Posts Tagged ‘Dustin Johnson’

Sanctimony Comes To Golf

June 11th, 2022 No comments


With all of the ongoing vexations occurring in the world today, the latest headline grabber comes from the sports world.  As we all know, the world of ‘sports’ has changed dramatically over the last few generations, evolving from earnest competitions among talented participants to become grossly commercial endeavours pitting billionaires vs billionaires and their stables of ponies.  Sports is big business and most everyone in the world is a fan of some kind of sports activity.

Worldwide, but especially in the US, sports is not a pastime of leisure, or of dilettantes.  It is serious business as virtually every college and university in America has a sports program that is the farm system for players hoping to turn professional.  None of these programs would exist if not for the monetization potential of any particular sport.  I suppose the javelin toss and hammer throw could be the exceptions.  They’ve yet to make the televising of throwing spears or iron balls appealing to the masses…. but maybe one day.

There is no question that money is the lifeblood for sports; we’ve become accustomed to eye popping sums offered to professional athletes based on their perceived ability to fill a stadium, draw TV viewership or hawk products.

One of the few sports to have escaped (somewhat) this crass commercialism was golf. Sure, the players wore logo’d shirts and hats, but the players were always portrayed as gentlemen whose goals were loftier than just the prize cheque for winning a tournament.  It was good enough to be recognized as good.  Or it was… until money started to drive the game, which began with Arnold Palmer and ultimately with the monetization of Tiger Woods.  As the game changed from the genteel sentiments of Bobby Jones to the present day “Nascar-ing” of the sport, money has become the dominant influence of the game.  Forget Titleist or Callaway, the number one driver in golf….is money.

The recent uproar in the genteel golf world laid bare this reality as an upstart league, the LIV tour, backed by wealthy Saudis, sought to lure top tier players away from the long established PGA tour by offering eye watering amounts of money to play in their tournaments.  To illustrate the lure, consider that Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest in the history of the game, won 18 major tournaments along with 82 regular victories.  His total earnings for his career amounts to just over 120 million dollars.  Dustin Johnson, with only a fraction of Wood’s success was offered 125 million dollars, just to come over to the new league. I’m not going to judge Johnson’s sense of allegiance or values, but we all know, he isn’t going to win 18 majors and 82 tournaments in his career.  The same is true for all of the other notable names that have elected to forgo the PGA brand for the LIV offering.  In other words, these athletes are doing what every other athlete does in any other sport, they go to the highest bidder.  Money has affected golf; what a shock!

Of course the other criticism levelled against the defecting players is that they are supporting a regime which has an abysmal record on human rights.  Not only that, but the Saudis are the source of nationals responsible for terror attacks on the US.  None of those accusations are unfounded.   But as in most narratives, there is the other side of the coin.  Nike, one of the biggest sponsors of players on the PGA tour, (and in fact all sports) manufacture most of their gear in China, a nation which pays as much attention to human rights as Italian drivers do to stop signs.

You could argue that the big money paid to elite athletes sponsored by Nike are in fact off the backs of suffering worker bees oppressed in China.  It’s somewhat akin to the superiority that drivers of electric cars feel over petrol drivers, even though their electricity is made from burning coal.  If we’re going to demonize nations for their repressive actions, that’s fair.  It’s also fair to then point out the repressions in all nations, including the US and Canada, oft considered paragons of liberty.

It’s fair to say that the past two years have seen the most repressive human rights agendas perpetrated by these very nations that most vocally protest the deeds of the Saudis.  As of this writing, Canada for example, has yet to allow all of its citizens from leaving the country. Certain parts of the US still force people to inject harmful products into their bodies in order to work.  Bank accounts are seized over actions critical to the governments.  I don’t expect PGA players to refuse cheques issued by sponsors in these countries.

Both arguments against the defecting players are hypocritical.  No one amongst us would pass on an offer of significantly higher income for doing the same thing.  That is illogical. If we expect these guys to play for the love of the sport, then people should also be expected to work because they love accounting.  As for the association with human rights thuggery; have a look around; objects are closer than they appear.


Rules Are Rules

August 16th, 2010 2 comments

link Weep for Johnson if you must, but rules are rules – Golf, PGA Tour – PGA.

The cruelest of all sports.  Once again, Dustin Johnson’s unfortunate end at this year’s PGA golf championship underlines the love/hate emotions that enslave all participants to the game.  Golf as an allegory to life has been written about dozens of times over the years I’m sure.  There is no sport that requires as much acuity of mind as well as dexterity of skill as golf.   But what truly sets this sport apart from all others is the underlying fairness of the rules and the honorable observance of the rules by all participants.  

Each player is expected to abide by a specific set of rules for play and conduct and any transgressions are met with the appropriate penalty, from loss of strokes, loss of hole, or loss of match.   As trivial as this sounds to non golfers, the very rigidity of the rules of golf is precisely the charm and draw of the sport.  Far from elitist, golf extolls the most egalitarian rules structure.  There are no preferential rules.  As in Johnson’s case, the rules apply whether you are leading and in contention or not.  They apply to the top name players as well as to more journeymen players.  Golfers may recall years ago that golfer Craig Stadler was penalized strokes for placing a towel under his knees when he had to bend down to make a shot from under a tree.  It was ruled that he was ‘building his stance”.  As well, there was the incident when Paul Azinger, standing in some water just off the fairway, moved a pebble that was under his shoe in order to get a firm stance.  A viewer actually called in that infraction and he was penalized.

Some of the most painful and heartbreaking decisions were made upon golfers doing the most mundane thing, turning in their scorecards AFTER the round was completed.  It happened to Michelle Wie recently, but the most painful was in 1968 during the Master’s Tournament.  From

“…In 1968, Aaron was the playing partner of Roberto De Vicenzoin the final round. De Vicenzo should have gone into a playoff with Bob Goalby, but Aaron wrote down an incorrect score on De Vicenzo’s scorecard and De Vicenzo failed to catch the mistake. When De Vicenzo signed and turned in the incorrect score, he was penalized and dropped out of the playoff, giving Goalby the win…”

In golf, rules are rules and the inflexibility of such rules has contributed mightily to the integrity of the game and to the records and achievements of generations of players.  Essentially, the rules state that the player and no one else, is responsible for his outcome.  They  could not blame their results on the weather, on other players, on bad luck, on society, on bad upbringing or ignorance.  No amount of whining or lobbying would change the outcome if unfavorable.  The player alone determines his own fate.  What happens during the round as far as bad bounces or bad lies were considered “the rub of the green” and no quarter was given by other contestants for this reality.  There is no “should be” in golf.  In fact, if a player knowingly impinges upon the rules, he is obliged to call an infraction upon himself, whether anyone else notices or not.  It is after all, a gentleman’s pursuit. 

If only this kind of decorum occured in the real world.  As if.