From the initial Mickelsongate to an interview that hasn’t happened yet, the golf world continues to analyze every press conference, email, and statement released by the LIV organization and the PGA and DP World Tours.
Much of the controversy surrounds the answers given to the question, “Why?”
At the start of the controversial LIV series, much of the furore surrounded players that jumped from the ‘Mother Ship’ (PGA/DP) to a tour run and funded via a company closely related to the Saudi Kingdom, one that has received worldwide condemnation for its human rights records.
Earlier press interviews were awkward, and at least one competitor, Graeme McDowell, has spoken about the way he has been treated by the wider golf public.
Reasons given for the departure to the rebel tour have been as ‘leverage’ against current playing/media conditions issued by the main tours, that there would be ‘more time to be spent with family’, even that the 54-hole shotgun start is a far more attractive proposition than the traditional 72-hole split tee-time.
LIV CEO Greg Norman has also often come to the microphone to say he doesn’t quite understand the mass anger at LIV and its paymasters, given that Saudi Arabia is very much involved with some of the biggest companies in the world and many other sporting competitions.
However, his recent comment in an interview with Fox News reporter Tucker Carlson has set the golf world alight, in particular those involved with the LPGA.
During the report, Norman again says he cannot understand the attitude of many against LIV itself, stating that:
“The @LPGA Tour is sponsored by Aramco.”
Carlson raises his eyebrows and asks, “Literally?” before Norman again confirms his belief saying “the largest sponsor of women’s golf in the world is Aramco.”
As can be seen by the reaction from LPGA player Brittany Lincicome, this has not gone down well.
A host of names have taken to social media to refute Norman’s statement, with Lincicome, Lisa Cornwell, ex-Golf Channel broadcaster, and Beth Ann Nichols, Golfweek senior writer, amongst those that were at pains to point out that Aramco are associated with the Ladies European Tour rather than the US version and only as sponsors.
In a similar way to the feeder link between the PGA and DP World tours, the LPGA has an association with the LET, supporting the tour in both a financial and stabilizing role. However, with the Aramco series a sponsored event, it is a far cry from being a direct employer, as with LIV.
Cornwell, who resigned from the Golf Channel amidst ‘mistreatment’ at the end of 2020, was at pains to ask:
“How can the CEO of LIV Golf get this wrong? Good Lord…”
Much of Twitter golf were posting their views, with one user asking professional golfer Sarah Kemp, “Does Aramco sponsor the LPGA Tour? Yes or No?” and received the simple answer, “No.”
He then asks, “So your position is No, but how about the LPGA Tour players that play in their sponsored tournaments? It appears that they do sponsor golf and until LIV was involved, those players had no problems taking the money. Please explain.”
In a separate thread but counteracting that stance, golf podcast host John Ziegler pointed out:
“It’s sad that Tucker Carlson, who I really like & once worked for, apparently fell for this BS analogy. Having a sponsor who does business with, or is even part owned by the Saudis, is NOT the same thing as the Saudis themselves creating a fake golf tour as a political PR effort!”
In another tweet, Kemp explains her stance against the comment that any Saudi company is the largest sponsor in the ladies’ game:
“Aramco is also NOT the largest sponsor in women’s golf. The @CMEGroupLPGA, a solo-sponsored event, has a higher purse than all 6 Aramco events combined.”
Hugely respected journalist who covers women’s golf extensively, Beth Ann Nichols then weighed in saying:
“The six Aramco events are on the LET schedule, not the LPGA! And yes, the LPGA and LET united several years ago in a joint venture. They have a partnership. But those are not LPGA events.”
In the week of the Women’s British Open, somehow, the LIV organization has come to the fore of the golfing world again.
More from the 19th Hole