BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Well, what did you think?
For those of you who paid attention to the LIV Golf tournament this week at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster — whether you were on the grounds and saw the circus live or streamed it on the internet — did it feel like a real sporting event or a three-day circus with only the lions, tigers and elephants missing?
There was a winner crowned late Sunday afternoon — 46-year-old Swede Henrik Stenson. What exactly that means in terms of golfing consequence — other than the $4 million winner’s check — is up for debate.
Stenson winning was compelling mostly because just 11 days ago he was stripped of his European Ryder Cup captaincy by the DP World Tour the moment it became official that he’d joined the Saudi-backed tour.
In an ironic twist, had this been a DP World Tour-sanctioned event, Stenson would have gained significant Ryder Cup points and enhanced his chances of being a player on the European team.
But there are no points associated with LIV Golf. No World Ranking points, no Ryder Cup points.
A lot of it.
Which, of course, is the primary reason every single one of these players is a part of this tour despite the litany of disingenuous reasons they’ve been trying to sell to you in the various press conferences that have taken place.
“Growing the game.’’
“Softer, more manageable schedule.’’
“New and exciting team aspect.’’
“Helping show the efforts the Saudis are making to normalize itself as a nation known more for its horrible human rights record.’’
We’ve heard all the reasons from the players about why they’ve joined LIV Golf. All of them except this one: “I DID IT FOR THE MONEY.’’
It’s OK that the players have taken the money. They’re independent contractors. More power to them. Strike while the iron’s hot. Just don’t try to snow the public over with nonsense that insults everyone’s intelligence — most notably the players’ intelligence.
The reality about LIV Golf for those who’ve witnessed it live is that they put on a good show, a fun show. Was the Frog X Navy SEAL Parachute Team fluttering down onto the golf course from the sky before the first balls are struck in the shotgun start over the top?
Maybe. But entertaining.
Do golf fans need jugglers?
Perhaps not, but good for the kids.
Music blaring throughout the golf course?
I’m cool with that.
This week’s LIV event featured the added sideshow of former President Donald Trump, who happens to own the golf course on which the tournament was played.
The presence of Trump — and it was a very public presence as he stood like a statue in his luxury suite overlooking the signature par-3 16th hole.
That’s where most of the crowd spent its time, gawking at Trump and breaking out into chants of, “Four more years,’’ and “47’’ and “You’re still our president.’’
These chants were booming on Sunday afternoon about 75 yards away from where Matthew Wolff was lined up over a birdie putt that could have cut Stenson’s lead to one shot with only three holes to play.
“Golf? Who cares about the golf? Did you see Trump over there?’’
The entire scene gave the week the distinct feel of a political rally.
The only person whose ego was better boosted than Stenson was Trump, who positively basked in the adoration in his backyard.
LIV Golf has its flaws, for sure. The shotgun start creates some confusion when you’re trying to follow the leaders. The team element can also be confusing, particularly since the teammates aren’t paired together.
I find one of the most humorous elements to the team competition the fact that a player can play like a 15-handicapper and still cash a hefty check if his team does well. In Portland, Ore., for example, Pat Perez shot 80 in the final round but his team, 4 Aces, won the team competition, which pays $3 million. Cut up four ways, Perez walked away with $750,000.
The 4 Aces again won the team competition Sunday in Bedminster, N.J., meaning another three-quarters-of-a-mil for Perez, who finished the week 5-over and miles from contention. So, for those of you scoring at home, Perez cashed a cumulative $1.5 million in the team competition in the past two events while playing like, well, you know.
You’d figure that kind of free cash money would make a guy pretty happy. Yet after his round on Saturday, when a young boy approached Perez for an autograph, Perez never broke stride in his walk, grabbed the boy’s pen and paper, signed it and handed it back to him without ever even looking the kid in the eye.
But weird describes the entire experience.