Here’s a fun scenario to think about: Imagine your regular weekend foursome. Two of you are driving to the course together when your cell phone rings. It’s the other guys. They reveal, somewhat sheepishly, that they will be playing with another group today because they’re playing for $5 a hole instead of $1.

You’re upset.

“Okay,” you say. “You’re never playing with us again. Not in our weekly rounds. Not in our Christmas Classic. You’re officially disinvited from our big spring trip. The tournament trophies you’ve won in the past are null and void. You’re out. Done.”

Here we have a miniature version of what’s happening in men’s professional golf. The PGA Tour versus LIV Golf has become a bloodbath, and legacies are being destroyed minute by minute.

For many months, it appeared that the challenge led by Greg Norman, the upfront guy for the Saudi group, was going to collapse like Jean van de Velde on the 18th hole. Sporadic rumors of interest by big-name golfers came and went with little real traction.

But then the considerable voice of Phil Mickelson, for decades one of the most popular people in professional golf, advocated for LIV, if we can call it that.


He made some decidedly stupid remarks about the whole affair, plunging himself into a cavern from which there could be no clean escape. That basically sealed his future as a LIV regular.

The big hit, though, came with the announcement that Dustin Johnson, the South Carolina working man’s golfer who had ambled his way to superstardom with a rocket driver and a steady game, would be lining up with LIV. Even more than Mickelson, Johnson’s decision gave the Saudis a certain kind of swagger.

The list grew. Graeme McDowell. Kevin Na. Ian Poulter. Sergio Garcia.

The money the Saudi group placed on the table was too tempting for some to ignore. It was particularly attractive to older players in the second half of their careers. $100 million to play golf in different places and under a different umbrella? Sure, I could do that, they said.

Beyond the pure money grab, which is what this is mainly about, there continues to exist the idea that professional golfers should be earning more. Some often bring up the National Basketball Association for comparison. NBA salaries make those of many professional golfers look like relative chump change.

So, why not chase the money? Several compelling reasons: The checks are being backed by a notorious regime that considers human rights violations an everyday thing. The split will rupture pro golf, sending its best players in opposite directions and diluting fields. And the legacy thing – players who made their names on tournament golf courses across the land won’t be adding their names to some of those trophies.

The most vivid evidence of the low point this situation has reached came several holes into the first round of the first LIV tournament in England. The PGA Tour waited until its renegade members had hit their first drives to announce their suspensions.

Chances are it only gets uglier from here.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.