Saudi Sportswashing

In an effort to improve its image on the global stage, Saudi Arabia is financing a new professional golf tour. Some PGA pros are signing on to the LIV Tour as a result of the Saudi’s bonuses and much higher tournament purses. Tuesday, Brooks Koepka received $100m to switch sides.

Professional golfers have never been on the forefront of progressive politics, but this is next-level selling out to the highest bidder regardless of their historic repression of their citizens; their ties to 9/11; their hacking of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi to death; and worst of all; despite no one writing about it, their brutal war against Yemen.

It’s worth noting the (dis)United States sells the weapons that Saudi Arabia uses against Yemen. And it’s worth pressing pause for a second and imagining what you and I would do if a competing employer offered to increase our pay by five or ten times?

Families of 9/11 victims brought moral clarity to the situation yesterday with a letter of appreciation for the PGA tour players who (so far) are refusing to aid and abet Saudi Arabia in its sportswashing campaign.

They wrote:

“To those many of you who chose to remain loyal to the PGA Tour — and did not defect to the Saudi Arabia-bankrolled LIV Golf Series — we thank you and the sponsors who support you. Thank you for standing up for decency. Thank you for standing up for the 9/11 Families. Thank you for resisting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to cleanse its reputation by buying off professional athletes. […]

“To those of you who have chosen what is right over blood money from a corrupt, destructive sports entity and its Saudi backers, please continue to stand strong. You inspire hope and conviction that our long journey to accountability and justice is in reach. We deeply value your integrity and your willingness to stand up for principle.”

This global showdown begs a question. “How much is enough?” Most of the LIV signees are multimillionaires many times over. For some, the answer appears to be, there’s never enough.

Sports, Sports, Sports

By which I mean college basketball and professional golf. We will return to regular programming once I get this stuff off my chest. 

Borrowing from a Dan Patrick Show mock headline, “It Suggs to be UCLA.” Not really of course, the team’s improbable run was the most fun I’ve had watching televised sports in a long, long time. Saturday night I thought we were going to win on the last possession of regulation when Juzang brought it up the court. He opted to get inside, which is understandable even though it didn’t work out. I dig how he mixes up his deadly long-range shooting with mid-range jumpers and lay ups. Juzang, pleaze let’s run it back one more year.

I also thought we were going to win it in double overtime. I thought outlasting them was our destiny. 

Wrong and wrong. But I was right about the fact that the Bruins would never quit. The 14 point spread was made by someone who hadn’t been watching them very closely. Thus proving Vegas data nerds can’t quantify heart. 

Yes, Suggs’s block was spectacular, but the long distance, high speed bounce pass through the UCLA defense was even more so. As good a pass as you’ll ever see at any level. And then, the presence of mind to know exactly when to release the final shot. Major props to someone who reminds me of a younger Damian Lillard. And major props to both coaches who are team first class acts. 

I expect the Zags Baylor to cut down the nets tonight.

Switching gears, how about the first major LPGA tournament of the year won by a 21 year-old Bruin who left school early. Here’s what one golf writer, Dylan Dethier, said about the state of women’s golf:

“Take a look at the ANA’s final leaderboard and you’ll see a game in great shape going forward. A rising star in big-bombing Patty Tavatanakit. Stalwart top guns Jin Young Ko and Sei Young Kim. Generational talent Inbee Park. American stars Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang. And Lydia Ko may be the most fascinating player in the entire game. The next major can’t come quickly enough.”  

Another writer asked if Ko’s 62 was the finest round in major golf history. Good question for which I’m sure PressingPause readers have many varied opinions.

Next, a video that will induce laughter from at least one PressingPause loyalist from central Ohio (and sometimes Kentucky). Along with any other bipartisan golf enthusiast—meaning they follow the EuroTour and the PGA Tour.

Lastly, my pick for the Masters. . . another Bruin. . . Patrick Cantlay. Are we still calling it the Masters?  

Kelly Kraft’s Awful, Horrible, No Good Day at TPC Boston

Kelly Kraft, the 64th best player on the PGA Tour, has earned $1,638,000 so far this season. Today he’s playing in the second of the season ending four “playoff” tournaments. He has to finish in the top 70 (out of 100) to advance to the next tournament. The odds of that are not good thanks to his second hole this morning.

