WATCHING the players sign up for the recently-formed LIV Golf tour is like some kind of rapacity bingo: who will be next to make the leap to the Saudi-backed venture in return for fortunes?

The latest is Cameron Smith, the world No.2 and reigning Open champion, who joins Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and the rest who have decided that chasing a quick buck is their priority.

Certainly, the money is eye-watering. As with every Saudi-backed venture in the world of sport, the amounts involved dwarf anything anyone else can afford; Mickelson, it has been reported, is receiving $200 million to play on the new tour while Smith is pocketing $100m.

With every new player that signs up to LIV Golf, the backlash grows louder and fiercer.

As soon as a player hits their first ball on the LIV Golf tour, they are immediately suspended from the PGA Tour and there are growing calls for LIV Golf members to be banned from the Majors.

What is so interesting about this level of dissent is it indicates a significant sea-change when it comes to Saudi money within sport.

The Saudis have long seen sport as an investment opportunity, with a major reason for that likely to be the chance it gives them for sports-washing.

And until now, their involvement has met with minimal backlash.

There has been, of course, criticism; the country’s human rights record is appalling but other than some dissent around the edges, there have been few athletes who have refused to get into bed with the Saudis.

When Anthony Joshua fought Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah last month, it was financed by tainted Saudi money but there are few who would disagree that the fight was good for boxing.

Similarly, when Saudi investment was ploughed into Newcastle United, criticism of the move seemed to be outweighed by those who believed that having another club able to compete financially with the Premier League’s big guns was a good thing.

So, why has the reception to Saudi money in golf been so contrasting?

It is because this money, rather than enhancing the sport, is driving a wedge and causing material damage to the game of golf.

So, could this mark a change in attitude to Saudi money within sport?

Until they began destroying golf, the argument for the Saudis, and their supporters, was that whatever the reservations, it was good for the game, good for the athletes and good for the fans.

That cannot be said when it comes to LIV Golf.

Despite the protestations of those involved, LIV Golf is not enhancing the sport. Rather, it is threatening to destroy it.

There are no benefits from the world’s best players being spread across two tours, unable to test themselves against each other.

While golf is being damaged, perhaps irreparably, by Saudi money, it surely also opens the eyes of the wider sporting world to the fact they are not here for the good of sport. The Saudis are here to further their own agenda and if that results in destroying a sport that has taken decades to build ,well, so be it.

The impact of Saudi money on golf is almost certainly not a one-off. Some sports may still be enhanced by Saudi money, as boxing arguably has been, but more than likely, more will be ruined by it.

So instead of being blinded by a few hundred million dollars, every other sport in the world would be wise to take heed of golf’s predicament and steer well clear of Saudi money in the years to come.


The early exit of Emma Raducanu at the US Open was surprising to few observers. Her form since her remarkable run to the title in New York last year has been shaky, to say the least; in the past 12 months, she has won only 12 matches on tour.

Raducanu’s post-match press conference following her first- round defeat to Alize Cornet last week saw her pulling the peak of her cap so far down, her eyes were barely visible. She was a shadow of the joyous teenager who took the sporting world by storm a year ago.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Raducanu has had too much, too soon.

There are few who would willingly give up a Grand Slam title; after all, most players only get one chance to win one of the major tournaments and only a select number take that chance.

But it is hard to argue that Raducanu is happier, or a better tennis player, for her success at Flushing Meadows in 2021.

She herself admitted she was looking forward to no longer being the defending champion and therefore not having a target on her back every time she takes to the court.

She is, of course, still only 19 and it would be premature to write her off. But her life will never return to the one she had when she produced her best tennis; now, with almost a dozen high-profile sponsors, millions of followers on social media and a British press pack following her every move, she will never again have the anonymity that allowed her to compete with the free abandon that makes it so much easier to play one’s best.

Raducanu may well repeat her Grand Slam-winning feat once she settles into the life of pressure and expectation that she now inhabits.

Only time will tell, however, if having too much too soon has proved fatal for her career.