The big revelations at the Saudi International were small beer in the end. Sorry, you’re not allowed beer in Jeddah, are you?
It was a glorious festival of irony instead. Greg Norman rounded on critics of the Saudi-funded LIV Investments, calling “shame on you” for judging them without knowing the full facts.
At the same turn, it emerged that every player approached by the Saudis about the SGL has been required (for a decent fee, one presumes) to be gagged by a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Funny way to get all the facts out there, Greg.
Phil breaks ranks…well, nearly
Phil Mickelson, who you can clearly see has been just gagging to tell everyone about it all, came the closest of anyone so far to confessing that he would take the money.
In an interview with my friend John Huggan for Golf Digest, he basically burned every bridge available with the PGA Tour, accusing them of “obnoxious greed”. Says Phil, who stands to make a reported $100m-plus for signing.
Meanwhile, it emerged that Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter had been offered sums, ranging from an estimated $150m to DJ, to a mere $30m to Poults.
As we noted a few months ago, Westwood, Poulter and Stenson have a tricky decision to make. The DP World Tour owns the European end of the Ryder Cup outright. If players defect to SGL, the honour of captaincy at golf’s premier event is surely gone forever.
What do they have so far?
Ian Poulter has been offered £22 million to join a breakaway golf league.
But he could be facing a lifetime ban from the Ryder Cup as a result.
— bunkered (@BunkeredOnline) February 1, 2022
Still, no player has yet been fanfared or even admitted to signing. And you have to believe that those who didn’t go to Saudi last week – Rahm, Morikawa, Hovland, McIlroy, Koepka, Cantlay, Spieth, among others – have already decided not to take what’s offered.
So what do they potentially have out there? DJ, possibly Bryson DeChambeau, a couple of others and a swathe of players in their late 40s and early 50s who need the sportswashing money. Effectively what T2G has been calling the Desert Champions’ Tour for months.
If the money offered is right, if I were a players’ agent I’d be assuring the signing money is fully guaranteed. You can’t imagine such a spectacle lasting for terribly long.
The Asian Tour is slightly different. It’s great for that tour, which was in serious danger of going under, to have found a revenue stream. Even if it does come this dreadful source.
But even with a rise of investment from $200m to $300m, even if it stages events in Europe, it’s not making any dent in the PGA Tour’s empire in particular. Which is what it claimed it would do from the off.
Don’t jump the gun on Bryson’s twinges
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) February 4, 2022
Although still not speaking to the media, Bryson DeChambeau denied he’d been offered $135 million to join the Super Golf League. He used Instagram to give a terse “Wrong” to the suggestion.
This fee, of course, is in excess of Tiger Woods career earnings of approximately $121m. However, if the rumours are true, the SGL’s first offer to Tiger was $200m. He knocked that back, and apparently an increased offer that followed.
Whatever, even accounting for Bryson’s undoubted star quality and social media presence, it’s a huge payday for a guy whose best major performance last year was T26. You have to wonder what they offered Collin Morikawa.
Mind you, the Saudis were willing to pay a hefty appearance fee to another one-time major champion in Jason Dufner last week. Who am I to wonder at their financial decisions?
On another matter, I detect a bit of bitterness and glee at Bryson’s withdrawl with injury from Jeddah and his struggles in the season so far.
For some, this is an incontrovertible sign of what many have predicted. The bulking up and the brutality of his hitting was going to catch up some time in terms of serious injury.
I understand many people love to be proved right – I’m one and I’ve been anticipating this is much as anyone. But a few twinges and tweaks do not make for a career-threatening situation.
In the modern game, golfers get hurt all the time. Rory had his knee and his ribs, almost everyone has a back issue, wrist struggles like Bryson’s are now common.
I suspect he just needs to rest a bit, dial back on the brutality over the ball a bit. He’ll be back soon enough.
And in any case, as we’re fond of pointing out in T2G, the pre-bulked up Bryson was actually an outstandingly good golfer. Maybe reverting to normal wouldn’t do him a whole lot of harm.
Sweet, boring normality returns
Nicolai Hojgaard…wow! pic.twitter.com/gIDM8whawq
— Golf Monthly (@GolfMonthly) February 4, 2022
Anyway, some sweet, boring normality beckons the next few weeks. The PGA Tour ramps up properly in Phoenix and Los Angeles the next fortnight.
The DP World Tour stays in the gulf for another week. Although I’m absolutely and completely biased I found the Ras Al Khaimah Championship much more interesting than the Saudi event. The 20-year-old Hojgaard twins’ bid to dominate the entire circuit added another triump, yet another example of Denmark’s production line.
Crusty old Scotland can’t compete. Well actually, it’s been a solid start to the season from the Scots contingent. David Law threatening the lead for three days in RAK and Scott Jamieson had a third strong week on the Desert Swing.
But of course we were also pleased to see Robert MacIntyre put it together. After his tough times in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, you could hear the usual Scottish murmurings of impending doom.
Seriously, the boy is for real. It was only ever going to be a blip.