A look into the Saudis’ long-held desire to enter the world of professional golf : NPR

by Joanne Miller

The world of golf has been embroiled in a civil war for the past couple of years, and it is all because of a bold move by Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has poured massive amounts of money into various sports, including golf, in an effort to diversify its economy and improve its reputation on the global stage. However, this move has not been without controversy.

In the summer of this year, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia had struck a deal to establish a dominant role in men’s professional golf in the United States and Europe. The Saudi regime formed its own golf circuit, called LIV, to rival the American PGA Tour. This move effectively pressured U.S. golf executives into forming a partnership with the Saudis.

The Saudi-funded tour, LIV, offers a different set of rules for competition, with rock music blaring on the course and big-money contracts to attract top golfers. This has created a divide within the golfing world, with players having grievances against the existing PGA Tour. Some players have argued that the PGA Tour does not pay them enough money and that they have little control over their own careers. They also feel that the demands of the tour schedule are too much.

However, the controversy surrounding the Saudi involvement in golf goes beyond the issues within the sport itself. Human rights groups have labeled the Saudi investment in sports as “sportswashing,” suggesting that it is an attempt to distract attention from the kingdom’s many human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia has a long history of mistreatment towards gay and lesbian individuals, women, and its involvement in the war in Yemen has also drawn condemnation from the international community.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Public Investment Fund and a golf enthusiast, has played a key role in the Saudi involvement in professional golf. He is close to the crown prince and has been charged with elevating Saudi Arabia’s investment portfolio. The Public Investment Fund is one of the world’s largest wealth funds, worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

While there are multiple explanations for Saudi Arabia’s foray into professional golf, including diversifying its economy and gaining global influence, the controversy surrounding their involvement cannot be ignored. The sportswashing allegations and ongoing human rights abuses threaten to overshadow any positive impact the Saudi investment may have on the game of golf.

This partnership between the Saudis and the golfing world has also sparked antitrust investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and members of Congress. The future of professional golf and the role of Saudi Arabia in it remain uncertain as the battle for control continues. But one thing is clear – the game of golf, known for its culture of civility, finds itself at the center of a heated and contentious debate.

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