‘This could be a bright new dawn for golf’: Oliver Brown responds to reader comments on Saudi Arabia tour

The first tour of the Saudi rebels starts in June and Phil Mickelson is ready to perform alongside Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter at St Albans. Tour participation can be costly for players depending on how the Ryder Cup teams and organizers of the four majors view the event. But do our readers talk about the scandalous tournament?

We asked you to comment on the aftermath of the tour, and our chief sportswriter Oliver Brown has responded to some of the best of them.

It will be great for golfers, players, spectators and TV audiences. It became boring to watch golf, all the same boring commentators during commercial breaks in America, very soft greens for target golf. We need to play more of all the strokes of golf as a whole, and not jump from one stroke to the next when it takes many minutes to line up a stroke.

Kerry Packer has truly changed cricket for the benefit of players and spectators. I think over time we will feel the same about this departure from the way golf is managed and broadcast at the moment.

John Caird

Where golf has become obsolete is its over-reliance on 72-hole stroke play. Lee Westwood says there is no more exciting moment on the calendar than the first day of the World Matchplay in Texas, where 32 heads-ups represent a precious aberration. The tour of the Saudi Arabian rebels should provide more coverage of the important shots as all eight events will be shotgun fired. But it won’t be a Packer revolution without the best players. For global success, she needs more than the subscription of mercenary Phil Mickelson.

Brilliant – this example of at least these few standout players will quickly widen the rift and many more big names should start to emerge. There may be a bright new dawn, if handled properly.

Tim Perry

I doubt it. Most “nominal” golfers are rich enough without Saudi persuasion. Rory McIlroy is not alone in his opinion that an extra £50m is unlikely to change his life. He lives in a huge mansion in West Palm Beach, but admits he still only uses “the same three or four rooms.”

It would be a huge hypocrisy on the part of the DP World Tour to ban European Tour players.

Peter Moran

Yes, there are double standards everywhere. First, the European Tour was rebranded as a Middle Eastern company. He also allegedly sought to strike a bigger deal with Saudi Arabia in the midst of the pandemic. For now to threaten with life bans any players tempted by the same bottomless abyss of sovereign wealth seems duplicitous at best.

I don’t see what the problem is here. We live in a capitalist system/society. If I want to create any competitive business in any industry, I have the freedom to do so. Employees and consumers have a choice. Why the PGA (because it’s the one behind the opposition to it) dictates where an athlete can earn a living.

Chris Part

He dictates because he is desperate to protect his investments. After all, he can’t block players’ freedom to trade. But given the rewards offered by the PGA Tour, with a £350 million annual prize pool, it doesn’t seem outrageous that he expects a modicum of loyalty in return.

What’s interesting is Ian Poulter’s lack of judgment, he lets others take over the flak and hides behind them.

Joseph Joseph

You’re right that Poulter avoided the worst possible reaction. This is partly because he earned so much publicity with his Ryder Cup performances. There is also the nagging question: why, at 46, when his chances of winning the main round are rapidly fading, can he not earn freely? Of course, from a philosophical point of view, he is far from sharing the wealth of the Persian Gulf. When I once asked why the winner of the race in Dubai needed a Rolex watch thrown along with a huge check, he replied: “It’s called a bonus.”

Golf is in danger of becoming even more ridiculous than it already is. Not taking Saudi money, but introducing stupid cleanliness tests and emphasizing that they have a closed shop, an old school tie mentality.

Johnny Roberts

The “closed store” concept popularized by the ill-fated European Super League doesn’t quite apply to golf. Players are free to switch to the Saudi project if they wish. Tours are just making it clear that this will have serious and long-term consequences. I can understand their intransigence. At stake is not only the credibility of reputable tournaments, but their very existence.

I can’t think of a single Saudi golfer playing professionally on the main course. Like the Manchester City players, they are just entertaining these modes, trying to make them respectable in the eyes of the whole world.

Lawrence White

This is a time-honored tactic by Saudi Arabia claiming that their only motive is to “develop the game.” I remember meeting the country’s sports minister in December 2019 when Anthony Joshua fought Andy Ruiz Jr in Riyadh. He assured that the goal is to inspire a generation of local schoolchildren to take up boxing. There are several signs that this promise is bearing fruit. It’s the same in golf: The Saudi Invitational has been on the calendar for three years now, but there’s not a single Saudi Arabian in the men’s top 1000. So let’s call this breakaway what it is: an unedifying cash doubling as a cynical attempt to gloss over the kingdom’s rancid record of human rights.