“Free agency is finally coming to golf,” stated Greg Norman at the debut of LIV Golf last month.
“I am so pleased that we have added freedom of choice to the game of golf,” he said on another occasion.
To hear Pat Perez, one of the LIV signatories, tell that he was rescued from a contractual servant on the PGA Tour, even though he made more than $28 million during his career.
“Last year I missed the birth of my son. August 18, I get a call that my wife is about to give birth. I’m in Jersey. I’m getting ready to start the FedEx playoffs. I am 116 on the list. I can’t leave. I can’t miss it. I can’t go back. I can’t go there and back without spending 150 grand on a private flight. I do not do that. So I had to suck on it and I had to miss the birth of my son,” Perez said. “And, you know, luckily I made the cut and increased my status by playing well, but it still sucked.”
The only thing is that Perez did not have to miss the birth of his son. He chose to play the Northern Trust. He had already wrapped up his Tour card for the following season by finishing in the top 125. If he had wanted to qualify for the BMW Championship (top 70) or the Tour Championship (top 30) the following week, he should have moved on. because he hadn’t played well enough that season to guarantee his spot. Tour veteran Billy Horschel objected to what Perez had to say.
“PGA Tour says minimum 15 events, all you have to do is play 15 events and you keep your card in those 15 events, then that’s fine. If you want to play better or play more for a chance to win the FedExCup, so be it. So it will be. No one got you to play that first Playoff event to miss family obligations. Nobody has it,” Horschel said. “Yes, we are independent contractors; we do sign a contract with the PGA Tour to meet certain requirements of the PGA Tour. But we have the opportunity to make our schedule.”
Horschel noted that by the time he plays at the Genesis Scottish Open this week and the British Open next week, he will be away from his family for five consecutive weeks.
“I have made the decision not to see my wife and children for five weeks. Should I cry about it? No,’ he said. “I understand. I am living my dream by playing golf professionally and supporting my family financially.”
Here’s the thing: Perez was an independent contractor; now he is an employee. This is not an employer you want to piss off. He has signed a contract to play in all eight LIV Golf events. Next year it has been announced that this number will increase to 14. Has Norman really realized this dream of more than 30 years?
The PGA Tour and the Europe-based DP World Tour have both rejected member requests for releases to participate in LIV events and have since penalized players who violated tour regulations. In one of the rich ironies, the same players who have said they want to play less have gone to court so they can play more on the DP World Tour. (By the way, I like the nickname for them – ‘The Sour 16.’)
“We want to coexist” with “all the current ecosystems within the game of golf, and we want to do that with the PGA Tour,” Norman told Fox News last month. What exactly would that look like in his fantasy world? “I would say support the players… and give their members the opportunity to go to other places,” he said. “They are independent contractors. They have every right to do that.”
Graeme McDowell watches his ride on the 10th tee at the 2022 JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor in Limerick, Ireland. (Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Except Norman’s circuit prevented Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell from playing in the Horizon Irish Open. Apparently this idea of his doesn’t work both ways.
The circumstances of Graeme McDowell, who signed with LIV Golf, indicate that Norman does not allow players to play freely elsewhere. McDowell, who had agreed to play the Horizon Irish Open, a tournament he’d played anyway for the past 20 years, in order to get a waiver to participate in the Saudi International in February. But he dropped the deal because it conflicted with last week’s LIV event in Portland.
“I tried to be honest and I tried to be open with them and put all my cards on the table. Of course I was very disappointed that the second event was against the Irish Open. I would have loved to have been there last week,” said McDowell to the Irish Independent. “All I can say is that I have to be all-in. I am 43 and 380th in the world. My value to these guys is only so much. I have to try to do the best I can for the LIV Tour, and of course that meant I couldn’t play last week.”
He added: “Listen, I would love to be back at the Irish Open next year and as I said I can only apologize to Irish golf fans for not being there last week. And as I said, unfortunately I had some pretty good reasons for that, as far as what to commit to with the LIV Tour. I have to be all in on those events. I can’t just stick my toe in it.”
And here’s the pinch. The same guys who have complained about how hard it was for them on the PGA Tour no longer have the luxury of choosing their schedule. They’ve been pretty well bought and paid for, and should now show up when and where they’re told (I hope none of the wives of American players give birth during the two-week swing to Bangkok and Jeddah).
If McDowell had still been an independent contractor, do you think he would have missed his home country’s national opening? Do you think growing up he dreamed of winning the Irish Open or a 54-hole shotgun start in Portland?
Free agency in golf – before long some players want to fire their agents Freddie Freeman style.
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