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Dustin Johnson, once the world’s number one golfer, suggested in Las Vegas over the weekend that everyone should go and experience a LIV Golf event at least once in their life. “I would invite you to come and see it because you’re going to like it,” he said.
I had a day off on Saturday and LIV had been handing out free tickets to their tournament at Las Vegas Country Club like they were confetti. I had never been to a LIV event. But DJ promised I’d like it and DJ is known as one of the great thinkers in the sport, so why not?
Well, I’m sorry to spoil things right away, but I didn’t like it. Maybe I would have liked to have been paid $150 million to like him, like Johnson. Maybe I would have liked him even more if they had paid me $500 million to like him, like Jon Rahm.
Maybe if the Saudi PIF, which finances the tour, had been handing out big wads of cash to spectators along the way, that would have made me like it too. But the best offer I got was from the casino scammers outside the event yelling “spend a hundred and get a hundred.” Even for fresh, gullible Las Vegas meat like me, that didn’t seem like much of a deal.
Anyway, this is Las Vegas, so it’s time to have more cards on the table. The best thing about LIV Las Vegas was being able to see the Dean Martin statue near the clubhouse. I was also hoping to see the rear view of the house on Ottawa Drive where Sonny Liston died, but it turned out to overlook a different golf course.
Former world number one Dustin Johnson suggested everyone should experience a LIV Golf event
LIV’s signs at the Country Club in Las Vegas blared the message: “Golf but louder.”
At the end of both of their lives, Liston dated another former heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, who by then had faded. Nick Tosches’s brilliant book about Liston, Night Train, quotes a mutual friend of the two wrestlers as saying that Louis had perfected the art of “turning money into shit”. Anyway, back to LIV.
LIV signs at the entrance to the Las Vegas Country Club blared the message: “Golf but louder.” In fact, there is a sign that says “Golf But Louder” on almost every hole. And yes, if these signs could only speak, there are so many that they would indeed be deafening.
But LIV is not Golf but Louder. It’s golf but richer. That is its main point of difference. Sure, there’s the 54-hole format and the quick start and the players represent teams and they all love each other and all they’re looking for is to have fun and not travel as much, but what really matters is that it pays more. That’s why golfers play in it. They are not there to grow the game of golf. They are there to make a lot of money.
By the way, I’m not saying that PGA Tour players are beacons of light. Recently, their goal seems to be to copy much of what LIV has started. Particularly the money part. Still, when Rahm walked down 12th Street in Las Vegas under a blue sky with the stratosphere looming above him, if she had looked really closely, she might have been able to see his bank account up there somewhere.
The other thing about Golf But Louder is that it’s not entirely accurate. It’s hard to make more noise when several of Saturday’s groups seemed to be followed by friends and family and almost no one else. At times, there were more people lining up at the Jackpot Grille near the 12th tee than there were watching the players. Apparently Saturday was also the busiest day.
Yes, there were healthy galleries following the group that included Rahm, DJ and Bryson DeChambeau, but on many other holes you could hear a pin drop. Phil Mickelson, one of the greatest golfers of all time, wandered around in near anonymity. On the couple of holes I walked with his group, there were maybe 50 spectators around the greens. He felt sad.
Rahm, LIV Golf’s most recent, biggest and highest-profile defector, also doesn’t appear to have gotten the Golf But Louder memo yet, either. His caddy spent a lot of time trying to quiet the spectators around the tee. Rahm looked awfully sad for a guy who gets paid $500 million to hit a ball on a field.
Jon Rahm (above) was unimpressed by the rowdy crowd in Las Vegas over the weekend
LIV’s signature destination at Las Vegas Country Club was its Party Hole, the par-3 eighth. It was only fair to take a look. There were a lot of spectators there too, and another DJ (this one was called Gryffin and he had been seconded from a nightclub on the Strip and I guess he was paid less than 150 million dollars) was playing his turntables on a stage next to a lake.
Gryffin seemed to be quite popular. Which meant that the big screen showed him and his original movements. Not golf. No one seemed to be watching the golf. But maybe that’s the point of a Party Hole. It’s for people who don’t like golf but do like parties.
And at the end of the day, that’s it with LIV Golf. It’s a party. It’s not a particularly fun party, but it is a party nonetheless. Actually, it’s not a contest. It is an event played by men who have already won. All of them have already won.
They won the moment they signed the deal that allowed them to make money beyond the wildest dreams of the rich men they already were. And so, wherever they finish each week, they have won. They may win a little more if they finish higher in the field, but they will also win a lot if they finish lower. So everyone has won.
I left before the end. I didn’t really care who won. Winning is not the goal of LIV. Money is the goal of LIV. Golf, but richer.
There’s no love in Las Vegas for showboating Lopez
You’ll be hard pressed to find clearer examples of pride before a fall in the sport than the fate that befell WBO light welterweight world champion Teofimo Lopez at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday night.
Lopez strutted into the ring for his fight against Jamaine Ortiz wearing a showman’s top hat and flanked by a bearded lady and a sword swallower.
WBO super lightweight world champion Teófimo López retained his title in controversial fashion
Ortiz proceeded to outbox him comprehensively and, although Lopez scored a controversial points victory, the crowd booed him vigorously when he attempted to address them after the fight.
‘Suck ***, homosexuals,’ López told them through the microphone. Sometimes sports don’t turn out the way they should.
Last days of the Tropicana
I stayed at the Tropicana while in Las Vegas to prepare for the Super Bowl last week. Not exactly where I was when James Bond checked in during a scene in Diamonds Are Forever.
In fact, it has long since lost its luster. But staying there was still like being a small part of sports history. The Tropicana will permanently close its doors on April 2, to be demolished at the end of the year.
From its ruins a baseball stadium valued at $1.5 billion will rise as the headquarters of a new Major League team inherited from the Oakland Athletics. Sports, dancing hand in hand with gambling, are building a new Vegas.
Frozen celebration for the Oilers
The San Francisco 49ers couldn’t claim a monopoly on sports heartbreak over the past seven days in Las Vegas.
Actor Will Ferrell cheers on the Las Vegas Golden Knights against the Edmonton Oilers
On Tuesday night, I went to the T-Mobile Arena just off the Strip with high expectations of watching the Edmonton Oilers ice hockey team tie an all-time NH L record by beating the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas and record a 17th win in a row.
Thousands of Oilers fans had flown in from Canada like snowbirds to watch the game and were off to a great start when Connor McDavid, the best player in the game, put them ahead.
But, buoyed by a feverish atmosphere, the Golden Knights won again. As the Oilers skated disconsolately off the ice, it seemed like a brutal fate.
One victory less than immortality, like Brock Purdy and the 49ers a few days later.