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19th Hole

Golf legend explains why it’s ‘ridiculous’ to scrutinize ladies competing in Aramco Series the same as LIV pros

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In late 2019, the Ladies Professional Golf Association united with the Ladies European Tour in a historic move aimed at building up the presence and status of the LET throughout the world.

As reported at the time, LET Board Chair Marta Figueras-Dotti commented,

“Two teams, joining for one common purpose, will create opportunities we simply could not have pursued on our own. At its foundation, this joint venture is about creating opportunities for our members to pursue their passion and their careers as professional athletes. In just the 60 days since we began working on this joint venture, we have already seen a dramatic impact on our LET Tour schedule–an impact that will be a positive result for virtually all of our LET Members.”

Almost immediately, the November running of the Andalucia Costa de Sol Open was boosted by the doubling of its initial $330,000 prize, and in February 2021, the ladies’ schedule was boosted with the involvement of Aramco, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, one of the largest companies in the world, judged on revenue.

The respected womenandgolf.com  reported on the increased prize-money, each of the four events carrying a vastly increased purse from the norm value of $1 million.

At the time, LET CEO Alexandra Armas said, “Today marks the beginning of a new journey in the history of the Ladies European Tour. This brand new Aramco Team Series takes golf and the sport to a whole new level and I am incredibly excited by all four events.”

“Last November, the LET made history in bringing the first-ever professional women’s golf event to Saudi Arabia, and this announcement only builds on that.”

In conclusion, there were huge positives created by the backing, “By adding four new team events to our schedule for 2021, the Ladies European Tour will add a whole new dynamic for both the players competing and the spectators, taking golf to newly engaged audiences across the globe.”

The positives seemed to outweigh any negatives. The LET was going nowhere, with players struggling to make their expenses and have enough opportunity to progress their careers to the top, and beyond, the obvious first prize being the possession of an LPGA card.

And then came LIV.

Amidst the talk about growing the game, taking more time off to be with the family, and having media rights, much of the early controversy was, of course, about “sportwashing” — the use of sports sponsorship to disguise how and where the money had come from.

Even Phil Mickelson, the first to commit to a move to the Greg Norman-led series, mentioned clearly the reputation of Saudi Arabia and their record on human rights.

The media had a field day, watching and listening to every move by the players, whilst social media blew up with taunts and jibes at the, frankly ludicrous, answers by the players.

The inaugural LIV event, in June this year, was held amidst controversy for more reasons than we have column inches and yet a week later, the second of the 2022 Aramco series was played at the same course without anywhere near as much negativity.

Norman was himself caught up in a bit of a mess when failing to understand the deal between the LET and the oil company, claiming he didn’t understand the controversy of his own Saudi backing, considering that “the largest sponsor of women’s golf in the world is Aramco.”

Fast forward to today.

As the PGA Tour makes its way to the second of the trio of FedEx Cup Playoffs without the likes of banned Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, et al, the DP World Tour “welcomes” back Ian Poulter and Laurie Canter to the field at the Czech Masters.

Also on the schedule this week is the third of the four Aramco Team Series events, taking place at Sotogrande in Spain. Amongst those taking part will be Nelly and Jessica Korda, and Linn Grant, nine shot winner of the Scandinavian Mixed, a tournament that mixes both sexes on the same course at the same time.

Even then, the Swede was subject to questioning after the impressive victory, with many ludicrously asking if it really was a genuine win from a mixed field given the differing yardages off the tee.

As tee-time approaches this week, there seems no getting away from the controversy that LIV has created, and someone needs to stand up and give a strong view from the inside.

Step forward Dame Laura Davies, the four time major winner who still keeps her eye in on the course, and is a popular analyst for Sky Sports Golf.

Golf Monthly caught up with the 58-year-old member of the World Golf Hall of Fame to ask if there was just a hint of double standards with the ladies accepting the Saudi money with far less criticism than the men.

Laura told the magazine that, “This is a completely different thing. LIV Golf is wealthy players getting wealthier and I would never criticise players for any decision that they make, as we’re all self-employed. On the women’s side it’s prize money where the girls can make enough money in the Aramco Series to pay for their season with a couple of good finishes–that’s all that the LET want, to provide for the players and, if the LET is strong, then that can only be good for women’s golf.”

“The LPGA Tour has huge money, but not everyone can play on it. The Aramco Team Series is giving girls the option to be able to play a full season and make money – we’re professional sports people and, if we’re not making money, then it’s not viable. We have £200k tournaments and I’ve said this for years, that’s just not enough. I will very rarely play in a tournament like that as I don’t think it’s right, the quality of player on the LET shouldn’t be playing for such small prize money where the winner will get £30k against a world-class field.”

“The women aren’t getting away with anything. It’s a way for these girls to compete six times a year and earn decent money. I really don’t compare the two. You can make a case if you want to, but it is a little bit ridiculous.”

“If you choose not to play in the series, as Meghan MacLaren has done, then you are taking a huge financial hit for the year. “

“That’s completely fair enough if that’s the way that they see it. I would never second guess anyone’s decision in the men’s game as everyone has reasons to do something and that’s fine. I don’t want to criticise anyone and I don’t particularly like being criticised myself for playing in these events–nobody is particularly right and nobody is particularly wrong.”

