The ongoing catfight between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf has reached the point where both parties are better off calling a truce. Just stop lobbing grenades in each other’s direction, which only makes them look like junior high kids in a cafeteria food fight.
Obvious narratives — players like Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson Dechambeau and Patrick Reed defecting to LIV Golf International for more money and a less strenuous schedule, or the Tour shunning its own members for daring to accept lucrative guaranteed money from a Saudi wealth fund — are getting tiresome and do nothing to advance the game.
Golfers are essentially independent contractors in some instances because the Tour has selectively given them permission to play certain events, like next week’s Scottish Open on the DP World Tour, with which the Tour just formed a stronger alliance.
But when players joined LIV, a controversial league because it is funded by a country with multiple human rights issues, the fangs came out.
Players who defected were treated like pariahs by commissioner Jay Monahan and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who foolishly called for the removal of LIV leader Greg Norman and Mickelson from the World Golf Hall of Fame.
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As disappointing as it was that LIV defectors made their decision, which came with the predictable cold-shoulder treatment, it still does the Tour no good to keep them suspended for an indefinite period, maybe years.
Seriously, how does it grow the game to not have a dozen top 50 players or so at Tour events?
Does it not penalize the fans when a deserving LIV golfer can’t get points toward their world golf ranking and may possibly be excluded from majors?
How about a high-performing LIV competitor who merits a captain’s pick and doesn’t get into the Ryder Cup?
Monahan said publicly last week that the Tour can’t win an “arms race” with LIV, whom he considers an “irrational threat,” but he had no problem counter-punching by upping the ante. He announced purses at eight Tour events would increase by $53.8 million, including The Players Championship getting bumped from $20 million to $25 million.
The train was heading in that direction anyway, but Monahan sped up the process as a way of protecting his turf, making sure no other big-name players are more tempted to leave.
It was no coincidence that when Monahan was firing his LIV salvos at the Traveler’s Championship, the rival league announced Koepka — who previously denounced players as “sellouts” for leaving the Tour before changing his mind and joining LIV.
So back-and-forth it goes, with seemingly no end to the acrimony.
Honestly, just as the Tour can counteract LIV in whatever manner it chooses, so are Tour golfers free to make choices for themselves and their families. Playing on a circuit that offers more money and less time away from home is understandably enticing, though it means accepting the criticism accompanying that decision.
The question is what happens moving forward. If LIV survives only a couple years, will the Tour welcome back the suspended players? Does anybody think golf is better for the fans with the Tour and LIV engaging in a perpetual cold war?
Sooner or later, the Tour and LIV will be better off laying down their swords than acting like bullies. That is, if they genuinely care about growing the game and not just their bank accounts.
Gene Frenette is a sports columnist at the Florida Times-Union, follow him on Twitter @genefrenette. You can reach him at: Gfrenette@jacksonville.com; (904) 359-4540.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: LIV Golf, PGA Tour feud is not helping the game of golf