More than one person wondered aloud this week why the Ladies European Tour players teeing up in the Saudi-backed Aramco Team Series haven’t been subject to the same scrutiny as their male counterparts who have signed up for the LIV Tour.
It’s a question that seems straightforward but the answer is more nuanced than binary notions of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
The simple answer is that women’s golf, and the LET in particular, rarely get much coverage at all.
In the same way the players on the LET (and to a lesser extent the LPGA) don’t get the accolades their extraordinary skills deserve, it stands to reason they also don’t receive the same critical coverage when it’s warranted.
The more complex response, however, revolves around money and, by association, power.
England’s Bronte Law won the latest Aramco event this week, the tournament played at the same Centurion course where the LIV Tour launched a week earlier.
For her efforts in beating 107 other golfers she received US$71,587.50.
RIGHT: Comparing the career earnings of Charl Schwartzel and Bronte Law gives some indication of the differences at play. PHOTO: Montana Pritchard/LIV Golf/Getty Images.
Seven days earlier Charl Schwartzel took two strokes more to navigate the same 54 holes and beat 47 other players at the inaugural LIV event. He received US$4 million.
Law’s career earnings on the LPGA Tour (there is no similar stat for the LET) amount to US$1,986,125.
Schwartzel’s career earnings on the PGA Tour are north of US$20,000,000.
While the source of the money for both the Aramco Series and the LIV golf venture is the same, the above proves the amounts on offer and the financial status of the players involved could hardly be further apart.
There is no defending the Saudi regime and many of its practises and even the most ardent supporter of the LIV golf venture would be hard pressed to do so.
But that doesn’t change the choice being put in front of the individuals concerned and in that instance, personal circumstances have to be considered.
For Dustin Johnson (on course earnings of almost US$74 million) and Golf Saudi ambassador Anna Nordqvist (on course career earnings of US$11 million) the questions are quite different than for teenager Pia Babnik or India’s Viraj Madappa.
"The truth is it would be a welcome change if the women teeing up in the five event Aramco Team Series were being subject to the same scrutiny as their LIV counterparts because it would mean some sort of parity of coverage." - Rod Morri.
While Johnson, Phil Mickelson and co. have been taking plenty of heat for defecting to the LIV Tour, our own Travis Smyth and Jed Morgan have escaped much of that criticism.
That’s partly down to profile but mostly because fans understand their reality is akin to many on the LET: the money on offer could be genuinely life changing.
That doesn’t make it right but for many it does make it understandable.
So to those wondering why Lee Westwood is being asked harder questions than Whitney Hillier, keep in mind their respective positions in the game and in life.
The truth is it would be a welcome change if the women teeing up in the five event Aramco Team Series were being subject to the same scrutiny as their LIV counterparts because it would mean some sort of parity of coverage.
It wouldn’t solve any of the problems the Saudi move into the professional game has thrown up but would at least indicate the interest in the women’s game was closer to what it deserves.
As to whether any of the players, men or women, should or shouldn’t be taking the money? That’s an issue for another column.