The PGA Continues Its War on the Saudi-Backed LIV Golf

Another year out for the golfers that switched over.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., waves while former President Donald Trump points to her while they look over the 16th tee during the second round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., July 30, 2022. Republicans ranging from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Marjorie Taylor Greene defended Trump against an unprecedented FBI search. AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

The PGA handed out another year of bans for rebellious professional golfers participating in LIV Golf, the Saudi-Arabian-backed golf tournament on Saturday. It is the latest round in bickering in the usually staid and controversy-averse world of golfing.

On the one side is the longtime professional golfing behemoth, the PGA, which has run (or at least sanctioned) virtually all professional golf tournaments of note for decades. As elitist and lacking in diversity as any professional sporting organization, the PGA has recently found itself largely on the right side of the sporting world’s moral outrage lately with the arrival of LIV Golf, a ‘rebel’ golf organization that has tried poaching big names.

The alleged lure of the LIV is that the fields of golfers are smaller—no need to watch people trying to become elite golfers, you can just watch people who are already winners—and it’s not as stuffy. For example, this weekend LIV announced players can wear shorts while they golf. Wild stuff. And, probably more important for the issue at hand, all of the purse sizes for the tournaments are absurdly large, as much as $20 million, and some players, like Tiger Woods (who turned down the invitation) were offered hundreds of millions of dollars to compete. In other words, if you’re a good golfer, are tired of people telling you what to do and you just want big bucks, the LIV tournament can be super appealing.

The downside is that it’s funded by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, which has led to lots of awkward situations. Phil Mickelson, the most prominent of the defectors, was quoted last year acknowledging he knew how unsavory the people he was taking money from were—but that he didn’t care.

“We know they killed [Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay,” Mickelson told an interviewer. “Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”

There are also Trump ties. The LIV is holding its season finale at former president Donald Trump’s aging Doral golf course which the PGA abandoned for regular use when Trump launched his political campaign. LIV Golf also held a tournament this summer at Trump’s Bedminster golf course, which, after the January 6 insurrection, was dropped by the PGA as host of the PGA Championship.

The fact that Trump agreed to hold a golf tournament sponsored by Saudi government money so close to New York City rankled families and survivors of the 9/11 attacks, who Trump had once professed to support. Despite protests outside the gates of the tournament, Trump took the opportunity to say he no longer was sure who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, after years of explicitly blaming the Saudis. 

To the advances of the LIV, the PGA has responded by pumping up salaries for golfers who stay loyal and taking a strict hardline on any who leave. The latest move extends the ban on LIV golfers who refuse to repent through 2023.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate