV Golf, a comedic failure that can’t command any ratings, headed by that king of the white mice, Greg Norman?

“Bought. That’s the only word for Monahan and his henchies on the PGA Tour policy board, who have made an otherwise inexplicable — and still vague — deal to work with LIV and the European tour to form a new global enterprise, funded by the Saudis. They were bought. The only question is for how many bills.”

Maybe Ms. Jenkins is right; maybe the right word for all of this is “Bought”.  I think there are other possibilities, but I have exactly no inside information that might support those possibilities.  However, let me offer up one right here.

The PGA and LIV Golf have been engaged in a lawsuit that alleges that the PGA engages in practices that amount to “restraint of trade”.  That is not a trivial allegation.  So, is it not possible that the folks running the PGA decided that they did not want to take a chance with a jury in this matter and concluded that a merger which would make that lawsuit go away was the prudent course of action?  Maybe the PGA was “bought”; maybe they acted in a way to mitigate risk?

Here is another slant on that litigation.  My understanding of civil litigation – – and remember, I have never been to law school – – is that it seeks to make an injured party whole if the “injury” involved negligence or some other tortuous activity on the part of the perpetrator.  [Aside:  I have never quite understood how a monetary award made anyone “whole” in things like wrongful death suits since the victim there remains – you know – dead.  But set that aside for a moment…]  Lots of civil litigation is expensive in terms of the legal fees for representation and background information gathering; it seems to me that a case involving these allegations would be within the upper limits of legal costs and fees for the parties.

To be sure, the PGA is not a nickel-and-dime outfit.  However, if you want to compare the depth of the pockets for the combatants in that matter, the PGA is a pauper compared to the Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) which is estimated to have something north of $600B in assets.  Maybe, the PGA saw a path to a legal victory but that it would be a Pyrrhic victory that left it verging on bankruptcy?  Hence a merger?

Let me be clear.  I am not saying that either of my scenarios has a basis in reality.  What I am saying is that the media commentators who are so outraged this morning were not privy to any – let alone all – of the activities that led to the agreement to merge.  For now, this is analogous to a “he said/she said” situation and not all those sorts of situations turn out in the end to be what they were trumpeted to be at the beginning.

There are some clear winners in all this – – the golfers who took the outsized signing bonuses from LIV Golf suffered a year of ostracism and scorn but are now back on an equal footing with those who stayed with the PGA and did not get any signing bonus money.

There is a clear point of embarrassment that the PGA will try to sweep aside – – the PGA has aligned itself with the families of 9-11 victims as part of its previous attempts to paint the Saudi money for LIV Golf as blood money.  Explaining yesterday’s merger to those surviving family members should be dicey.

Golf fans are probably winners here too – – when they tune in to see a golf tournament other than the majors, they will get to see all the best golfers in the world not just some of them.  I am not a huge “golf fan” but I imagine that the measure for enjoyment for the Joe Flabeetz Invitational Tournament would be directly proportional to the number of recognizable names in the field.

One bit of bad news that may come out of this merger – – LIV Golf has a “team golf” concept baked into its tournaments.  Golf is not a team sport notwithstanding the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup and the Who Gives A Rat’s Ass Cup.  If this merger results in the rise of “Team Golf” every weekend, that is not a plus.

Sally Jenkins attributes the merger to the fact that the PGA was “bought” by the LIV Golf folks.  By implication she attributes this decision to the money available to the LIV Golf folks.  At that level of abstraction, I agree with her; I prefer – at least until there is more information available – to think that a more accurate way to look at this is that “money talks and bulls[p]it walks.”

Finally, it seems to me that these remarks by Abraham Lincoln are a fitting way to close today:

“Discourage litigation.  Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.  Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser – in fees, expenses and waste of time.  As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man.  There will still be business enough.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “The PGA And LIV Golf Decide To “Make Nice””

  1. you failed to mention how the PGA sold out its members who remained loyal and turned down enormous sums of money to support the tour and didn’t join the scumbags (i.e. Norman, Mickelson, Reed, Garcia, Poulter, Perez who worked out their greedy vendettas or took a money grab which far exceeded what they could hope to earn in what remained their fading careers) without even giving them the courtesy of a heads up let alone the opportunity to give their advice and counsel before a decision was finalized. Talk about the need to “make someone whole!”
    Golf has historically been a unique sport in that the participants are reliant on the honor and honesty of themselves and their fellow competitors. There has always been something more important than winning (Vince Lombardi and his ilk notwithstanding). One of probably many ironies of this situation is that Monahan, who was reviled by the LIVers, has made it possible for them to have their cake and eat it too. I wonder how much “Monahan and his henchies” (all of whom are executives of large corporations or members of large law firms!) were compensated for this decision.
    I realize that my thoughts and feelings are probably considered naive given the current state of contemporary cultural norms.The validity of Lincoln’s quote is likewise invalidated by these changing times in which a lawyer is “a peacemaker” who will actually seize “the opportunity of being a good man” rather than combatant whostrives to win at all costs.
    Call me naive, idealistic, unrealistic, out of touch or whatever, I always have and will continue to hate it when bad guys win. Sometimes “losing by winning” is worth it. God Bless Sally Jenkins.
    PS – What, in this situation is the “bulls[p]it?

    1. Jesse:

      You have far more emotion invested in this confrontation than I do. It obviously matters to you that the PGA chose not to “stand its ground” here. I am not arguing that you are wrong in that position, but I need to be clear that I really don’t care much about that.

      Maybe the PGA mavens sold out and will walk away with tidy sums – – as did the golfers who signed on with LIV Golf. The best way to find that out would be to get a hold of some of their tax returns – – Good luck with that!

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