Golf war is on
Mickelson fires loudest salvo
Good morning, all. I hope your week is off to a great start.
My apologies for not issuing a newsletter the last few weeks. I have been sidelined with COVID-19, and for those who have caught it, you do not need me to tell you it is no fun. I am fully vaxxed and boosted but got hit with one of the subvariants. I am not quite 100 percent but am getting there. I am also back to wearing masks in public and taking other precautions. From what I am reading, subvariants are about to make an impact this summer, the residue of a virus that will not quit.
Speaking of impacts, the war is on between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League. I have written about this before, but the story took a major turn over the last few days, with LIV’s first tournament slated for this week in London. Monday afternoon the story broke that Phil Mickelson, the biggest name out there, is joining the LIV Golf League.
For those who do not know, LIV is promising players a guaranteed contract, no tournament cuts and prize money. The PGA Tour does not guarantee money and they have cuts after the first two rounds. A player earns his money by where he finishes in a tournament. This system has bugged Mickelson, especially since The Tour signed a new television contract with several networks worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The players on tour realize no direct television revenue from The Tour.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has threatened to ban any player who participates in LIV events. He obviously views LIV as a major competitor that will devalue his product, including the television package. So now the war is on.
Mickelson has reportedly received $200 million to join LIV. He also says he will play in next week’s U.S. Open. The governing body for the Open, the USGA, has yet to announce whether any player participating on the LIV tour and meets the qualifications for the U.S. Open will be banned. An announcement could come today. (The USGA is not part of the PGA Tour.)
Dustin Johnson is also in London this week. He reportedly snagged $125 million from LIV. The Golf Channel is reporting that Sergio Garcia and Charles Schwartzel have resigned from the PGA Tour. Kevin Na also left the PGA, even before The Tour could give him the boot. Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen are other notables in this week’s LIV event. Some of them may have resigned from the PGA Tour by the time you read this. Meanwhile, during an interview on TGC Monday, Ricky Fowler left the door ajar to possibly joining LIV, after failing to qualify for the U.S. Open. Tiger Woods says he is staying put, after reportedly turning down big, big money, but the battle is on.
In reality, I am surprised something like this hadn’t happened years ago. If memory serves me correctly, there was talk of FOX Sports forming a league to compete with the PGA but not even FOX had the deep pockets to pull it off. Make no mistake, the Saudis have deep pockets to back LIV and a big name as commissioner, Greg Norman.
In the meantime, the next few weeks should be interesting, with my home state of Connecticut serving as a battleground. The next two weekends will not feature PGA Tour events with the Canadien Open and U.S. Open scheduled. The next PGA Tour outing will be the last weekend in June with The Travelers Championship in suburban Hartford. The tournament, which I have covered many times, is among the largest attented on the tour with hundreds of thousands, winding their way each year to TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell. This year’s field features several golfers who are competing on the LIV Tour, including Dustin Johnson. Will they be permitted to play in Cromwell or will the commissioner live up to his threat?
How will this war end? Probably in the courts. My hunch is one or several golfers who are now part of the LIV Tour will challenge the PGA banishment, claiming The Tour is denying them the right to earn a living. The Tour may also have to start offering guaranteed money to its members, on top of prize earnings, to prevent more defections.
I don’t blame Mickelson, Johnson and the rest for joining LIV. The money being thrown around is more than most of these golfers will ever earn, including Mickelson, 51, at this stage of his career. The PGA Tour needs to understand the sports paradigm in the 21st Century has changed and that includes how professional golfers are compensated. In the end, Mickelson and Johnson may be viewed as trailblazers, rather than the malcontents some are portraying them as.
Cassidy takes the fall
Bruce Cassidy is out as coach of the Boston Bruins. That is too bad. I thought Cassidy did a solid job as coach of the B’s and there did not seem to be a call for his ouster. But apparently someone, in this case Bruins GM Don Sweeney, decided Cassidy had to take the fall for Boston being bounced in the first round of the NHL playoffs. You knew something was up when team president Cam Neely failed to give Cassidy a vote of confidence two weeks ago and then pulled his best Pontius Pilate routine, saying the decision on Cassidy’s future rested with Sweeney.
Incidentally, all Cassidy did since taking over for Claude Julien in February of 2017 is take the team to the playoffs each season as coach, including the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. He was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2019-20. Fear not for Cassidy’s job prospects. He will land another NHL head coaching position.
Joe Girardi on the otherhand
Joe Girardi was fired as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies last week. The Phillies have not lost a game since his dismissal. Girardi was the last man to manage the New York Yankees to a World Series title (2009). He will also be remembered in Yankees’ lore for his run-scoring triple in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series clincher for the Yanks. It gave New York a 1-0 lead over Atlanta, setting the stage for the Yankees’ first World Series championship in 18 seasons.
I cannot tell you how Girardi related to his players, but from the outside looking in, it always seemed to me Girardi appeared as if he was about to have a root canal, every time he dealt with the media. Surprising, incidentally, when you consider he had worked in the media and will probably land there again, considering his chances of ever managing another MLB club are slim and none.
Well that is it for this week. I hope I can return to publishing my newsletter more regularly. Have a great week and good health to you all.