Bryson DeChambeau, one of the latest golfers to join the LIV Golf Series, wants people look to beyond Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and see the “good” the league can do.
Golfers such as DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson who have chosen to join the breakaway league have received criticism because of the human rights abuses carried out by the Saudi regime. In the US, the famous sportscaster Bob Costas offered a withering assessment of the LIV Series. “This is Saudi blood money,” he said last week. “We know all we need to know about the royal family and what they have done. It’s not just [Jamal] Khashoggi, it’s not just the ongoing oppression of women and gays, they’re directly or indirectly tied – according to US and British intelligence – to the 9/11 event.”
But at a press conference on Tuesday to promote the upcoming LIV Series event in Oregon, DeChambeau said he wanted the world to move on from issues such as Khashoggi’s killing.
“Golf is a force for good,” DeChambeau said when he was asked about criticism for taking Saudi money. “As time goes on, hopefully people will see the good they’re doing. And what they’re trying to accomplish, rather than looking back at the bad that’s happened before. And moving on from that is important. And continuing to move forward in a positive light is something that could be a force for good for the future of the game.”
The Oregon tournament has also attracted local criticism. The Saudi regime allegedly helped one of its citizens avoid trial for the fatal hit-and-run death of a teenager in Oregon in 2016. On Sunday, Oregon senator Ron Wyden said it was “wrong to be silent when Saudi Arabia tries to cleanse blood -stained hands.”
DeChambeau’s contract with the LIV Series is worth more than $100m, according to Golf Digest. The 2020 US Open champion called his choice to join the league a “personal business decision.”
Another new member of the LIV Series, Matthew Wolff, acknowledged on Tuesday that “it’s a money thing”. Wolff added that the team component of the league also appealed to him.
“There’s something to be said about playing hard for yourself and for your caddy but when you know people are relying on you, it’s different,” he said. “The best comes out when you’re on a team. That dynamic really suited me.”
Abe Ancer, who joined DeChambeau and Wolff at Tuesday’s press conference, said the series’ shorter schedule will allow him to spend more time with his family.
“The last two to three years, I’ve been giving my all to golf, I haven’t really had a life outside of golf,” said Ancer. “I missed spending time with my family and friends and I wasn’t as happy.”
The PGA Tour has banned golfers who have joined the LIV Series and there is a possibility they may be banned from the sport’s majors, which are not run by the tour, in the future. Asked if that prospect worried him, Wolff said: “We’re talking about today.”
Elsewhere on Tuesday, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour announced a 13-year joint venture partnership to combat the ongoing threat posed by the LIV Series’ poaching of players.
As part of the partnership, which runs through 2035, the PGA Tour will increase its stake in European Tour Productions to 40% from 15%.
Beginning in 2023, the top 10 players in the DP World Tour’s rankings, in addition to those already exempt, will receive PGA Tour cards for the following season. The DP World Tour will also guarantee growth in annual prize funds to its membership for the next five years.
“The game of golf is rallying,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. “Our members, partners and fans are rallying. Today’s announcement should serve as further evidence that the ecosystem of professional golf continues to innovate and thrive.”
Monahan added that their work is not yet done and promised a “lot more exciting news” in the months ahead.