FORT MYERS, FLORIDA | We can debate the moral implications of Golf Saudi for months and probably should. Just as the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing are sparking some impassioned discussions because of the million or so Uighurs in Chinese concentration camps, golf leaders, players and fans need to reflect on the moral implications of partnering with a nation that still has public beheadings and considers homosexuality a death-penalty offense.
But that can wait for another time. Today, I would like to ruminate on the dwindling virtue of gratitude.
When was the last time you pulled into the parking lot of your local golf club and thought about your place on the planet or in the pantheon of human history? When was the last time you thanked the person who poured your coffee and meant it, not in a polite, perfunctory way, but with a genuine heartfelt gratitude?
On the flip side, have you been short-tempered with a convenience store employee in the last year or so? Have you snapped at someone you don’t know, maybe with language your grandmother would have hit you in the mouth for using?
As you answer those questions, consider the fact that, this morning, more than a third of the world’s population lives on two dollars a day. That excludes many rural areas of Africa and Asia where numbers are unavailable and child labor is still abundant. Worldwide, at the richest time in human history, the average worldwide family income is $18,000 a year. For perspective, a family of four in America is considered below the poverty line if they earn less than $26,500.
Our very existence demands a level of gratitude.
“I know I will be criticized. That’s not my concern.” – Phil Mickelson
So, now let’s talk about golf. This week, Phil Mickelson, who is in Saudi Arabia – having chosen to skip the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the event Bing Crosby created to give another winter earning opportunity to his professional friends – said some things that raised the eyebrows of almost everyone who heard or read them.
“It’s not public knowledge, all that goes on,” Mickelson told Golf Digest, discussing the financial arrangements players have with the PGA Tour. “Players don’t have access to their own media. If the tour wanted to end any threat (from players who are flirting with the Saudis) they could just hand back the media rights to the players. But they would rather throw $25 million here and $40 million there than give back the roughly $20 billion in digital assets that they control or give up access to the $50-plus million they make every year on their own media channel.”
As out-of-touch comments go, those were exacerbated by where Mickelson made them. He would have been called out if he’d uttered that nonsense in Arizona (he skipped media interviews at his two previous PGA Tour starts this season). But he said it in Saudi Arabia, a country where upwards of 20,000 South Asian workers have had their passports seized and work 18 hours a day for three meals and a place to sleep with threats of beatings always looming – in other words, slavery.
“There are many issues, but that is one of the biggest,” Mickelson said, discussing tour-player media rights. “For me personally, it’s not enough that (the tour is) sitting on hundreds of millions of digital moments. They also have access to my shots; access I do not have. They also charge companies to use shots I have hit. When I did ‘The Match’ – there have been five of them – the tour forced me to pay them $1 million each time. For my own media rights. That type of greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious.”
Later, he said, “I know I will be criticized. That’s not my concern. All that would do is dumb down one of the most intricate issues in sports. It would be so naive to not factor in all of the complexities. The media rights are but a small fraction of everything else. And it is the tour’s obnoxious greed that has really opened the door for opportunities elsewhere.”
On the same day Mickelson made those comments, Ally Ewing broke into a huge smile in the clubhouse at the Crown Colony Golf and Country Club in Fort Myers, Florida.
“It’s wonderful that the LPGA can add a tournament like this,” she said of this week’s Drive On Championship, which the LPGA Tour put together in three months after the two Australia events were canceled. “We are truly blessed to be able to be here and do this.
“I’ve always tried to see the bigger picture of golf where I know it’s more than just showing up to a golf tournament, teeing it up on Thursday and getting prep in. I know there are a ton of things that go on behind the scenes.”
For comparison, Ewing drove her car to south Florida from north Mississippi. She has won twice in the last two years on the LPGA Tour. Her career earnings are $2,585,764.
It was reported this week that the Saudis have offered Bryson DeChambeau a guarantee of $135 million to play in the kingdom. If true, that would exceed Tiger Woods’ career on-course earnings.
“This is a such a pleasant surprise,” Brittany Altomare said after the opening round of the Drive On Championship. “The golf course is good; the people are great. That fact that we were able to pull this together so quickly is really something.”
On Thursday evening, after the last players were gone, a volunteer at the Drive On Championship said, “I’ve worked the PGA Championship, the Honda Classic, the Bay Hill, the Chubb Championship (on the PGA Tour Champions) and I’ve never seen anything like these girls. They are so gracious. Every one of them thanked us for giving up our golf course this week. I couldn’t believe it. Patty Tavatanakit went out of her way to introduce herself and thank me. Unbelievable.”
It’s wonderful that at least one group of professionals in the game remembers what it means to be grateful. It’s also sad that club members find the simple act of “thank you” so remarkable.
The game has certainly changed.
Top: Phil Mickelson, shown in Saudi Arabia, said the PGA Tour’s “greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious.” Photo: Luke Walker, WME IMG via Getty Images
© 2022 Global Golf Post LLC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?