Golf's new taboo topic – Australian Golf Digest
Australian Golf Digest
[Getty images:Esther Moreno Martinez / EyeEm]
It’s such a simple question, at least in theory, yet it’s proving awkwardly uncomfortable for many to voice their opinion on.
As golf’s pro circuit continues to navigate its way around LIV Golf’s disruptive arrival on the world stage, many of you – Australian Golf Digest readers and social media followers included – have had no hesitation in expressing your true feelings online.
Based on commentary posted on the various LIV-related stories on our Facebook page, it’s patently clear Greg Norman’s rival tour has a majority-approval rating with Aussies.
But what about those who earn a living from our great game? What about people who played golf for a living, or sell golf equipment, or profit from introducing new people to the sport? What do these people really think about the Saudi-funded tour and what it may have to offer to the sport in our neck of the woods?
With a LIV event reportedly coming to Australia in April (the Grange Golf Club in Adelaide was the latest rumour at the time of print), there’s a real likelihood we could see the strongest international field to grace our fairways in years.
As an exercise to challenge the notion that golf is too conservative with its views, we asked industry experts to give their take on the pros and cons of LIV Golf coming Down Under. Not surprisingly, many let said question ‘go through to the keeper’. Others at least tried to offer an explanation for not wanting to get involved, as vague as they may have been.
“Not one we can really have input into,” says one boss of a leading equipment company.
“I had a chat to my team and, even though I’m super keen to make a comment, they feel given the variety of partners we have, it’s best I play it neutral on this one,” says another company CEO, who’s doing great things attracting new people to the game in Australia.
“I’ll watch as a spectator for a change on this one,” offers a traditionally vocal member of golf’s innovative group of new thinkers.
Adds one of our most popular tour pros of nearly four decades: “As I have done with the TV stations, I will decline the opportunity to let my feelings be known about LIV Golf.”
OK then, message received loud and clear!
Yet some were only too happy to challenge the status quo and discuss golf’s new taboo subject. Here’s a selection of those who were forthcoming:
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“The Australian Women’s Golf Network is keen to support Greg Norman’s prospect of running a Women’s LIV Series in the future. The suggested mixed format and high prize funds would certainly be beneficial to the women’s game by placing female golfers in the spotlight for breaking through the Saudi patriarchy. We would hope this would provide constructive competition to the existing women’s golf tours around the globe, draw more attention to the women’s game and ultimately see significant growth in participation globally.” – Jessica Eden, founder of the Australian Women’s Golf Network
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“My view is LIV has been a great disruptor for world golf. In 2013 when the PGA Tour introduced its wraparound tour, it destroyed the Australian circuit. That’s just an undeniable fact. We then established this ‘alliance’ but, in the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t benefited us that much. We stopped getting the [Brad] Faxons, [Mark] O’Mearas and [Payne] Stewarts of the world – players of the calibre I loved to watch and take inspiration from to get to the highest level. Consequently, our path to the best tour in the world was virtually destroyed and I’ve been dirty about it ever since. There’s no doubt the PGA Tour is the greatest tour to play on, but they monopolised all other tours without taking us into account, and it really set Australian golf back. In saying all that, I do worry for the game of golf worldwide with LIV and the PGA Tour going at each other like they’re doing. Someday I hope they can all just sit down at a table and the overlaying concern will be growing the game of golf, something they all say is their No.1 focus but do they really mean it? The longer this rift goes on, the more harm it will cause to the game. So, while I think LIV is good for Australia in the short term, I’m not convinced it’s good for the global game long term. I mean, what’s the end game for LIV? They have yet to give us a clear answer on that.” – Paul Gow, former tour pro, Fox Sports golf expert
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“First and foremost, I am a golf fan. I love watching our Australian golfers and the best players in the world. I will watch them regardless of the tour they are affiliated with. I don’t discriminate, I just want to be entertained by the world’s best.” – Annabel Rolley, former WPGA Tour pro and Golf Channel host
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“LIV Golf. Wow, where do we start? It certainly has made for fascinating conversations, but it’s just a shame seeing how divisive they are. Personally, I have no issue with players going to LIV. It’s their decision. The format and added extras don’t particularly appeal to me – I’m more a traditionalist in that sense. However, if it gets people into golf that otherwise wouldn’t be, then great. However, I do feel if you go to LIV, you go. Don’t try to play (or sue!) the other tours as well. You’ve been extremely well compensated – take the money and enjoy yourself. All the tours, especially the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, have had to think more about their product and how it can be improved, which is a very good thing. From an Australian perspective, the PGA Tour’s new upcoming schedule should allow more of our overseas stars to venture home for our events. And if a LIV event came here? Hmmm… a crystal ball would be useful because it’s anyone’s best guess what effect that could have.” – Nick O’Hern, former PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Presidents Cup player
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“Golf is, and should be seen as, a world game. Yet from an Australian point of view, we don’t get to see the world’s best players aside from the odd tournament at very infrequent intervals. Our children are growing up watching their golf idols not live but on a TV screen. I remember growing up and watching the world’s best players at places like Huntingdale and Royal Melbourne – it was exciting stuff and helped to really fuel my passion for the game.
The Australian tournament scene is challenged, and LIV Golf has certainly shaken things up.
I am hoping the warring parties can sit down and strike a compromise, understanding that no one tour or player or group of players should be bigger than the game itself.
Let’s get this game back to being a worldwide game – where it belongs.” – Gary Lisbon, world-renowned golf photographer and owner of Golf Select, specialists in corporate golf and travel
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“While I’ve been an amateur golfer all my career, I come from a family of professional golfers, with my father, uncle, sister and cousin all being golf pros. And having played in a number of state and Australian Opens over the years and caddieing on the LPGA Tour, I have a fair idea of what the life of a professional golfer entails. That said, I am generally supportive of LIV Golf and what they have achieved in their first season. The calibre of players they have in the stable is quite impressive, and the prospect of a LIV event in Australia would assemble one of the best fields seen in this country for many a year. The wraparound part of the PGA Tour has greatly contributed to the decimation of the Australian tour and if LIV can help provide top-calibre golf again for a golf population starved of starpower, then I say it’s a good thing. We will be waiting a long time for the PGA Tour to bring one of their events to Australia. I think a LIV event would be massive for golf here, and especially for golf in South Australia if the speculation is to be believed.
I also hope eligible players such as Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and co. are not banned from the Majors. That would be a real shame and would make a mockery of two of the titles being called ‘opens’. The Masters has always done its own thing, so who knows who they will or won’t invite. But it should make no difference to the USGA and the R&A where these golfers play their golf the other 50 weeks of the year. They could be hermits in the mountains of Tibet, and it should make no difference, provided they meet the eligibility criteria.” – Neil Crafter, decorated amateur golfer and course designer who was also a founding member of the Society of Australian Golf Course Architects
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“Ultimately, I think the recent disruption will be a good thing for long-neglected Australian golf fans wanting to see world-class professional golf on a more regular basis. It has forced the hand of the PGA Tour to reduce the length of the season; one of the primary reasons for the lack of depth in Australian golf tournaments. The longevity and sustainability of LIV Golf remains to be seen though, and many are still struggling with how the tour is being funded.” – Michael Green, Australian Golf Media Association secretary/treasurer, founder of aussiegolfer.com.au
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