  • Shot 1 237 yds to unknown*, 311 yds to hole
  • Shot 2 146 yds to right rough, 166 yds to hole
  • Shot 3 155 yds to water, 36 ft 7 in. to hole
  • Shot 4 Penalty
  • Drop in right fairway, 85 yds to hole
  • Shot 5 98 yds to native area, 38 ft 2 in. to hole
  • Shot 6 3 in. to native area, 38 ft 0 in. to hole
  • Shot 7 Penalty
  • Shot 8 71 yds to water, 44 ft 0 in. to hole
  • Shot 9 Penalty
  • Drop in right fairway, 85 yds to hole
  • Shot 10 86 yds to green, 5 ft 5 in. to hole
  • Shot 11 putt 8 ft 9 in., 3 ft 3 in. to hole
  • Shot 12 in the hole

For shitssake, he was standing 166 yards from the hole lying two! So he made a “10” on a shortish par 3. Somewhere John Daly is smiling. Sadly, I have not played a round of golf all year, yet I am confident I could “break 12” on the second hole at TPC Boston given the chance. Twelve out of twelve times. I guess the silver lining is he’ll be home with his family for the start of the school year.


*Love that phrase “to unknown”. I have driven it “to unknown” more times than I care to remember.

Woods, Nicklaus, the Globalization of Sports

The world is most passionate about futbol, the Canucks are hockey-crazed, and in the U.S. we’ve always staked our claim to baseball, basketball, and football. Then global interdependence accelerated and now we get spanked in international baseball competitions, the bigs are a multinational polyglot, our days of bball dominance are a thing of the past, and only football remains predominantly national in orientation.

One especially poignant event took place in 2000 that illustrates the globalization of professional sports. The Dallas Mavericks had five international players on the court at the same time—Obinna Ekezie (Nigeria); Eduardo Najera (Mexico); Steve Nash (Canaduh), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany); and Zhizhi Wang (China). If you need more evidence, check out an LPGA leaderboard.

Speaking of golf, TW is known around the world as a result of his amazing on course success, endless advertising, and sexcapades. Some in the media have reported that his Swedish wife is seeking $750 million (which will only worsen our balance of trade). Until recently, I would have bet 100% of my retirement assets that TW would break Jack’s major championship record. TW sits at 14, JN has 18. Now, I’d only bet 70%.

To win a major championship, I assume the following. You have to be play really well for four consecutive rounds. To do that, you must have your swing grooved going in, be mentally focused, and injury free (TW’s US Open win at Torrey was a freakish anomaly). Pre-sexcapade-escalade-firehydrant, TW usually had his swing grooved going into majors, was always off the charts focused, and usually healthy (pre-knee problem).

Times have changed. Hard to focus on the eight footer for par with 18″ of break when you’re wondering if your wife has discovered your most recent sexts. Then there’s the neck injury. Then there’s the swing coach that decided he wanted a divorce too.

All of those things can be fixed over time. After the divorce he’ll sleep around worry-free, his neck will probably return to normal, and eventually he’ll probably get someone to take seven figures to help with his swing.

Tiger is 34 years old and Watson almost won the British last year at 59. Apart from Gary Player, has there ever been a golfer more dedicated to fitness than TW? So let’s say his window is between 15 and 25 years. All he’d have to do to pass Jack is win one major every 3 to 5 years. Assuming he plays every major every year that’s winning one of twelve or twenty championships.

But globalization is the variable that gives me pause. As of May 31st, 2010, thirty-three of the top fifty golfers in the world are international players—66% (I did that in my head). Several of the top international players are considerably younger than Tiger, just as long, and nearly as talented—McIlroy, Kaymer, Schwartzel, Villegas, Ishikawa, Davies. As a result of the globalization of golf, Tiger faces increasingly deep fields, much more so than Nicklaus did. I wish I had a research assistant to dig into the comparable world ranking figures for Nicklaus when he was in his mid-30’s. I’m guessing the number of international players in the top 50, and the non-Gary Player major championship winners, paled by comparison.

There’s also anecdotal evidence that the next generation of golfers is going to be better than the current one. Jordan Spieth, a 16 year old, finished 16th in a PGA tour event two weeks ago. Last week he finished tied for 8th in a junior golf tournament, 9 strokes behind Anthony Paolucci (66-69-69).

Then there’s a non-globalization, psychological factor. Over the last ten years, nearly everyone nearly always has been intimidated by Tiger, wilting under the pressure of playing in his shadow. Now, not as much. Can he get back to the same level of physical and mental dominance? Possibly.

And that’s why I’m only putting 70% of my retirement assets on Tiger winning five or more majors.