Crude Reality

LIV Golf’s Crude Reality

A Saudi and Russian decision to slash oil production is the latest black mark on LIV golfers

By Michael Bamberger

We get three daily papers at home, and all three had the same headline on Thursday:

“LIV Golfers are Pawns of the Saudi Government”

At least, that’s how I read them.

Here are the headlines.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: “OPEC, Allies to Cut Oil Output”

The Wall Street Journal: “OPEC, Allies Slash Output of Crude”

The New York Times: “Saudis and Russia Agree to Oil Cuts, in Jab at the West”

LIV Golf is funded by the Saudi government’s vast investment fund. OK, who would not be in favor of Saudi Arabia making a move toward ye olde game and all it represents (at its best)? Better living through golf and all of that. But the stubborn fact behind those newspaper headlines remains: The Saudis are aligned with Russia, in the name of making more money. Russia is led by the single-greatest threat to world peace this new century has experienced. We have all seen Vladimir Putin’s depravity. He should be charged with war crimes. His own generals should turn him in. And the Saudis want to be in business with him and with Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson and Co.?

Mickelson had it right when he said this about the Saudi leaders, to my colleague Alan Shipnuck late last year: “They’re scary motherfuckers.” Also ruthless. I wouldn’t want to have my paycheck signed by any of them.

Nobody wants to come to the sports section to read about global oil politics and a murderous despot. But golf has been on a collision course with this reality all year, all in the name of show-me-the-money. The game has taken a huge hit because of it. That is, the professional game.

Speaking for myself and maybe for you, they can’t take golf away from me.

For some years, Reed was selling Team USA and these-colors-don’t-run as effectively as anybody ever has. But I would say he has jumped ship, in the name of green loot and, unwittingly, black gold. He can do what he wants. We don’t have to like it.

The 48 LIVsters are in Bangkok this week, in Jeddah the week after that and in Miami at the end of the month. It’s amazing how much LIV has been able to do in its first year. Good use of huge sums. Greg Norman and his cohorts signed Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith, Abe Ancer and Henrik Stenson, which cost the affable Swede his Ryder Cup captaincy. They got capable tournament broadcasts up and out on YouTube. They dug their way under the skin of the PGA Tour, maybe unnecessarily.

A sidebar question: Are 54-hole events with 48 players without a cut and with a shotgun start really a threat?

LIV Golf does not do anything for me. For one, the thing I like most about the PGA Tour is that it’s not by invitation only. You shoot the scores, you get the slot, no matter who you are. For another, I don’t like or respect the funding source for the LIV series. I’m not saying that every corporation that supports professional golf in the United States is Mother Teresa Inc. But I can’t name one that’s in bed with Putin, choosing to make money out of chaos, or aligned with a country that is waging war with its neighbor that has resulted in the death of thousands upon thousands. It is beyond repulsive.

LIV Golf

The final LIV event this year is at Trump Doral. A July LIV event was at Trump Bedminster. There most likely will be at least three LIV events on Trump courses next year. I have played a lot of golf with Donald Trump, when he was playing a business mogul on TV. He was a lot of fun to play with. And while I don’t profess to be a historian of any kind, I cannot name another American in my lifetime (I was born under the star of Eisenhower) who has been a greater threat to our ideals.

How many of our fellow Americans have sacrificed their lives for those ideals, for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Yes, somewhere in there is ye olde game. Golf is part of the American dream. Our pursuit of golf is a kind of happiness, is it not?

I wouldn’t want to be aligned with a golf league that’s aligned with Donald J. Trump. Seeing Trump on a golf course makes him seem mainstream, legitimate, normal. Until Trump came along, we’d never had a president who was not committed to the peaceful transfer of power. Trump claims Jack Nicklaus as a friend. Part of Nicklaus’s legacy is how he handled defeat. The art of the loss. You probably know he was the runner-up 19 times in majors alone. Evidently, Trump missed that part. He is still claiming he won the 2020 election. He once told me he shot 68 at Bel Air. His own playing partner from that round told me the score was a fantasy.

The New York Times headline said the Saudi and Russian agreement on oil production was a “Jab at the West.” Somewhere way down the line, it was a jab at Western golf too. Western golf has a value system you can be proud of. At its core, it’s democratic. Golf is hard, but at least it’s fair.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected]

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27 thoughts on “LIV Golf’s Crude Reality”

  1. Do you think pro women should refuse to play in events sponsored by Aramco? Do they need to give away their filthy money? Almost every PGA Tour sponsor does business in both Saudi Arabia and China. Do you denounce them? Do you denounce Coke, Visa, etc. for sponsoring the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? If you don’t think the international banks that sponsor the PGA “make money out of chaos” naive is not a strong enough word for you. Like a typical “journalist” you are nothing but a globalist stooge. The Democrats did not accept Trump’s victory in 2016, Hillary Clinton still cries about the election being “stolen” based on fake intel put together by the FBI, so saying he was the first to not submit to a peaceful transfer of power is a lie. What an embarrassment of a column.

