Golf’s elite have by no means had it so good – however cashing in comes at a value | Ewan Murray

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Golf’s elite have by no means had it so good – however cashing in comes at a value | Ewan Murray

The bother with Pointless solutions is that you simply by no means meet any of the 100 individuals surveyed for every one. Nonetheless, the quiz present in all probability presents as legitimate an perception into the angle of the British public as anything in these zany instances.

A couple of weeks in the past, Alexander Armstrong flashed up well-known faces with names regarding flowers. What occurred subsequent was fairly galling for individuals who need golf to seize hearts and minds.

Simply six of these requested recognized Justin Rose: main champion, Englishman, Olympic gold medallist and a participant who has obtained fairly a variety of consideration for his admirable institution of a golf collection for girls. He has little trigger to care what transpires on daytime tv or his irrelevance in comparison with Lily Allen however this served as the newest stark reminder of the bubble inside which golf operates.

Viktor Hovland didn’t see match to seem for a press convention prematurely of the Hero World Problem. This was unusual, given he was the defending champion. Maybe the Norwegian was busy counting his cash; heading into the occasion within the Bahamas, he had collected $37,112,235 (roughly £29m) in 2023 PGA Tour earnings. He’s a unbelievable golfer and a beautiful fella however is hardly a needle mover. His wage earlier than endorsements would place him within the high 10 of Main League Baseball.

Golf is in critical hazard of dropping the plot, if that isn’t already the case. Stating sportspeople are overpaid is akin to mentioning Wednesday follows Tuesday but the entitlement of golfers has develop into considerably alarming. When Jon Rahm is linked with a change to LIV, reportedly for a whole bunch of tens of millions of {dollars}, the deal is immediately plausible. That is what golf, a sport the place as soon as upon a time discovering the underside of the outlet was key to all the things, has develop into. These inside it – and never simply gamers, this is applicable to managers, caddies, coaches – have a distorted sense of price. This existed earlier than LIV, which has solely accelerated issues. Tensions exist inside the PGA Tour as a result of a number of of the rank and file consider they’re underpaid. Pure sport, this isn’t.

Hovland’s wedge got here partly from his share of the participant impression programme, a convoluted scheme created by the PGA Tour when LIV and its Saudi Arabian riches had been first circling. Rory McIlroy topped this 12 months’s chart, which rewards gamers for bringing eyeballs to the tour, and pocketed $15m. Tiger Woods, who didn’t play between April and November, was paid $12m. Consider the Premier League handing Erling Haaland a hefty bonus for having the nice grace to show up for his work.

No amount of cash at this stage makes a distinction to McIlroy or Woods and the duo are the immediately identifiable faces of their sport however the scale of those funds remains to be regarded by many as obscene. “Professional golf is on a one-way road to nowhere,” the DP World Tour participant Eddie Pepperell mentioned. “Misplaced its thoughts, and I’ve misplaced my respect and love for it.” If the general public additionally establish vulgarity, golf may have a major problem.

Viktor Hovland traces up a putt on the Hero World Problem. {Photograph}: Fernando Llano/AP

Jordan Spieth, who was gifted $7m by the participant impression programme, was considerably bashful when assessing its which means. “I believe its purpose was to assist forestall gamers from accepting high-dollar Saudi presents, LIV presents,” he mentioned. “When you’re going to see numbers which can be thrown out at gamers now, a few particular gamers, it doesn’t actually do this.

“I believe that it was fairly unanimous, together with from these of us who’ve considerably benefited from it, to taper it down and discover a method to unfold these funds elsewhere to help, ideally, fields, purses, so that you simply nonetheless may gain advantage from them individually however by discovering the correct candy spot. I do know it drops by half subsequent 12 months. I’m unsure what that can appear to be after that. Hopefully it received’t must exist, I believe is one of the best ways to place it, and I believe that makes everyone pleased.”

Spieth’s level is backed up by event prize funds; the Gamers Championship is now price $25m, the Phoenix Open $20m and humdrum tour stops have gamers joust for near $9m.

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Debate over whether or not golf balls should be “rolled back” is the epitome of tedium. At least it was, until McIlroy waded in. On Wednesday, the R&A will announce modifications to the ball to try to rein in the distance leading players can reach. This had been resisted, when originally mooted, by equipment manufacturers and some of McIlroy’s peers.

McIlroy is among those who think the ball need not be amended for anyone outside the elite level. “Bifurcation was the logical answer for everyone,” he said. “But yet again in this game, money talks.” Once again, it starts with a g and rhymes with creed. When the R&A outlines its plans, the bleating and whining from certain elements of the game will be all too typical with the bottom line, not the good of the sport, in mind.

The clock is now ticking on whether a deal can be closed out between golf’s established tours and the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The Fenway Sports Group has also made overtures about a partnership with the tour. Something like this is needed, not only to ward off whatever threats LIV may pose but to allow long-term sustainability. Golfers have never had it so good. This comes at a cost to reputations.


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