Dustin Johnson just cancelled his overdraft protection at the Royal Bank of Canada. DJ, Phil Mickelson, and Bryson DeChambeau have headlined a shift in the tectonic plates of world golf with their moves to the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf League. I’m bummed.
What this has done is removed the PGA Tour as the last holdout of pure meritocracy in North American sports. On tour, there were no performance contracts, no guarantees, you win (or make cuts) or you don’t get paid. There were several levels of minor leagues flush with aspiring competitors just waiting to take jobs from the guys on top. Even if you were good enough to make the annual exempt list on tour, that didn’t ensure you’d get paid. All that’s gone now with LIV’s huge guaranteed contracts. DeChambeau signed for $100M and never has to win again.
LIV has turned professional golf from competition to entertainment. Of course, the players still want to win, but when they don’t have to, the integrity of the competition suffers. Make no mistake, LIV is not an instantiation of the old poorly funded knock-off football leagues that tried to compete with the NFL and couldn’t land any top-level talent and eventually folded. These guys have money and star power. Expect more defections as the economic reality sets in. How the PGA Tour will react is anyone’s guess. As their star power and exclusivity wane, they’ll need to adjust. It was an awesome run while it lasted. What do you think they will do?