LIV has paid good money for golfers who have surpassed their best. Will the Saudis care? | Golf

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Sportswashing is not meant to make business sense. Therein lies the reason that no normally functioning company has seen fit to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into a golf disruption plan. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) may attempt to rename a kingdom for which the murder of a journalist and human rights atrocities are typical benchmarks with the benefit of a seemingly bottomless pit of money. If the PGA and DP World Tours find themselves embroiled in a long commercial game with the Saudi-backed LIV series, they know they will be overwhelmed.

The events of the past few days, however, have reminded us of the advantage that players of a certain vintage have gained from Saudi gifts. One has to wonder how much the PIF – which is by definition accountable to someone – reflects on the value of golfers who have slipped into insignificance. This day of judgment will come. It’s just a matter of when.

LIV naturally announced Henrik Stenson’s coaxing of Ryder Cup captaincy. It was a blow struck by Greg Norman against golf’s anti-LIV establishment. The behavior of Stenson and his representatives is discouraging; having agreed to lead Europe against the United States next year in Rome, he had a contractual obligation to stay away from LIV. If the Swede and his management knew that a change of plan was possible from the start, or even used the captaincy to achieve it, they should be ashamed. While this chain of events took Stenson by surprise, there’s a lot of naivety involved. captain role despite wanting to combine it with appearances in LIV.

What Norman, the figurehead of LIV, won’t want to focus on is that Stenson’s performance on the course has fallen off a cliff. It’s a triumph these days if he breaks 72. Since a share of ninth at the 2019 US Open, the 46-year-old’s major record reads: T20, cut, cut, cut, T38 , T64, cut, cut, cut, Cut. He hasn’t won since 2017. Stenson serves a goal for LIV in terms of statement but adds nothing in sporting sense. And yet he will be guaranteed at least $120,000 (£100,000) for each tournament on top of a signing fee worth tens of millions.

Stenson falls into a category that includes other LIV converts such as Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Sergio García, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel. Their best days are behind them.

Cameron Smith with the Claret Jug after winning The Open at St Andrews. Will he be seduced by the riches of the Saudi-funded LIV tour? Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

Louis Oosthuizen was planning to retire before the LIV check fell under his nose. Brooks Koepka’s big fame in 2018 and 2019 feels like an eternity. Bryson DeChambeau’s performance at the Open suggests that stories of his demise may be exaggerated, but an injury has reduced his notoriety. DeChambeau, like Patrick Reed, had reason to look to exit the PGA Tour, which meant the LIV option was perfectly timed.

Norman used media functions at the LIV opening event to admit he had waited three decades to mount a challenge on the PGA Tour. For him, it’s personal. Finally, the Aussie found an entity rich enough to fund his dream. Even better for Norman is that he is paid an exorbitant salary to live on.

The larger image involves party scenes on a private jet. It includes Pat Perez appearing in a shirt with a dollar design. There are agents, PR firms, and caddies amassing small fortunes on the back of a model that serves no competitive purpose.

LIV can make as much noise as she wants about potential broadcast partners, game openings and the sale of team franchises, but the inevitable current look is of opportunists who have used Saudi golf ambitions to fill their pockets. The rights and wrongs of taking this option can be debated, but more intriguing is how long the PIF is content to provide such bounty. If Mohammed bin Salman felt he was enjoying the future, it wouldn’t be pretty for LIV golfers.

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Validation of LIV’s approach will come if, as has been speculated, he can agree a deal with recently crowned Open champion Cameron Smith. A fierce exchange between Australian broadcasters last week underscored the scale of the backlash Smith, who has so far had an untarnished reputation, could receive at home if he took the plunge.

LIV’s need to add a player of such reputation will mean an offer well over $100 million in Smith’s direction. It’s a deal that would earn ridicule in any other boardroom. The PIF needs to make sure he’s not the one being laughed at.

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