Bradley’s Buzz: The PGA Tour took the high road. Then it took the money

Phil Mickelson of HyFlyers GC  in action during day three of the LIV Golf Invitational - Singapore at Sentosa Golf Club on April 30, 2023, in Singapore. (Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Phil Mickelson of HyFlyers GC in action during day three of the LIV Golf Invitational - Singapore at Sentosa Golf Club on April 30, 2023, in Singapore. (Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images/TNS)

The PGA Tour’s stance on LIV, circa June 2022: “We don’t pay mega-millions for players to show up for a three-round tournament, but we hold the moral high ground.”

The PGA Tour’s stance on LIV, circa June 2023: “Morality is overrated.”

We live in the 21st Century. Nothing should shock anybody anymore. What happened Tuesday, to invoke the phrase sports folks use in joyful moments, shocked the world – though PGA Tour’s announced merger with LIV will never be confused with a joyful moment.

“I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” said PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who was indeed called a hypocrite in a meeting to explain himself to tour players in Toronto later Tuesday.

Monahan described the session as “certainly heated.” Its flashpoint came when a player quoted the commissioner’s words of last summer: “As long as I’m commissioner of the PGA Tour, no player that took LIV money will ever play the PGA Tour again.”

Earlier in the day, Monahan and Yasir Al-Rummayan of LIV – the latter runs the Public Investment Fund, which is essentially Saudi Arabia’s treasury – appeared together on a major cable network. The network wasn’t ESPN. It was CNBC, the money channel.

To be clear: Saudi Arabia is officially a U.S. ally. Also to be clear: The CIA determined that crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the 2018 assassination/dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Also: Of the 19 hijackers on 9/11, 15 were Saudis.

This was 9/11 Families United chair Terry Strada, in a statement released Tuesday: “(Monahan) co-opted the 9/11 community last year in the PGA’s unequivocal agreement that the Saudi LIV project was nothing more than sportswashing of Saudi Arabia’s reputation. But now the PGA and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills.”

Said Monahan, speaking on a conference call: “Circumstances change.”

Also changing: The PGA Tour, a non-profit, will create a for-profit LLC in the wake of its LIV merger. Big shock there.

Said CNBC’s David Faber, addressing Al-Rummayan: “We’re talking about billions of dollars being invested by the PIF, correct?”

Al-Rummayan: “Correct.”

LIV – its pronunciation rhymes with “give” – is buying credibility from the PGA Tour. What’s the PGA Tour getting? More money than it could have ever imagined, which is the not-so-secret sauce in sportswashing. Golf has forever been cast as the rich person’s sport. Rich people mightn’t be tempted by mere millions. Billions, you say? Different ballgame.

In related news: Any litigation the PGA Tour and LIV filed against each other? Dropped. Forget it ever happened.

On the day the PGA Tour embraced LIV, it was announced that Karim Benzema, soccer’s 2022 world player of the year, has signed with Al Ittihad. He’ll join Cristiano Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, in the Saudi Pro League.

Should we be surprised? The Persian Gulf states have become major soccer players. The 2022 men’s World Cup was staged in Qatar. Manchester City, the world’s best club team, is owned by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Jassim of Qatar is bidding on Manchester United. Newcastle United is owned by … why, the PIF, which will make the scrappy Magpies corporate cousins of the hoity-toity PGA Tour. Small world.

Monahan is trying – he’ll be trying forever – to cast this merger as good for the PGA Tour, good for its players and good therefore for golf. That would be an easier sell if the same guy hadn’t sought to characterize LIV as the root of all evil. How is Rory McIlroy, who missed few opportunities to lambaste LIV, feeling today?

We know how Phil Mickelson, pilloried for taking LIV money, feels. “Awesome day today,” he tweeted.

On June 12, 2022, Monahan – sitting beside Jim Nantz – spoke of his membership on CBS: “Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

On June 6, 2023, Monahan – sitting beside Al-Rammayan on CNBC – said: “We’ve recognized that by working together, we can have a far greater impact on this game than we can by working apart.”

This might be funny, except that it’s not. This is shameful stuff.

The above is part of a regular exercise available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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FILE - PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks during a news conference before the start of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands, Wednesday, June 22, 2022, in Cromwell, Conn. The most disruptive year in golf ended Tuesday, June 6, 2023, when the PGA Tour and European tour agreed to a merger with Saudi Arabia's golf interests, creating a commercial operation designed to unify professional golf around the world.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

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Credit: AP