Alexandra Armas is still the CEO of the LET, and backed up what Laura had to say.

“If you think where the LET was in 2019 and then the pandemic hit, our objective when I rejoined was to grow the number of tournaments, grow the prize funds and increase the number of player opportunities,” she said.

“Having this partnership with Aramco we have stabilised our schedule and the opportunity to expand, there are 33 tournaments and six with Aramco, but it’s not just the prize money but the quality of the delivery of the events which is to the highest standard and they’re played on great courses. After a tough few years, it has given the players the chance to start thinking about playing golf again as a career opportunity which, realistically, before they would have to look at other jobs.”

With talk of a women’s LIV series on the horizon, the relationship between the Saudi government and the tours is crucial to the way the sport develops over the next year or so.

Whilst the PGA Tour seemed not to miss any of their outlawed players at the St. Jude, the women’s tour is in a completely different boat.

Plenty of those on the inside have a lot to say on all the matters “LIV” and beyond. It’s when not if they will say it.

We await with interest.

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2 Comments

  1. Tom Leykis

    Aug 18, 2022 at 8:25 am

    You never hear women wanting Equality for all for jobs where you actually have to physically work.

  2. Livininparadise

    Aug 17, 2022 at 11:34 am

    Lol. It is the same thing. Money coming from same spot. No one cares because it is the women

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19th Hole

Cam Smith enjoys meme poking fun at Rory McIlroy at latest LIV event

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The LIV Golf Series continues this week in Chicago, where the Champion Golfer of the Year Cam Smith will make his second start.

The Australian’s move to LIV has been one of the biggest stories of 2022, with Smith reportedly signing a deal worth north of $100 million with the breakaway tour.

Ahead of this week’s event in Chicago, Smith was shown a meme by the DrunkByTheTurn team, with the Aussie seemingly entertained, laughing at its content alongside fellow pro Pat Perez.

As revealed by the DrunkByTheTurn Twitter account, the meme in question was poking fun at LIV’s biggest critic Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy has continuously criticized both the LIV Golf Series and its defectors, just this week saying that he believes no LIV player should be a part of the 2023 Ryder Cup.

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19th Hole

Report: Major TV network the leading contender to strike deal for LIV Golf media rights

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The latest LIV Golf event gets underway in Chicago this week, with those looking to tune in once again having to fire up YouTube to watch the 48 professionals do battle.

LIV has yet to strike a media deal that would allow a network or streaming service to broadcast their events, and while rumors surrounding a deal with Apple were circulating, Barstool’s Dan Rapaport reported this week that they deemed LIV to be “too toxic.”

According to a report from Front Office Sports, Fox Sports is now the leading contender to acquire LIV’s U.S. media rights.

While not going into specifics on whether a deal was close to being struck with Fox, Will Staeger, LIV’s chief media officer, told FOS that they are currently in discussions with “virtually every major media company.”

“We want exposure. We want broad viewership. We want to be on a platform where viewers are accustomed to watching sports.” he added. “Golf needs it, actually. Quite honestly, listening to golf on TV gets rather boring. Because everybody says the same thing every time about everybody.”

Interestingly, Fox Sports fired Greg Norman from his announcing role back in 2016, just a year after being in the job, with the Aussie telling FOS last year that he felt that he got “rolled under the bus.”

Earlier this week, Norman revealed to Kap & J. Hood on ESPN 1000 that they were in discussion with four different networks, and it appears that Fox lead the race to land a deal that should be a game-changer for LIV.

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19th Hole

Bryson DeChambeau thanks Tiger for creating LIV Golf

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Bryson DeChambeau was one of the biggest names to jump ship in golf’s civil war, with the 29-year-old reportedly earning over $100 million to sign with LIV Golf.

The Golf Scientist will tee it up in Chicago this week for the latest LIV Golf Series event, and ahead of the 54-hole tournament, Bryson opened up on his decision to leave the PGA Tour.

“This is the biggest decision besides choosing my agent that I’ve ever made in my entire life, and I couldn’t be happier to be over here.

“I have no buyer’s remorse. I have ultimate respect for the PGA Tour and what they’ve done for my career, as I’ve said from day one, and they’ve allowed me this opportunity.”

Then, Bryson revealed that he must thank Tiger for creating the opportunity.

“I have to look back and thank Tiger for this opportunity because he’s the one that’s ultimately created this.”

Bryson didn’t go into specifics on the latter comment, however, it echoes the sentiment he shared two months ago when the Californian told media: “I have high regard for Tiger; look, this wouldn’t be existing if it weren’t for Tiger. So I have the utmost respect for what he did for the game of golf, what he did for the PGA Tour that allowed us to have this opportunity.’’

Back in July, DeChambeau also revealed that a once close relationship with Tiger had now gone cold since the PGA Tour/LIV Golf divide.

“We have been fairly close and unfortunately, we have not spoken, one day we will again, and I am always open for a conversation with anybody. I have no problem with it and I hope we can come see eye to eye on it.’’

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