    1. Amen Phil…..this stooge probably believes Jan. 6 was an “insurrection” and that the Wuhan virus came from a wet market. In reality Phil, 70+million voters agree with you.

    2. Phil, I personally denounce Coke for their part in the obesity plague rocking our nation. I also denounce the Qatar World Cup. Your read on the 2016 election says quite a bit about you. Happy to share some articles from “Democracy Now!” with you if you’d like to read more on the matter. Very curious to me that you would call a decorated and longstanding member of the 4th Estate (google it) a “globalist stooge” but it was also the highlight of your thoughtful post, in my opinion. Thanks for that.

    3. The reactions to this column mirror the divisions in this country.

      Leaving Trump out of the equation for a moment, it’s inarguable that the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia do not have the best interests of the United States on their priority lists. Russia’s strategy of a failed America go back to WWII when Stalin did everything in his power to drive a wedge between America and its allies; with Russia as the world’s only superpower, Stalin could have his way whenever and wherever he wanted. Putin’s actions continue that effort.

      Although Saudi Arabia today is a nominal US ally, we are only useful to the Saudis as a buyer of their oil and a supplier of arms for their struggle against Iran. Both the Saudis and Russians benefit in many ways by high gas pricess around the world. It’s especially useful to putin as Republicans blame Biden for the artificially inflated prices rather than the real culprits. As the Republican presidential-nominee-in-training Tucker Carlson says, “Why shouldn’t I support Russia?”

      And who, through the last several decades of his scandal-ridden career, more than any other individual has consistently sought to curry favor and make money with the Russians and Saudis? Trump has attacked and belittled every country and their leaders except two: Russia/Putin and Saudi Arabia/Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. Why? Because Trump’s and MBS’s interests align with theirs. As long as he can build condos and casinos at a high profit with no oversight, those two non-democratic countries will let Trump commit whatever illegal acts he cares to. All three want America to fail.

      As for the statement, Phil, that Trump “was not the first to not submit to a peaceful transfer of power” is ludicrous and juvenile in its stupidity. Claiming that the Russians tried to impede Clinton in 2016 is very different than assembling and fomenting an armed mob of right-wing conspiracists to attack the Capitol and hang the vice president and speaker of the House.

      You, Phil, do not have the best interests of the United States at heart. Best of luck to you, Tucker and Don.

      1. David, my only argument with your statement is that it was proven that Trump operated his casino at a loss, not a profit…

    4. Phil – do you equate buying a product from a company with being an employee and representative of that company? Because we cannot separate oil from its sources in an efficient manner, we buy Saudi oil. We are customers. LIV golfers are employees and representative of their employer. They cannot separate their representation from the action of their employers.

    5. Geez, I’m sorry, I don’t recall Hillary holding a rally and asking everyone to go to the capital and force congress to reject the results of the election. Care to provide links? You’ve been conned, duped. You’re not alone. But God, it’s frustrating “listening” to people like you who refuse to see what’s right in front of you, because it doesn’t gibe with whatever narrative is rattling around in your head.

      As to the Saudi’s. Yeah, there are a lot of companies “doing business” with them; so is our current administration. That’s life in the global market, global politics. It’s complicated. But LIV golf – and the golfers who have signed onto it – aren’t “doing business” with the crown prince. They are wholly owned by them. Every penny they make comes from them. And that should be morally unsettling. If money is everything to you, well, I guess you can rationalize it. But you’re still doing the bidding of people who happily screw Americans and kill rivals if it suits their purposes.

  2. 100%!!! I agree with Ken Sakai that this view should be on a larger platform. It takes courage to step into this terrain. It is comforting to know that us readers and golf fans can count on Michael Bamberger to stand and be counted! I stand with him.

  3. I’m surprised your colleagues let you post such dribble. I’m not sure but I might be fine with this website. For starters are you unaware of Americas war crimes and that almost half of America voted for Trump. How many readers do you want to alienate.

    1. It’s drivel, not “dribble,” John. Additionally, “almost half of Americans voted for Trump” is an indication of how masterfully Fox News, Trump and Putin can manipulate and distort the truth, not what a great leader Mein Trumpf is.


    Hopefully all the issues facing LIV men’s tour slows down the Saudi’s inevitable assault on the LPGA. I still hold out hope that when they come for the women, the stars on LPGA Tour will demonstrate a higher degree of resolve.

    Have to say – it is fun listening to Koepka and DeChambeau cry and whine after pocketing hundreds of millions. Professional golf is chock full of D Bags Extraordinaire. Do not miss watching one of the LIV defectors.

    You would have thought Norman and his crew would have thought through the OWGR points issue before the launch. Stunning arrogance.

  5. It is all about the fossil fuels. The facts are that the US was energy independent and a net exporter of oil when Biden took office. Also the Strategic reserve was full and inflation was under control. Acquiescing to the green lobby and their climate change agenda by Progressives is destroying our economy with breathtaking speed. Oil prices skyrocket while the Saudi investment in LIV amounts to less than a penny a barrel of exported crude. A rounding error for them. Most Americans shoulder a whole new double ‘tax’ whammy of high gas prices and high inflation.

