Defectors open Saudi-funded golf series

ST. ALBANOS – The distance looked like a military walk and grenadier guards trumpeting on a royal-style occasion. Not only was it an extension of Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee celebrations, but the launch of the Saudi-funded golf getaway, trying to bring a real sense of artifice to the rebellion that divided the sport.

On a course on the outskirts of North London, the band dressed as imitation infants was there to proclaim the arrival of Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, two of the stars attracted to the PGA Tour to potentially win hundreds of millions of dollars in the LIV Golf series.

The nine aged planes buzzing over their heads helped mask the significant lack of noise from the crowd beyond the occasional shout of “Let’s go Phil” as he prepared to play.

At the same time, Thursday’s PGA Tour message was being delivered: go. All golfers who have deserted the Renegade series are now facing the banishment of future tour events. Johnson had already resigned from joining the PGA, but Mickelson is not ready to do so.


The fury of LIV Golf – a product of Saudi sovereignty – was clear, and he described the PGA Tour as “vengeful” with a decision that will only deepen divisions. There were no signs of Saudi support through the Centurion Club, nor any. brand of sponsors.

Mickelson wore a black cap adorned with his personal logo with his golf-playing silhouette, replacing the KPMG brand worn before corporate sponsors abandoned the deal in February after underestimating the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia.

Across the course, the only brand was LIV Golf and a small number of spectators. There was intrigue on the part of those who did show up, accompanied by a desire to see so many of the world’s top golfers, though none in the top 10.

Unlike many spectators, Jim Dawkins, who has been attending golf events for six decades, paid £ 67 ($ 84) for his club pass between Hemel Hempstead and St. John’s. Albans.


“I thought, as this was the first tournament of the rebel tour, it would be interesting to see how it works and who plays,” said Dawkins, 91, who criticized the ban on PGA Tour players. “I’ve seen a lot of changes.”

LIV is holding reduced tournaments of 54 three-day holes, with a shotgun starting to see players start in different holes. What confuses Dawkins is the team element.

The field is divided into 12 teams with flashy logos and cheeky names, such as Johnson’s 4 Aces and Graeme McDowell’s Niblicks.

“I find this marker hard to follow,” said Dawkins, who has traveled from south London. “You have the players up there. I don’t know how the teams are formed.”

The top three teams share $ 5 million in addition to the $ 20 million prize pool per event shared between individual golfers.

To accept the lavish rewards, players not only had to overcome worries about being excluded from the PGA Tour and events like the Ryder Cup, but also moral doubts.


This is a series considered part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, called “sports laundering” by human rights groups, to erase the stain of the kingdom’s abuses.

“It’s absolute rubbish, it’s just a sport,” said Colin Chambers, an 80-year-old friend of Dawkins. “When you think about the Chinese, what they do, and we’re still happy to go to their Olympics.”


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Defectors open Saudi-funded golf series

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