If, like me, you’re not a fan of the term ‘grow the game’ then prepare to endure a world of pain in the next month or two.
With the controversial Saudi International looming on the Asian Tour in February and a bunch of the game’s biggest names already signed on to play, it seems a certainty the three most aggravating words in golf will be getting a serious workout.
Already two of the game’s highest profile players have cited ‘growing the game’ as a reason players should be granted releases to play the Saudi event and that list will only get longer.
Historically, ‘grow the game’ has been code for ‘grow my business’ and one might make the same assumptions about player appearances in the Saudi tournament.
In the interests of transparency, perhaps anyone who relies on ‘growing the game’ as a reason to tee up in the Saudi International should also have to publicly declare their appearance fee for being there?
Irrespective of where one stands on the moral question of playing in the Kingdom, high profile golfers know there is a potential PR hit to be taken for being seen to assist the Saudi regime in ‘sportswashing’.
"In the interests of transparency, perhaps anyone who relies on ‘growing the game’ as a reason to tee up in the Saudi International should also have to publicly declare their appearance fee for being there?" - Rod Morri.
Hence, ‘growing the game’ will become a fall-back position for many.
Count Rory McIlroy among those who has disdain for the term as he revealed in 2017 when defending his decision not to play in the 2016 Olympics.
“I hate that term 'growing the game’,” he told the Irish Independent at the time.
“Do you ever hear that in other sports? In tennis? Football? ‘Let’s grow the game’.
“I mean, golf was here long before we were, and it’s going to be here long after we’re gone.”
Interestingly, McIlroy last week defended the right of players to tee up in Saudi Arabia without sanction from the PGA or DP World Tours but didn’t cite ‘growing the game’ as a reason.
Instead, the Northern Irishman says it is important that – as independent contractors – golfers have the right to play where they want when they want.
“My personal choice is not to do that [play in Saudi Arabia], but obviously a lot of players are doing that, and I think it’s fair to let them do that,” he said in The Bahamas.
Collin Morikawa and Justin Rose – neither of whom is currently listed in the field for the Saudi International – both ran the ‘growing the game line’ when asked the same question about players being granted releases.
"When it comes to Saudi, when it comes to the PGA Tour, I think the underlying message that everyone needs to realise is we're here to grow the game," Morikawa said.
Rose agreed, saying: “Players deserve the opportunity to play around the world and also capitalise.
“It’s good for growing the game of golf and it’s part of your responsibility as a talented young golfer who is doing incredibly well to do that the best you can.”
Twenty five of the game’s more recognisable names have already shown their intent by signing on to play the Saudi International.
The question now is how many more will follow and the answer to that might be determined by the next actions of the PGA and DP World Tours.
They have until January 4 to decide if they will grant releases for those 25 players or sanction them, a move that would likely be seen as the first shot in a war for control of the game.
It will be intriguing to see what unfolds from here but one thing is certain: none of the actions of any of the main parties thus far resembles a legitimate attempt to ‘grow the game.’
No matter how many times we hear the opposite over coming weeks.