MUIRFIELD, Scotland – Unlike the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, it’s clear that LPGA pros are open to discussing fundamental changes to their sport.
As the best teed it up at the AIG Women’s British Open at historic Muirfield, an undercurrent exists that will potentially move the women’s game in a different direction.
It’s been widely reported that LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan would take the phone call from LIV Golf.
“It’s my responsibility to evaluate every opportunity,” Samaan told The Times in July. “I would engage in a conversation if it would achieve our aim of promoting women’s golf, but there needs to be input from players and sponsors. There’s a lot of factors to consider before we do business with LIV Golf.”
While its unclear if LIV CEO Greg Norman has approached the LPGA—there are different versions of stories—but one thing is clear: both sides are interested in talking.
“We have discussed it internally, the opportunity is there,” Norman told the Palm Beach Post in July. “We’ve actually had one of the most iconic female golfers sitting in this room having a conversation with her. She absolutely loves the whole concept and is behind the whole concept.”
It seems so civilized, both sides willing to listen and discuss a proposal that in the end could be good for everyone.
The PGA Tour and its players remain unwilling to entertain LIV, and now the PGA Tour is being investigated by the Department of Justice for antitrust violations, and there is a lawsuit with 11 players led by Phil Mickelson, plus ongoing defections to LIV by some popular players.
Some women when asked about the potential of a Saudi investment were unwilling to discuss the possibilities, suggesting that until a proposal is put forward, it’s not worth discussing.
“It means these girls that work really hard during the week finish 10th and get about 2,000 Euros, 4,000 Euros will now get 14,000 Euros,” Laura Davies said of a small infusion of $500,000 to $1 million in future purses. “All of a sudden it becomes viable, so I’m not going to say anything is right or wrong. It’s just nice that finally the women’s tour might get something.”
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Davies, who has more than 70 worldwide wins in 32 years as a professional, is not uncomfortable with the origin of the money that could help both the players and the tours and seemed to answer that question easily.
“Do you put petrol in your car?” Davis said. “Don’t buy anything that’s made in China. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Where do you draw the line in what you’re up in arms about? I know the arguments. What can we do, we’re just golfers.”
It isn’t the most original response, but when you see multi-corporations and sponsors on the tour involved with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the PIF, Davies’ view becomes understandable.
Women golfers generally have played for smaller purses while scratching and clawing to make a living. If a benefactor emerges, the players must balance the benefits.
“I think our commissioner needs to be two steps ahead,” Lizette Salas said. “The commissioner just needs to be proactive in that sense. And, of course, we’d want to have a say on what we’re able to do, I think this is a tour that that was made by players, and it’s run by players. So, I think it’s it’ll be beneficial to have a say.”
Stacy Lewis was recently elected to the LPGA Policy Board and has a unique insight into the LIV issue. She agrees with Salas that it’s a player’s tour and the players should be involved in the process, and it’s clear to her that there are partners and sponsors of the tour that do business with Saudi Arabia.
But like Davies she also wonders where you draw the line. Lewis said LIV Golf has been discussed, even though nothing is firmly on the table.
“Ultimately I would like to see it, if we do something with them, done in a way that it is improving women’s lives,” Lewis said of any potential deal. “I think that’s something that our tour has done really well.”
Lewis went on to say that if they can find a way to work with the Saudis and make people’s lives better, she’s up for it.
The women seem to have learned that they don’t want to go down the same road as the men. They also see the potential benefits. What’s left are a proposal and negotiations.
“I believe our players would benefit from it, like higher purses, all that good stuff,” Salas said. “But ultimately, it needs to come down to, negotiating and how we can benefit both organizations, as well as players.”