Vousden’s found something good with LIV

Thought for the Day
I’m sorry. But if you were right, I would have agreed with you

In Praise of LIV Golf – Really?
I am not, by instinct, a natural enthusiast for LIV Golf. My resistance to its charms materialised quite early for a number of reasons. First, when it announced itself as: ‘Golf, but louder,’ I immediately pictured images of the Phoenix Waste Management Open, with its bear pit of a 16th hole, which this year saw unparallelled scenes of fan misbehaviour. Shouting, nay screaming at players, hurling beer cans and shirtless mud-sliding may have a place somewhere in sports (and I’m not even convinced about that), but not at a golf event.

When the polite model of Christian restraint that is Zach Johnson says: ‘I’m sick of it; just shut up!’ to a group of spectators who relentlessly needled him about team USA losing the Ryder Cup, you know something’s seriously wrong. And these, remember, are American golf supporters, baiting the American captain.

Another reason for my failing to immediately warm to LIV Golf is that its public face and voice belonged to Greg Norman – a man who has never, to my knowledge, sought therapeutic help for a loss of confidence, shyness or damaged ego. Greg has carried a burning ember of resentment towards the PGA Tour – through which he became incredibly wealthy – ever since it blocked his proposal for a world tour back in the 1990s. Revenge is supposedly a dish best served cold, in which case Greg has been munching on nothing but ice-cream for the last two years as he relentlessly sticks it to his alma mater.

Last, but by no means least, is the fact that LIV Golf and its ridiculously vast money chest, funded by Saudi Arabia, is continually demonstrating just how avaricious and grasping some of the world’s best golfers have proven to be. I knew they were greedy but is has been sobering to learn quite how voracious their appetite for money has become. I’m not even going to mention Saudi’s appalling human rights record, suppression of dissent and state-sponsored assassination because it’s just too depressing to contemplate.

And yet… And yet if there is one tiny spark of optimism to emerge from LIV Golf it is the news that in its most recent event in Jeddah, Adrian Meronk was docked a one-stroke penalty for slow play. The same sanction was applied at Valderrama last year to Englishman Richard Bland. In Meronk’s case it dropped him from fifth to sixth place, a relegation that cost him around £200,000. Okay, he’s a wealthy man and the signing-on fee he got for joining the rebels will be in the tens of millions but even so, a 200 grand hit will sting.

Its willingness to dish out slow-play penalties is the one aspect of LIV Golf that I wish the PGA and DP World Tours would copy. Instead, they continually mouth platitudes about speeding up the game but sit firmly on their hands when it comes to doing anything significant.

The last time a PGA Tour player was landed a slow-play penalty was 1995 when Glen Day, nicknamed ‘All Day’ by his fellow professionals, was singled out. Tianlang Guan received a similarly unwelcome punishment at the 2013 Masters, as did John Catlin in the 2021 US PGA Championship, but these events are run by Augusta National GC and the USGA respectively, not one of the big tours. So, not one PGA Tour player considered a slowcoach in almost three decades. As Private Eye would put it: Shome Mishtake Shurely.

And therein lies the rub. Professional golf tours are member organisations and therefore bend over backwards not to piss off their members. For their officials to routinely punish slow-play would be akin to a trades union sanctioning its own members for breaking the rules of their employer.

I never thought I would say it but here, at last, is one element of LIV Golf that the big tours could, and should, emulate – for the sake of us all.

everyone at my golf club is getting excited at the sight of a few snowdrops and crocuses poking their heads above ground, believing that they are the first harbingers of spring and summer. They wax lyrical about the prospect of playing in shorts, over a full course. I keep quiet but the truth is, I’ve always enjoyed off-season golf, playing to winter greens from short tees. For one thing, the greens are so unpredictable that you have a built-in excuse if your putt misses.

I’m not a long hitter but find a lot of fairways and in winter I can reach every hole on the course in regulation. But soon, there will be several that are out of reach, so I’m dependant on a good chip, pitch or putt to have any hope of securing the elusive par. But mostly it’s an ego thing. Right now I’m playing off eight – the sort of single-figure handicap I may dream about but could never hope to achieve under normal circumstances but in a few weeks I’ll be back to my standard level of incompetence.

Why doesn’t winter last just a little bit longer?

Quote of the Week
By all means screw their women and drink their booze but never write one word about their bloody awful golf course.
Henry Longhurst (advising a fellow journalist, invited to an expensive golf development in America).

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