Ex pro savages golf's elite after PGA Tour grant Saudi International releases

Former PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee took aim at the LIV Golf players after the American Circuit granted releases to the Saudi International.

Ben Smith's picture
Tue, 10 Jan 2023
Ex pro savages golf's elite after PGA Tour grant Saudi International releases

Former pro golfer and prominent LIV Golf critic Brandel Chamblee teed off once again on the subject of sportswashing after the PGA Tour granted releases to the Saudi International. 

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan confirmed to the media during the Sentry Tournament of Champions - won by Jon Rahm - that the American circuit had granted "a few" members permission to play in the forthcoming event on the Asian Tour. 

What makes the Saudi International problematic for the PGA Tour is the fact that it is held at the same time as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. 

Players have been asking for releases into this event for years. It was previously held on the European Tour. 

Related: Federal judges sides with PGA Tour in latest court battle

Now it represents the flagship event on the Asian Tour, but the tour's International Series is bankrolled by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

PIF are bankrolling the breakaway LIV Golf League. 

Therefore, it makes this year feel different with regard to PGA Tour players asking for permission to play. 

The tournament has a massive prize purse but players have also been beckoned to the kingdom with the addition of astronomical appearance fees. 

Before LIV Golf officially launched in June 2022, the PGA Tour granted releases for the February tournament providing players commit to Pebble Beach in some capacity going forward. 

A large number of players who played last year now participate in the LIV Golf League, including the likes of Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson, Harold Varner III, Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff, Patrick Reed and Joaquin Niemann

Monahan refused to say which players had asked for 2023 releases but confirmed they treated the release requests "in the same same manner that they were in 2022".  

Related: Monahan makes Tiger Woods PIP call

Chamblee took issue with this and discussed the topic on Golf Channel. 

He said: 

"There's two things at issue here. First of all, if you just look at what's going on in sport. Sport has an educative dimension to it, a utility maximising purpose. 
"It motivates athletes to try to get better and both the athlete and the spectator benefit. The spectator gets the sense that they are watching something at the highest level be performed. 
"Sportswashing has a status quo corrupting element to it. It has no formative, educative purpose. 
"Sport has norms that are worth preserving. And money, money paid to these players that are going there [to LIV Golf] not for merit, but just for the murky purposes of sportswashing crowds out the norms. 
"It changes the character of the activity. It becomes less about playing at the highest level and more about being paid at the highest level. 
"There is an intrinsic value to sport. There is a corrupting influence to sportswashing." 

He continued:

"Sportswashing dishonours the competitive spirit of sport. It disfigures the transformative nature of wanting to get better. 
"In the hierarchy of grievances, being paid by a murderous dictator to play a sport seems trivial, unless you think about what you are really being hired for - to some extent - to hide the horrors of the government, which is less trivial when you consider that to some extent in some small way you're helping to ensure the ongoing horrors of that government. 
"And, are they not then not just athletes? To some extent they are no longer just athletes, no matter how distant, to some extent are they not then agents to those horrors? 
"And is their cavalier indifference to the deaths and the suffering - to some extent that I argue - that their participation ensures, is it not a blight on their career?" 

Watch the clip here: 

The Saudi International will take place over February 2-5 at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Jeddah. 

Harold Varner is the defending champion. He won the tournament on the 72nd hole last year when he drained a 90-foot eagle putt.  

The PGA Tour has indefinitely suspended members who have played in LIV Golf events. 

Open champion Smith has already committed to the tournament. 

Next page: Nine players who changed their mind about LIV Golf