Henrik Stenson is the latest name to walk away from golf’s PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed LIV Series. The Swede will be stripped of his prestigious Ryder Cup captaincy with immediate effect. The brilliant action from the 150th Open a week ago briefly took attention away from the controversy within the golfing world. However, the latest news ended that respite and has made the new series more controversial than ever.
The LIV golf series has gained a big coup in its search for legitimacy with the former world number two joining the tour, showing that no player is inaccessible. It is reported that Stenson will receive a massive £40 million for just joining the series, with a further £20 million up for grabs at the next event in New Jersey.
However, some would say the move doesn’t come as a shock with several of the world’s most prominent players and half of the world’s top 100 playing on the tour. This raises the question; can we really blame the players with the prize money widely outmatching anything on the PGA Tour? Look at The Open for example, Cameron Smith received a smaller amount of money that what was available for the same tournament in 2017.
When Stenson signed the Ryder Cup contract he was told he could not play in the breakaway league. However, Ian Poulter’s recent court injunction allowed the Englishmen to play in The Open despite joining the LIV series. This will no doubt give Stenson the hope that he can continue to play PGA golf.
As it stands there seems to be no signs of the LIV series disappearing with Stenson the latest of successful Europeans to join. The tour now boasts the likes of Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, alongside the USA trio of Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed. All of which have been issued with bans, placing the future of the Ryder Cup in doubt.
The LIV Tour has been condemned by many, with the money being provided by the Saudi regime that has been famous for its human rights violations. It once again raises that popular question in sport – money or ethics?
Golf is not the first sport to be affected by a breakaway series, with the world of football recently going through a similar crisis from the European Super League. This project was only stopped by the collective statements and protests from the fans themselves, forcing the majority of the clubs to act and withdraw. Albeit with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus still waiting in the wings.
However, the LIV Tour shows us that even with the large-scale protests, sport is vulnerable to the introduction of external tournaments and effectively, cash. It indicates an ongoing battle fans are likely to have to keep their sport traditional and competitive.