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Tony Paul: Controversial LIV golf tour doesn't dim Rocket's glare this weekend

Tony Paul, The Detroit News on

Published in Golf

DETROIT — On the grounds of Detroit Golf Club this week, there was precisely one reminder that there is a rival golf tour these days. When you walked through the opening gates to attend the Rocket Mortgage Classic, you were greeted by the "Wall of Champions" — Nate Lashley in 2019, Cam Davis in 2021, and smack dab in the middle, Bryson DeChambeau, who won in 2020, signed an endorsement contract with Rocket Mortgage in 2021, then left the PGA Tour in 2022, joining the upstart and controversial LIV golf circuit.

DeChambeau this week took his bag and balls to Bedminster, which was hosting the Saudi Arabia-financed LIV tour's third tournament of its inaugural season. And while the national attention was on New Jersey, where the event was tackily held 45 miles from Ground Zero (on a Donald Trump course, with the former president a VIP all week), if anybody in Detroit gave a rip about DeChambeau or fellow defectors Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and, new this week, Bubba Watson, well, they weren't saying.

LIV had zero effect on the fourth playing of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which yet again yielded bunches of birdies, two aces and a star champion in Tony Finau, while welcoming back another large Sunday gallery — the 18th green around 6 p.m. was more congested than I-96 at rush hour — all while basking in a Detroit narrative that, as tournament executive director Jason Langwell said, "is ours."

That narrative, of course, no longer includes DeChambeau, who was axed by Rocket Mortgage after he took a LIV payday reportedly worth more than $125 million. He was 5 over par. Mickelson was 6 over. Abraham Ancer was 8 over. Had to look all that up. Nobody here knew, or, frankly, cared.

Certainly, the young boy, 11 or 12, who was walking through the tunnel behind the 18th green with Cameron Young's hat, autographed, didn't care. He didn't ask to trade the hat for Mickelson's.

"The whole thing stinks," said Scott Simpson, a seven-time PGA Tour winner who won the 1987 U.S. Open, of LIV while on PGA Tour Radio earlier Sunday, previewing the final day of the Rocket Mortgage Classic for SiriusXM — which, for its part, noticeably omitted DeChambeau's name when running down the list of past Detroit champs, and their winning scores. "Nothing compelling about it.

 

"I just can't stand this tour."

'Dirty' money

There's a whole lot to dislike about the LIV golf tour, starting with where the money comes from, the Saudi's Public Investment Fund, which is controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man our own CIA says signed off on the brutal killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Saudi Arabia's human rights record, on so many fronts (gays, women, etc.), is atrocious. The Saudis were allegedly involved in 9/11, hence the protests that greeted Trump and the golfers at Bedminster. They're not using the LIV golf tour to "grow the game," as they've instructed their players to say, but rather to clean up their own image, which, they hope, will lead to increased business relationships. Spend the billions now, make back trillions later.

"The Saudi money," said golf fan Matt Wood, 56, of Flint, "is just dirty."

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