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A putrid stench of intolerance has stung the nostrils of those who follow men’s professional golf this year – and last week, it got worse.

Responding to a social media post by Greg Norman, in which the LIV Golf CEO announced the death of his father, one keyboard warrior seized the opportunity to troll the Australian in particularly sickening fashion.

The specifics of the since-deleted post are too crude to share. Suffice to say, they fell deplorably short of basic human decency. But should we really be surprised? Social media is a septic soapbox where every voice, thought and opinion is amplified out of propotion to its worth. Men’s professional golf, meanwhile, has become a deeply divided, caustic environment, ripped asunder by an uncivil war waged by three competing tours. 

Combine those two things and you get what we’ve got: a boiling hot cocktail of bile and spitting fury.

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Of course, it would have been naïve to expect LIV to emerge without some robust dissent. That, after all, is what happens when an unstoppable force, as it appears to be, meets an immovable object (in this case the PGA Tour and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the DP World Tour).

It’s a fight that will ultimately be resolved, legally at least, in the courtroom. Until such times as that, we’re left to watch the enmity manifest and multiply on an almost daily basis. Rightly or wrongly, LIV and its players feel hard done to. Rightly or wrongly, the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and their most loyal subjects think that “having your cake and eating it” is a privilege that should not be afforded to those on the Saudi-backed tour. 

Both sides will tell you they are right and the other is wrong. No ifs, no buts. No shares of grey nor compromise. Their collective obstinance has created a hostile, belligerent spectacle that benefits nobody.

If it’s not Greg Norman asking the PGA Tour how they like “them apples”, it’s Rory McIlroy saying he finds it “hard to stomach” sharing a field with LIV players, or Phil Mickelson saying the PGA Tour is “trending downwards”, or Shane Lowry hailing his BMW PGA win as “one for the good guys”, or the DP World Tour pretending players who have played in LIV events no longer exist. They’re all treading water in a pool of petty one-upmanship.

This weekend delivered yet another unedifying episode, when Eddie Pepperell, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood had a tense Twitter exchange. And when the players fall out, others inevitably follow. Journalists, coaches, caddies, spectators, you name it.  

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You have to wonder: where are the grown-ups?

The temperature is far too high. Perspective has been lost. The passive aggression, the snark, the bickering, the cheap digs – it’s exhausting and needs to stop.

Respect has been lost, reputations sullied and legacies destroyed as self-interest, disingenuously disguised as “protecting the game’s best interests”, has been allowed to run rampant. It’s as though some people have forgotten that standing up for what you believe is not the same as stamping on the throat of those who don’t share your point of view.

Sooner or later – and perhaps only with a change of leadership across the board – the three tours will need to find a way to co-exist. If they can’t do that, they’ll need to learn to tolerate one another. Every gratuitous piece of shade thrown in the meantime just makes that harder to achieve and will, eventually, damage all parties. 

And don’t think it won’t. People are becoming bored of the constant melodrama that men’s professional golf has become. Responding to the Pepperell/Poulter/Westwood spat, one Twitter user messaged me to say that “the whole situation with these tours has completely put me off golf”. He added: “I’ll still watch the majors but the rest of it, from all sides, can just get in the bin”. Look on any social media platform and you’ll find plenty of similar sentiment.

Golf will survive. It’s too big, too popular and too established not to. But those who’ve made golf their business shouldn’t be so arrogant as to presume their interests and those of the sport are indistinguishable from one another.

Cooler heads are required. And the sooner the better.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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