The finale of LIV Golf’s first season was held at Donald Trump’s Doral course in Miami this week, said Riath Al-Samarrai in the Daily Mail, and there could be no more “fitting union” than the former president and the brash new league financed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Since it launched its disruptive agenda in June, LIV has trailed lawsuits, bitterness and endless gaffes from its commissioner Greg Norman. Nearly $1bn has been spent recruiting stars – everyone from Sergio García to Lee Westwood to erstwhile Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson. “As a business plan, it has holes so big Trump would not miss with a cold putter on his worst day. But as an act of guerrilla warfare, it has no parallel.”
And there’s no denying that despite the overly complex format of its climactic team championship event, and the continued lack of a broadcasting deal for this deeply unpopular venture, LIV has achieved rapid growth as a start-up, said Al-Samarrai. Look what happened in 2022. It began the year with a cast of has-beens and never-weres, yet its first season ended this week in a shootout between Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith, two of the top golfers in the world, in a “blaze of excessive riches”. Johnson and the three fellow members of his 4 Aces team scooped $4m apiece, and Johnson himself finished the season with more than $35m in winnings, the most a golfer has achieved in a single year. Should its events secure world ranking points, LIV Golf could yet achieve legitimacy – though “they have a long way to go”. The “madness of modern-day golf can be summed up by Cameron Smith”, agreed Ewan Murray in The Guardian. In July, watched by millions, the 29-year-old Australian won his first major; now he has just pocketed $2m for a losing performance while most of the golf world looked away. These are the strangest of times for the sport. Play was halted at the 14th hole in Miami due to a bomb scare; later, with “dubious irony”, the winners were doused in champagne: “They should try that trick in Saudi Arabia.”
The entire tournament has been shrouded in bitter feelings, said Tom Kershaw in The Times. Trump’s hosting of the closing event was itself “an act of spite”: he has nursed a grudge against the PGA Tour ever since it cut ties with him in 2016 for his divisive rhetoric. And while many of the LIV players have praised the unusual camaraderie on the circuit, the schism it has created runs deep. “I feel like the place where they have been able to build their legacy and build their brand, they have just left behind. I think it’s the first time in my life that I have felt betrayal,” Rory McIlroy said of those players who have chosen LIV Golf contracts over Ryder Cup commitments.
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