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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: The ‘do you know who I am?’ elite enclave want to have their cake and eat it

The Royal Greens, host course of the Saudi International event in February.

There used to be an old, weathered retainer – I can’t recall his name, so we’ll call him Davie – who used to man the car park at historic Prestwick Golf Club.

I’m not sure if he looked so weathered due to years as a caddie, on the greens staff or from regular “refreshment”. It was probably all three.

“Davie” was excessively grumpy but beloved by Prestwick’s membership. They used to tell a story about him welcoming a particular distinguished and posh visitor to the club gates.

“Sorry, sir, the car park’s full,” said Davie. “My man,” said the visitor, smiling smugly and condescendingly. “Do you know who I am?”

Davie, who had a short fuse anyway, immediately shouted to a colleague across the car park: “Boab! Can ye help here? There’s some numpty who disnae know who he is…”

It’s an old joke, but when this version was related to me, it was the first time I’d heard it. It makes one wish we had an Auld Davie available to properly address the 21st century elite golfer.

Entitled in perpetuity

We’re in an age of “do you know who I am?” golfers, unbearably self-important and entrenched in the belief they need and deserve more than insane amounts which would embarrass Croesus.

Worse than that, they believe they’re entitled to it in perpetuity.

You hear it when players excuse behaviour like slow play or temperamental outbursts because of the pressures of “playing for all this life-changing money”. Like it’s theirs even before they go to the actual trouble of earning it.

You hear it whenever leading players refer to themselves as “independent contractors”, like they were a small business roofer or plumber.

Agreed, there are thousands of worthy players toiling to improve who might – only just – be worthy of this description, but when we’re talking about the top end of the game, it’s ludicrous.

Then there’s the utter lack of self-awareness where a golfer seriously feels he’s doing his bit for the environment by sharing his private jet with one or two other of his elite enclave buddies rather than taking one on his tod.

No inconvenient Joe Journeyman

What’s got the old codger in this black mood, you might be thinking?

Part of it was the groaning excess contained in Alan Shipnuck’s Golf Digest article focusing on the “community” lifestyle in Jupiter, Florida, which has become a sort of ghetto of rich golfers.

Another is the continuing demand for closed fields. This is where the elite enclave can play for big money without the inconvenience of Joe Journeyman having a hot week and “taking it out of their pockets”. You know, by playing better than they do.

At the same time, by trading on their enduring “star quality”, these closed fields can hold the up-and-coming talent at arm’s length and allow the enclave to coin it in for a few more years past their sell-by date. Maybe more.

The Growing The Game lie

But the clincher is that, altogether predictably, some of the world’s top players have seen the battle between the established tours and the bonesaw-wielding Saudis and decided to shamelessly have their cake and eat it.

No, we don’t really want anything to do with Greg Norman and his bank-rolling sportswashers, and we’re ultimately happy in the safe world of the main tours. But how dare you stop us from taking their money anyway, if only for a week? We’re Growing The Game, dammit!

As we noted in T2G a couple of weeks ago, there’s a clear compromise coming on player releases for February’s Saudi International. And as some of the elite enclave – including some players I actually like – have signed contracts to play multiple times in that non-event, so be it.

But please, stop telling us the downright lie that you’re opening up new markets for golf, like you actually care about the reputation of the sport. Just take the dirty money, if you absolutely must, and keep your mouths shut.

Tiger sounds the deathknell to the Saudi takeover?

Perhaps a crucial and significant blow to the future of the Saudi takeover – in whatever form it takes – was dealt by Tiger Woods last week. Even if he’s not sure he’ll actually be able to play anymore.

Rumour had it that Tiger was offered $200 million or more at various times to join the rebels. After his remarks in the Bahamas last week, it seems he never entertained the idea, pointing out with 82 wins, the PGA Tour is where his “legacy” lies.

“The tour is in great hands, they’re doing fantastic and prize money is going up,” he added. “It’s not guaranteed money like most sports are. It’s like tennis, you have to go out there and earn it.” Quite.

It reminds one of Norman’s World Tour proposal in the 1990s being shot down by Arnold Palmer. Like Tiger, by then Arnie was a peripheral figure in competition. But also like Tiger, his opinion and his influence were massive.

Of course, Tiger doesn’t have to worry about his enduring star quality waning, even if he doesn’t hit another shot in anger. Which would seem to be a live possibility, he agrees.

A different time

I do agree with Woods that he could pick and choose events like Ben Hogan did post-crash and possibly even do halfway decently.

But the depth of field and competition of the early 1950s and now simply don’t compare.

What Hogan did in 1953 (six events, five wins, three of them majors) was amazing, but the winner of the moneylist that year was Lew Worsham. Lloyd Mangrum, a little better known, won the Vardon Trophy for best stroke average.

Tiger also said in the Bahamas that if this is the end, he’s okay with it. Good for him. Even the best of all time knows when it is time to hand it on to the next generation.