Lynch: Call for unity rings hollow from people who divided golf for their own greed

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Adlai Stevenson described Richard Nixon as the kind of man who would cut down a tree then mount the stump to deliver a speech on conservation, so one wonders what he’d say of Bryson DeChambeau, one of the arsonists who set golf’s house on fire and who is now complaining that others aren’t moving quickly enough to extinguish the blaze.

At last week’s LIV tournament in Miami, DeChambeau demanded reconciliation in a sport that’s been bitterly divided by things like the now-withdrawn antirust litigation filed by, um, Bryson DeChambeau. “We can’t keep going this direction,” he said. “It needs to happen fast. It’s not a two-year thing. Like, it needs to happen quicker rather than later just for the good of the sport. Too many people are losing interest.”

One assumes he means people are losing interest in the PGA Tour’s product, unless LIV’s turnstile numbers have plummeted from the hundreds to the tens.

DeChambeau was reacting to similar comments made by Rory McIlroy, who has been attempting to cajole competing interests toward a resolution. “There needs to be a correction,” McIlroy said. “I think what’s happening is not sustainable right now, so something needs to happen to try to bring it all back together so we can all move forward so we don’t have this division that’s sort of ongoing.”

A valid argument can be made that golf would benefit enormously from reunification, that the diffusion of star players between tours is bad for the competitive sport, bad for fans and bad for business. That’s eminently fair. Who has the credibility to make that argument is another matter.

McIlroy does. He’s spent the past few turbulent years advocating for unity, urging his peers to remain under one roof while acknowledging that significant repairs to that roof are necessary. DeChambeau didn’t do that, though. He made a decision to cleave the sport for the sole purpose of personal enrichment, and his new-found enthusiasm for a peace agreement is a shameless effort to have others insulate him from the consequences of that decision.

DeChambeau’s win at the 2020 U.S. Open earned him a 10-year exemption to that major and five years’ worth of free passes to the other three. His eligibility for the Masters, PGA Championship and the Open expires in 2025, so unless he earns a place in the field by other means – or the qualification criteria is rewritten – DeChambeau will be boxed out of three-quarters of the events that matter most. No wonder he insists that reaching a deal is a matter of urgency, that it can’t be a drawn out process for a couple of years. All for the good of the game and the fans, you understand.

From whatever quarter they emanate, pleas for a settlement all cite worrying evidence of an erosion of fan interest. In some instances, that concern is genuine. In others, it’s expedient for people with a lengthy, undistinguished record of prioritizing their personal interests over those of fans or the broader game. The argument for unity is underpinned by an assumption that is both convenient and generous: that fans who have been turned off by money grubbing and entitlement will return if only we can get all the entitled money-grubbers together again under one roof. It’s possible instead that the fire damage caused by the likes of DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson – and those who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour but insisted it too be disfigured by avarice – is irreparable.

It’s going to take time to figure out the future shape of men’s professional golf. Not just in negotiating terms between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, but in the regulatory scrutiny that follows. And that’s before any agreed-upon changes are actually implemented. Even the most optimistic types gathered at Augusta National this week think that a new normal is, at best, a couple of years off. That’s a lot of time and political infighting during which more disaffected consumers can drift away from the product. Yet no single party can wield absolute power over the timetable for finally extinguishing golf’s slow, painful immolation, least of all the guys who struck the match that began it all.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek