LIV Golf held its second event this weekend – this one in Portland, Oregon – and the resistance around the Saudi Arabia-backed golf competition continues.
Speaking to Yahoo Finance, golf legend Fred Couples slammed the startup league that plucks players from the PGA Tour.
“To be honest, I don’t like it,” Couples told Yahoo Finance last week during the Icons Series event at Liberty National Golf Course. “I’ve heard some people say, ‘Well, you know golf is an open sport and if they can get more…’ Well, this is different. They are turning down the Tour a bit to give the best to the Saudis. We don’t know how long this tour will last. My easy answer is that as a golf professional who has been playing the tour for 42 years, I feel a little embarrassed.”
LIV Golf began play on June 9 and has flaunted hundreds of millions of dollars to some of golf’s biggest names to get off the PGA Tour. The golf series is funded by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, posing a dilemma for participating golfers given the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. by Saudi government-led agents in 2018 and other human rights allegations†
The Saudis have invested at least $500 million in launching the new golf league, including a $255 million grant in eight tournaments and player salaries. But LIV Golf still doesn’t have a broadcast partner and the matches are streamed on LIV Golf’s YouTube. In general, there is no clear understanding of how the tournament makes money and intends to be profitable in the long run.
Still, some players have followed the money. Phil Mickelson reportedly left the PGA Tour for $200 million. Dustin Johnson ran for a $125 million deal, according to reports. Two of the sport’s rising stars, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, soon followed suit.
Couples disagreed with the way the LIV players addressed the media at the start of the new competition. Many players, including Mickelson Koepka and Johnson, have delayed commenting on the controversial nature of their new employer†
“What I’m really ashamed of is when they start doing interviews,” Couples said. “They can’t even talk. They don’t know what to say. They don’t answer. If I go to a PGA Tour event and I’m there, I get silly questions. I don’t confront anyone. I don’t say to anyone ‘oh that happened years ago’.
Couples, who have competed on the PGA Tour for 40 years, think LIV’s pro golf opportunity is fleeting and insisted the tour did a “great job” in the fight against LIV. And ultimately, since LIV doesn’t have much revenue outside of oil money, the battle between the tours will depend on how long the Saudis fund the project.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” Couples said. “Right now the LIV Tour is pretty cool if you’re a golfer and you get paid $100 million. And you’re a golfer and you’re being completely overpaid. But we’re not the NFL. I can’t sign a five-year basketball contract for 200 million. In golf we play and we play and we earn what we have. And until two months ago, everyone thought it was the best game in the world on the PGA Tour. Now some people get paid richly and bash the tour a little bit, which is ridiculous.”
Josh is a producer for Yahoo Finance Live.