Since being accused of a “dick move” by Phil Mickelson is comparable to having the Pope commend one’s catechism scholarship, Mike Whan ought to take the stigmatic legend’s intended insult as a compliment, and file it as yet more evidence of how Mickelson never emerges best in USGA contests.
Mickelson attacked Whan in defense of Talor Gooch, who Mickelson felt was unfairly discriminated against by a change in exemption criteria that cost him an automatic spot in next month’s U.S. Open. Having now taken a stand in support of someone treated shabbily by tournament regulations, it can only be a matter of time before Mickelson steps forward to shield those who might find themselves at the business end of his employer’s bonesaw.
Gooch himself has a highly-developed sense of injustice, at least as it relates to Talor Gooch. Last week he bemoaned the Australian government deducting a hefty amount of tax from his $4 million winnings at the LIV Golf event in Adelaide, a predictable gripe from someone known to have a flexible interpretation of what he owes and to whom, and when such obligations ought to be settled.
On his disappearing U.S. Open exemption, Gooch claimed the criterion change impacting him was “retroactive.” The USGA publishes Open criteria annually, and with no specifications for 2023 having previously been announced, no change can be “retroactive,” as any dictionary definition will indicate (it’s right there after “retribution,” which is what Gooch imagines this to be).
The tossing of toys from the LIV crib is an almost daily occurrence now as the reality of their circumstances sets in.
Last week in Singapore, Bryson DeChambeau panned the world golf rankings as “obsolete,” while simultaneously demanding LIV be included in said obsolete system. LIV isn’t afforded ranking points because it is non-compliant in many areas, and has made clear it doesn’t intend to become compliant. Nevertheless, DeChambeau (and Mickelson) insist the ranking is broken because it grants points to tours, not based on the past accomplishments of individuals now competing in a closed circuit where they’re contractually protected from the consequences of poor play.
“It’s not right, and I hope people can see through that,” DeChambeau said. (For late arrivals, he’s protesting the denial of ranking points, not of human rights in his benefactor’s kingdom).
\Talor Gooch, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson leave the 12th tee box during a practice round for The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Network
Eager to keep pace in the victimhood stakes, Lee Westwood was among four players to resign their DP World Tour memberships after a British sports arbitration panel ruled that the European tour can sanction members who played LIV events without permission. He too claims rules are being unfairly applied against him.
“As a European Tour member, I was allowed to be a member of the PGA Tour without any problem for all those years. Tell me, what is the difference?” Westwood said to the Telegraph. “Just because LIV is funded by the Saudis — a country where my tour used to play and where we were encouraged to play?”
Westwood is conflating separate reasons why the LIV enterprise upsets people. For many fans — including plenty of his own, once upon a time — the issue is absolutely where the money is coming from, in this case, an autocrat eager to use golf to sportswash his abuses. But for those in charge of the DP World Tour, or the PGA Tour for that matter, the issue has only ever been where the money is going — to a rival league. For them, LIV is a commercial threat, not a moral dilemma.
That’s the context Westwood omits when he says there’s no difference between playing sporadically on other tours versus signing a long-term commitment to a circuit intent on supplanting the very tours he claims loyalty to. The LIV threat underpins the strategic alliance between the DP World and PGA tours, an arrangement Westwood dislikes.
“I don’t want to play under that sort of regime,” he said, displaying all the awareness one would expect of a man who has proudly boasted of never having read a book. Ignorance worn as a badge of honor seldom goes unnoticed.
Among some LIV players, the stench of desperation is rising as rapidly as Greg Norman’s hollow promises are falling apart. Those who believed the flaxen-haired finger puppet have cash, sure, but no access to the PGA Tour, no right to cherry-pick from the DP World Tour, no ranking points, and no respect as game-growing visionaries. Decisions by the British arbitration panel and a federal court in Northern California have for now marooned LIV players on an island, a reality that must be apparent to even the most obtuse of their number (it may take a while longer with Pat Perez).
This explains the rising pitch of whining about access, about ranking points, about all manner of supposed conspiracies against them. It’s the defining trait of LIV and its bottom-feeders: the legitimacy of any institution is entirely dependent on whether it favors them, be it rankings, regulations or elections.
The crybaby routine is destined to grow louder in hopes that some spineless industry executive will act as a pacifier and see to it that LIV demands are met. It could work. Golf’s upper echelon doesn’t lack men who would cheerfully peel off Saudi riyals for their beleaguered organizations under the guise of making peace among warring factions. But for all the noise, the arguments mounted by LIV players are little more than whimpering by those who made a clear-eyed choice, the consequences of which they are increasingly unprepared to live with.