Sports

Viktor Hovland brushes off LIV Golf move, critiques PGA Tour management as league enters critical juncture



The PGA Tour may be nearing a deal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline, but that has not kept one of the best players in the world from criticizing the path the Tour has taken to get to this point. Viktor Hovland, who was rumored to be considering a move to LIV Golf, reaffirmed his plans to continue playing on the PGA Tour recently but did not pull any punches when discussing the organization.

Speaking on the Norwegian podcast “Fore,” Hovland addressed the state of the Tour, Jon Rahm’s departure for LIV Golf and why the rival league has appeal to the top players in the world. 

Hovland quelled rumors of a PGA Tour departure saying he doesn’t believe going to play LIV Golf would help him improve his game, though he completely understood why Rahm — who signed a monstrous deal with LIV Golf two weeks ago — would make such a move. 

“It would be a bit silly to criticize the players for leaving,” Hovland said (English translation via Sports Illustrated). “After all, you only hear one angle in the media, and there are quite a few different parts happening at the same time here. I totally understand why he left. That’s a lot — a lot of money. [Especially] when the management of the PGA Tour has done such a bad job.

“Just to be clear: I’m not complaining about the position I’m in, and I’m very grateful for everything. But the management has not done a good job. They almost see the players as labor and not as part of the [membership]. After all, we are the PGA Tour. Without the players, there is nothing.

“When you get to see what happens behind closed doors, how the management actually makes decisions — which are not in the players’ best interest but best for themselves and what they think is best … They are businessmen who say that, ‘No, it should look like this and that.’ There is a great deal of arrogance behind it all.”

Those are some damning thoughts from the normally reserved FedEx Cup champion.

Hovland makes plenty of salient points. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan went behind the backs of his players to enter into a framework agreement with the PIF on June 6, which many believe was a betrayal of their trust. He has since said he felt like he had no other choice due to the level of secrecy involved, but it’s a difficult position from which to bounce back.

Communication has seemingly not been great. A group of 21 golfers recently demanded more transparency from the PGA Tour policy board as this process unfolds. Justin Thomas recently refuted this sentiment, stating that all of the players on the policy board — Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Charley Hoffman, Peter Malnati, Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay — are accessible.

“I know that those guys are willing to pick up the phone and talk to anybody if they want,” Thomas said. “They just have to call them, and I just haven’t really had the desire to do that much. I’ve got faith and trust in them.”

Some believe part of the PGA Tour’s problem is that players are too involved in the decision making. Golfers are good at golf. Business people are (theoretically) good at business. That’s not to say that the Tour executives have handled any of this well, only that it remains unclear whether professional athletes would or could handle it better.

Therein lies many of professional golf’s problems. It is a sport run by its members (the players), many of whom neither understand nor care about what’s good business or what fans actually want to see. It is a problem that could be solved by the money that the soon-to-be-formed, for-profit PGA Tour Enterprises is expecting to receive via investment from both the PIF and another private equity firm. This could shift the decision-making power away from the players and toward the executives, which again, theoretically should be a good thing in terms of the structure of the entire business.

Although, as we have seen throughout this process, it might not actually be a good thing in reality.

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