“Petty,” Norman labeled the Royal & Ancient, for refusing to include him in the Celebration of Champions exhibition and dinner. Really? This sour, mean spirited money-junkie with his 40-year grudge is calling others small? Norman paints himself as a wronged eminence, disappointed that the R&A didn’t “rise above” and recognize his world-historical stature. “All I have done is promote and grow the game of golf globally, on and off the golf course, for more than four decades,” he told Australia’s Golf Digest. That’s some magic mirror Norman must look into, if he thinks his ugly predatory work for the murderous Saudi state, his chronic whining, and his gimmicky golf should make him admired, much less honored.
Let’s be frank. The LIV is nothing more than a vanity project for Norman and his insatiable materialism, and an exhibition-money scam for early-retiree divas who are terrified of having to fly commercial again someday. By the way, the supposed hundreds of millions in guaranteed contracts for a handful of stars — has anyone seen the actual written terms, the details of what Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson will have to do to collect that blood-spattered coin, or is everyone just taking the word of Norman, and a few agents trying to whip up commissions, that it’s all free ice cream?
LIV has no meaning. That’s the biggest problem with it. It’s as vacuous and absent of real content as its empty, tinny CEO and promoter, Norman. And the arrival of the world’s best players at St. Andrews for a four-day wind-whipped trial of real substance, and the oldest prize in the game, has highlighted just how empty it is.
For years, Norman has seethed that the PGA Tour didn’t take his ideas for innovating a worldwide tour seriously. It turns out his ideas are junk. LIV claims to “reinvigorate golf through a structure that adds value to the entire sport.” Norman’s structure devalues every hole and every stroke into rubbish. Most criticism of LIV has focused on the noncompetitive no-cut 54-hole format with locked-in appearance money and grotesque purses. The worst scrounger in the world, a Pat Perez, is guaranteed to make $120,000 for 3 days of play even if he never breaks 100, and can still gorge himself on a private Saudi jet.
But the real giveaway that it’s nothing more than giggly customer golf is the shotgun start, that age-old feature of the drunken member-guest. Play out the implication of a shotgun start on the Old Course at St. Andrews, and it suddenly becomes obvious how LIV leeches the meaning out of golf.
A championship course — the real thing — is set up to force difficult late-round strategic decisions, not just in relation to the holes, but to other players on the critical parts of the golf course. A shotgun start destroys all that. When all groups of players tee off simultaneously from different holes, it makes for chum, not competition. Players who begin on 12, will finish on the 11th green. It would rob the magnificently difficult 17th “Road Hole,” and the gloriously scenic, drivable 18th with its stone Swilcan Bridge, the forbidding out-of-bounds rail fence, and deep Valley of Sin, of much of their threat, and strategic import.
There is no meaning, no tension-build, no narrative, to LIV’s structure. It’s inherently unwatchable. That’s because it’s not built to make golf better. It’s built to make golf easier — and to lure players already drenched in conveniences such as courtesy cars, with more comforts and a chance to “expand their wealth,” as Norman told Brian Kilmeade. Just 54 holes? No cutting and winnowing players from the field after two rounds? Money guaranteed?
“What is the incentive to practice?” Tiger Woods observed, acutely. “What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt?”
Superimposed against an Open Championship at St. Andrews, LIV is exposed as the embarrassment it is. It becomes completely understandable why none of the major governing bodies will recognize it with world ranking points, or credit toward Ryder Cup qualification. LIV is not tournament golf. As Woods added, “72-hole tests are part of it.”
Let’s call it what it is: a cocktail joyride on a Saudi thug-sheikh’s company plane. No wonder LIV players seem to have so swiftly lost their competitive edge — they are not competing.
Norman has railed that the PGA Tour is acting as “an illegal monopoly” in its opposition to LIV, a claim the Justice Department is looking into. But a similar claim was dismissed once before in 1994, and even a cursory inquiry will show that the PGA is not engaging in anticompetitive behavior, for the simple reason that LIV is not a real golf event. The PGA Tour has every right to oppose its members appearing in unranked, nonapproved junk that will compromise or dilute the quality of the game. Just as Gucci has every right to fight the proliferation of counterfeit goods.
What makes tournament golf compelling is that it’s a meritocracy, posed against of nature’s inherent caprices. A champion not only has to master 14 clubs in the bag but hold himself together in the face of charges from peers, as well as gusts, rain and sand, and events he may not deserve. Whereas Norman’s idea of golf is all about a surfeit and an ease that no one deserves — or earns.