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Professional golfer-turned-Sky Sports commentator Andrew Coltart has voiced his displeasure at players using money as an excuse for considering joining the reported Saudi Golf League. Speaking on Sky Sports’ golf podcast, the Scot accused players of being tone deaf considering the sums they already earn are far higher than the average golf fan’s income.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with some of the language some of our own players have used where you are talking about multi-millionaires going ‘I’m just trying to feed my children’ when people over here are entering fuel poverty, inflation is going through the roof and people are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table. Really guys? It’s tone deaf. You just need to be a little bit more aware. There is a complete detachment from the reality of the people who are going to these events, watching these events and helping put money in your pocket. You have really got to be a lot smarter with the words you use. It’s very unfortunate and I think they’re going to be talked about for some time.”
Reports suggest the Saudis have a £1.5 billion pot to entice players to the rumoured league, with players including Ian Poulter and Bryson DeChambeau said to have offers of astounding sums. Meanwhile, the temptation to accept Saudi money for other ventures remains strong, with Shane Lowry justifying his decision to play last week's Saudi International as looking out for his family. The Irishman, whose 2019 Open win earned him $1,935,000, said: “I earn a living for myself and my family and try and take care of those, and this is just a part of that.”
However, Coltart singled out his former brother-in-law Lee Westwood and US star Phil Mickelson for particular criticism. Westwood has signed a non-disclosure agreement on his involvement in any breakaway league. Last week, Mickelson accused the PGA Tour of ‘obnoxious greed’ over its stance on media rights. Nevertheless, that doesn’t cut any ice with Coltart, who said the pair have the tours to thank for their careers.
“The language Phil used was lamentable. He’s got this all wrong. There would be no Phil Mickelson and there would be no Lee Westwood if it wasn’t for the tours. The tours exist and these players have earned their money on those tours. It’s like they’re living in fairyland. This ‘I’ve done it for the love of the golf’ or ‘I do it for the game’ and all this kind of rubbish – you’ve had the opportunity to do it because there’s been a platform created for you to go out and play on. That’s been the PGA Tour, it’s been the European Tour and it’s been the other tours.
Coltart explained that rather than thinking of their careers, anyone tempted to join the rumoured league with the lure of big money should instead consider the implications for the sport as a whole. On that subject, he had more criticism for Mickelson.
“This is a real challenge to these tours we’re talking about and as a result, players have got to think hard about the future – not their future, but the future of the tour. Phil talks about these media rights, and that’s how the tour survives. It’s how the tour advertises itself, it’s how the tour pays its employees, it’s how the tour funds its infrastructure to put on more events. No other American sports league allows the individuals their own media rights so I don’t know the angle he’s coming from.”
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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