    There are way bigger issues on the horizon than wringing hands over golf sell outs.. Love golf, don’t care at all about LIV. We desperately need to find some uncompromised adults to elect in November and in 24 and, at the same time, find our way back to the virtues that have always separated golf from other sports. The photo of Reed and 45 in the same frame reminds us of how far we have fallen.

    1. As near as I can tell the first paragraph is factually incorrect. Whether the USA was ever energy independent had nothing to do with Biden’ assumption of the presidency and there is no evidence that I’ve seen that suggests the USA has decreased oil and natural gas production in the last year. The USA is the largest producer of crude oil in the world with 18.5% of the world’s production (2021). Saudi Arabia and Russia both account for 12.2%. OPEC produced 35% of the world’s oil.

      Similar story with natural gas. USA produces 23.1% of the world’s share.

      More noteworthy is the growth since 2011. In 2011 the USA produced 7890 barrels per day whereas in 2021 we produced 16585 bpd. Similar story with natural gas – 617.4 billion cubic meters vs. 934.2 bcm. This growth began in the Obama years and continued in the Trump years. I do not believe Biden is more “progressive” than Obama.

      Source of this data BP’s annual Statistical Review of World Energy which has been around since at least the late 1970s (then it was Shell).

      High gas prices and high inflation are both world wide issues and not just confined to the USA.

  6. If fact-denying, reality-free MAGA loyalists choose to abandon the Fire Pit, then we should all rejoice. Certainly, they’re not true golfers because true golfers subscribe to a code of honesty and integrity, thus the handful of loons tossing mindless brickbats at Michael Bamberger display no such admirable qualities. But aside from Bamberger’s bone-chilling points about the Saudis (and by association, LIV GOlf) working in concert with Russia against the United States, here’s my question for those who side with The Saudi Golf Tour against the PGA circuit: why in the world would you want professional golf to be operated by a FOREIGN GOVERNMENT? One that is far from friendly with the U.S.? You side with a regime that regularly puts the screws to America because they can manipulate the price of oil on a whim? Nobody is saying that the PGA Tour is a flawless machine but the combination of extensive playing opportunities, corporate relationships and dedication to charitable giving is certainly a more desirable organization than one whose involvement in golf is solely to distract from its abhorrent (and ongoing) record of human rights abuses. And can we be clear? The traitors who made their reputations on the PGA Tour (Mickelson, Koepka, Reed, Johnson, Dechambeau, etc.) only to bolt for the Saudi tour didn’t go because of 54 holes or shotgun starts or the joy of “team” competition. Just how many would have hauled ass WITHOUT A MASSIVE SIGNING BONUS? Yep: exactly zero. I’ll say it again: signing with LIV Golf, watching LIV Golf and supporting LIV Golf simply puts more control of our sport into the paws of a less-than-friendly FOREIGN GOVERNMENT. Every other argument is irrelevant.

      1. Interesting that this “Bobby” spews out anything but a well-thought-out rebuttal to my post, failing to offer a SINGLE COUNTERPOINT to my recitation of my series of FACTS, also avoiding any attempt to respond to my valid questions. His only “contribution” to the debate is torpid name-calling. Certainly glad I didn’t face this guy in debate class back in high school……

  7. Well – everything said here continues the trend.

    America’s biggest threat is ourselves.

    Our infighting is making us easy prey for our adversaries.

    Surely some people must realize that working with ourselves is far better chance for the success of America than destroying each other and going down without a fight against our adversaries.

    Russia, China and the Saudis don’t give a damn about the American Dream.

    They want an American Nightmare and they are getting one.

  8. I appreciate Mr. Bamberger’s observations about LIV and Trump. This from a man who has written somewhat complimentarily about Trump before, who enjoyed his company playing golf. Yet he was clearly not entirely under the thrall of the guy, like Trump’s MAGA fan club. He was able to see Trump’s behavior, once he had surprisingly won the Electoral College vote and took office, for what it was: an unprecedented display of self-dealing, corruption, and sociopathy. Brought to its inevitable conclusion on January 6th.

    Mr. Bamberger is equally clear-eyed about LIV and the Saudis. If I may, I would also add that the LIV venture is absolutely nothing to do with “growing the game.” If that were the case, they would have followed the route of breakoff leagues like the Canadian Football League. Change some of the rules to speed up play or whatever to improve the fan experience, schedule at a different time than the NFL plays, take whatever talent they can get – good athletes who aren’t quite good enough to make it in the NFL, and make the best of it. But that’s not what they did. Instead, they came to steal as many of the top players they could get with unheard-of amounts of money, to create a sort of WWF of golf that covers the same timeframe, plays like a circus, and eschews all the decorum and traditions of golf in favor of “a good time.’ That is bad enough as it is, but then these players have the gall to want to be considered “equals” with the PGAT, OWGA points included. LIV is part Saudi “sport washing” of the reputation, part a Greg Norman ego trip, and part a soulless grab for riches. All it shares with traditional golf are clubs, balls, and golf courses.

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