News flash last Friday: Phil Mickelson withdrew from the PGA Championship and will not defend his title.

Update: Phil Mickelson withdrew from decent society some time ago and cannot defend his legacy.

Anyone who follows professional golf knows the mercurial Mickelson was the architect of his own demise. He just couldn’t control himself when interviewed by Alan Shipnuck for his unauthorized biography.

Speaking about his commitment to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series, he called the Saudis “scary motherf***ers” whom, he acknowledged, controlled a murderous authoritarian regime. After an explosive backlash from colleagues and the public, he walked those comments back, saying his intention was to leverage his LIV involvement into reshaping the PGA Tour for the betterment of the players. It didn’t work. He lost whatever aura he had cultivated with the public and his peers (many of whom already doubted his glad-handing, Arnie-wannabe act). His sponsors cut him loose.

Is Phil Mickelson playing in the PGA Championship

That backlash drew much attention to the upstart Saudi tour, all of it negative. Nevertheless, some players—most has-beens and never-will-be’s—voiced interest in competing. The PGA Tour responded by saying it would not release any players to do so. The first LIV event takes place June 9-11 at England’s Centurion Club.

That didn’t deter some, like England’s Richard Bland who, at 49, is unapologetic about his intentions. “If I get banned, I get banned,” he told BBC Radio. “Most of my career is behind me.” His stunning admission reinforced Rory McIlroy’s earlier characterization of the Saudi tour as the “pre-Champions Tour.”

Bland, like all the others who will compete on the eight-event, US$255-million international LIV circuit, cites the lucrative purses as the sole motivating factor. They say they want financial security for their families. Makes you wonder how their families and future generations will feel about their wealth coming from blood money.

In all this, almost no one acknowledges the Saudi government’s sanctioned murder of Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. In their U.S. embassy no less. This brings us to “sportswashing.”

“Sportswashing” is a term coined by Amnesty International to describe the practice whereby a government throws money at sports, events and teams to redirect attention from their abysmal human-rights record. It’s a political sleight of hand under the guise of doing something altruistic, hence the “grow the game” phrase proponents trot out ad nauseaum.

As evidenced by Bland and his ilk including Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, it works for a morally bankrupt demographic which places wealth above human decency. In particular, it pained me to hear Shane Lowry resurrect the brain-dead argument that he is “a golfer, not a politician … I’ll go and do my job.”

Previously Mickelson, rumored to have lost tens of millions gambling, may have been attracted by the proverbial filthy lucre, there is another irresistible attraction for people like him and Greg Norman.

Greg Norman LIV

Stuffed to the gills with hubris (excessive pride), Norman is LIV’s chief executive.

Just last week, asked about the gruesome demise of Khashoggi, he said, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.” (See above definition of sportswashing.) He responded to a question about Saudi Arabia’s discrimination against the LGBTYQ community by saying, “I’m not sure whether I even have any gay friends, to be honest with you.” (That is no doubt due to their good judgment.)

Like Mickelson, Norman tried to disguise his legendary self-interest and monstrous ego by positioning himself as a champion for professional golfers. He didn’t get far.

“For someone who has known Greg for 50 years, Greg is only about Greg,” fellow Aussie pro-Wayne Grady wrote on Facebook. He’s been trying to take down (the PGA) TOUR for 30 years. For him to try and trivialize the greats before him did to grow and create what the PGA TOUR is today is an absolute disgrace. You should hang your head in shame. GFY, Shark.”

Sadly, there are too few Wayne Gradys and too many pilot fish like Lowry and Bland sucking on to the Great White Shark.

Or, rather than “pilot fish,” maybe “jellyfish” is more accurate. The latter are spineless, too.

 

 

 

 

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