The leisurely game of golf has come a long way of societal ignorance and neglect to reach the ethical precipice it teeters so precariously on today.
The game’s various leaders received the PR equivalent of a two-foot putt on Tuesday when it was announced that stars such as Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen had signed up to play in the first tournament in the much-discussed and universally criticized Saudi golf leaguewhich is funded by the people who killed and dismembered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Anticipated and discussed for months, the reprehensible and visibly unprecedented decision by some of the world’s best-known golfers to go into business with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came this week. Bin Salman, who funds Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf, sanctioned Khashoggi’s killing, according to human rights organizations and intelligence agencies.
Certainly golf’s stakeholders – the US Golf Association, the PGA Tour, Augusta National and the PGA of America, among others – were ready to respond with virtuous words that would carry over to the honorable game for decades, making the proud future generations, staking moral high ground on which men like those listed above would not be allowed to return among them for a long time, perhaps forever.
Turns out no, they weren’t ready, not at all. They responded hesitantly, relying on past statements, saying almost nothing while thinking they were saying something. Augusta National never returned an email. The USGA, which hosts the men’s US Open in two weeks, said it reserves the right, “as we always have, to review any competitor’s situation on a case-by-case basis.”
The PGA of America said it was “inappropriate and premature” to speculate on the future. The PGA Tour appears to be ready to kick Johnson and those other hollow shells off the Saudi roster, but it wouldn’t officially say so on Wednesday.
One wonders what could really stoke the ire of this oldest of the old boys clubs (and some girls) if their players who go into business with murderers aren’t doing it for them?
This latest systemic societal failure of golf leadership – look at how the sport has treated black men for decades and how it treats women to this day – was sparked by Johnson, the 37-year-old two-time big winner who apparently has decided to erase his reputation entirely for about 125 million dollars given to him by the Saudis.
Johnson is so lacking in moral core that he signed up to play at next week’s Saudi kick-off in London – let’s call it the Blood Money Open – knowing it was in conflict with the RBC Canadian Open, which he has committed to attend at least in part because he is sponsored by RBC.
Do who was sponsored. RBC ended its relationship with Johnson on Wednesday afternoon. As RBC just learned, Johnson’s word means absolutely nothing.
On February 29, Johnson said: “Over the past few months there has been a lot of speculation about an alternate tour; much of which seems to have included me and my future in professional golf. I think now is the time to put an end to this speculation. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour. I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best tour in the world and for all that it has given me and my family. While there are always areas where our Tour can improve and grow, I am grateful for our leadership and the many sponsors that make the PGA Tour the premier golf tour.
On May 31, he was on the doorstep for the Saudi event in London.
Dustin Johnson, ladies and gentlemen.
Johnson and Garcia and the others, along with their role models Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson, will say it’s about their freedom as golfers to make money where they want to and escape the shackles of the repressive life of the multimillion-dollar Tour. . But it’s not that. It’s a matter of greed; rich, pampered men who want more and more.
The game of golf has always told us that it is built on the pillars of honor and dignity, sportsmanship and fair play. Today, unfortunately, this facade has collapsed. The game of golf today, personified by Johnson and his pals, is all about selfishness, combined with an astonishing lack of moral judgment.
The people running the game need to speak out against this, loud and clear, and now. Silence is no longer an option.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dustin Johnson heads into Saudi event and PGA Tour executives are silent