The news about who will be next to join the LIV Golf Series – newly minted British Open champion Cameron Smith? 2021 Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama? Charles Barley? – jogged something in my memory bank.
It was something Francis Ford Coppola, the director of The Godfather trilogy, said in a radio interview. I couldn’t find the exact radio interview, but I found a similar quote in a 2014 issue of Conde Nast Traveler magazine.
Coppola conjures a conversation he had on the set with Mario Puzo, author of the Godfather book and co-writer of the first screenplay:
“When I was working on The Godfather, years ago, (Puzo) said, ‘I never met a mafia guy. Everything is from research.’ … He also told me, ‘When you make a movie and somebody wants to meet you, don’t meet them. Because (the mafia are) a little bit like vampires: A vampire can’t come into your house unless you invite it in.’
“During the second picture there was a knock on the door, and my guy poked his head in and said, ‘Hey, Francis, there’s a guy named John Gotti here who wants to meet you.’ I said, ‘No, tell him I can’t.’ So, during my whole career, I never met them. There were some suspicious guys hanging around Palermo (during a recent trip), in black suits, but I never met them. It’s romantic and stuff, but they’re horrible murderers, and who wants to meet a horrible murderer? I do not.”
Yeah, but what if they give you $100 million to come in?
What is it like to work for the Saudi-backed tournament?
Phil Mickelson once said the Saudi Arabian government, the money behind vampire Greg Norman’s LIV league, was “scary.” And it is. They’ve chopped up at least one journalist, Jamal Khashoggi of The Washington Post. They have a record of war crimes, human rights violations – including mass murders of their own people – and oppression of women.
They also have a Public Investment Fund estimated to be worth $480 billion, and they use it for public relations. The term is “sportswashing.” Every player on the LIV tour is their tool. And the scrub-brushy players know it.
How money changed the mind of professional golfers
Mickelson was against LIV before he was for it. Reportedly, his price was $200 million. Dustin Johnson was against LIV before he was for it. Reportedly, his price was $125 million. Brooks Koepka was against LIV before he was for it. Reportedly, his price was $100 million.
Cam Smith, after winning The Open Sunday, bristled when he was asked about LIV. As if the question, amid swirling rumors, was so unbecoming. What’s his price?
LIV Golf is a threat to established tours, particularly the big ones. The PGA Tour has slapped indefinite suspensions on every player who has jumped. The DP World Tour, known more familiarly as the European Tour, is levying hefty fines on turncoats.
Just the other day, Sergio Garcia, an LIV guy, announced he was leaving the European Tour because he wasn’t “feeling loved.”
These guys have taken the money. Fine. They took the money because it affords them a softer schedule of 14 dates, for events that are 54 holes each, with no cut and guaranteed prize money. Fine.
But that’s not golf.
And if you take the money and get stripped of your Ryder Cup captaincy, a fate European Henrik Stenson is facing, you can’t whine. You can’t whine if you can’t play on captain Zach Johnson’s US Ryder Cup team, because the rules say you can’t.
You can’t whine if you don’t feel the love any more. Shut up already.
How the British Open fueled LIV discussion
The British Open served as an accelerant to the LIV controversy. Tiger Woods, for one, talked out loud about the possibility that LIV players won’t be able to play in future majors. It could be a thing.
The easiest way to get into a field for one of the four majors is to rank in the top 50 or 60 of the Official Golf World Ranking, and the rankings are administered by the entities that run the four majors. The OGWR does not give points to LIV events.
As Ernie Els said (as quoted by Golf Digest): “Just because you are playing for $20 million a week doesn’t change anything. It’s still 54 holes. There’s no basis to it, there’s no substance to it. You can’t have a 48-man tour playing no-cut golf and expect the world to take you seriously. It’s not going to happen.”
Els thinks the tours should get together and work things out over a 12-month schedule. Maybe they will. LIV has applied for OGWR for accreditation. We’ll see where that goes.
Personally, I hope LIV gets crushed – but that’s not the way to bet, not when an entity has $480 billion behind it. In its last event, LIV played in Portland, which mystified locals who remember a Saudi student linked to a hit-and-run killing who was spirited out of the country by the Saudi government.
LIV is playing at Trump National this week
This week, LIV Golf shifts to Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey, virtually in the shadow of where the Twin Towers used to stand. The former president knows who is responsible for the World Trade Center attacks, and relatives of those who died on 9/11 are asking that the tournament be canceled.
Here’s Brett Eagleson, president of 9/11 Justice, who lost his father 21 years ago: “(Playing) sends the message that with the right amount of money, you can make people forget about anything.”
That’s LIV’s job. And they pay well.