If it ain’t broke 

John Craven
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Cameron Smith at St Andrews (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

I don’t mean to accuse anyone of living under a rock, and hey, these days there’s probably worse places to be, but if you’re not up to speed on the ongoing good versus evil tug of war for golf’s beating heart, then here’s a quick recap: 

People are greedy. The only thing better than money is more money. And people will do just about anything to get more money. 

And that’s it. Months if not years of LIV Golf speculation and execution amounts to just that. You had to laugh at Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter squirming when asked if there was anywhere they wouldn’t play if the price was right. They weren’t going to get drawn into hypotheticals when it came to playing Vladimir Putin’s wild world of golf but the likelihood is, they would. Why? Because people love money! 

When Ricky Gervais addressed a room filled with Hollywood A-listers when he hosted the Golden Globes in 2020, he pointed out the hypocrisy of mega rich stars accepting awards before preaching from the stage of how regular folk should live, as if they had a clue: 

“You say you’re woke but the companies you work for, I mean, unbelievable – Apple, Amazon, Disney – if Isis started a streaming service, you’d call your agent,” Gervais said, alluding to tech giants Apple being exposed for running sweatshops in China, Amazon’s workers’ rights issues and indifference to climate change, and Disney’s slave wage culture and sexism. 

I say all this while typing on the notes app on my iPhone that I bought on Amazon while listening to the theme tune from Frozen, so who am I to judge? 

Point is, there’s a lot of bad money out there that’s good to spend so while people are being offered it, in the majority they’ll gratefully accept. 

At least that transaction is easier to stomach as it relates to LIV Golf. Sadly, Bryson DeChambeau admitting that his transfer was a “business decision” is as close as we’ve come to these Saudi rebels owning up to the fact that they made their moves for money, and that alone. I guess when you’re a glorified janitor paid millions of dollars to clean up the image of a rotten regime, it doesn’t wash (see what I did there?) with your new employer’s propaganda drive to admit the truth. So instead we’re fed bucket loads of steaming manure, from growing the game to saving the game, as if golf needs saving. 

And this is what tickles me. From the outset, LIV has promoted its new product as one the fans have been waiting for: 54 holes, no cuts, shotgun starts. Quicker. Faster. Shiny. New. Or as Jon Rahm calls it, “not a golf tournament”. 

“I want to play against the best in the world in a format that’s been going on for hundreds of years,” said the Spaniard. And if Rahm’s rousing words didn’t bring a tear to my eye a la Sinead O’Connor because nothing compares to meaningful competition with context and narrative that can’t be bought overnight. 

And that’s what we have. Take stock. Be grateful. Sure, it’s not flawless – think relentless ads at the U.S. Open – but thankfully it’s not LIV Golf who have come to the table with money and that alone. 

Oh, and Sergio Garcia’s great balls of fire. 

Some have said that golf’s last line of the defence against losing its identity completely is the Majors. I say it’s the fans, and that worries me. That worries me because I know what people are like. Especially my generation. 

We want everything now. We want it until we tire of it and move on to the next thing. If LIV is the future, I won’t even blame Greg Norman and his one-man crusade for recruiting the Saudis to brush that chip off his shoulder. Golf never needed this change until my generation reared its head. It will be the same people who binge watch a series on Netflix instead of cherishing one episode a week that could be the game’s ruin. When did we become so impatient? Damn you, internet! 

Call me old fashioned but golf is beautiful because it takes a long time to play it. Where else do you get four hours plus off the grid these days? Four hours away in which the art of conversation is preserved, removed from noise and screens, immersed in nature. And the same sentiments are true at the top level. 

Is there space for shorter forms of the game? Of course there is, but not when it’s diluting fields and erasing competition. Golf is meant to be a grind. 72-holes of stroke play. A tiny ball and a tiny target hundreds of yards apart. Obstacles and hazards galore in your way. 

Feck football. Golf is the beautiful game. Give me a 36-hole cutline where the players teetering on it live and die by the sword. Give me mega prizes that have to be earned. Give me rivalry. Passion. Heartache. Wonder and awe in golf’s presence. 

Give me sport, or is that too much to ask? 

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