Lexi Thompson finally won her 14th professional title when proving three shots too good for Brooke Henderson, Nelly Korda and company at Trumps Golf Links at Ferry Port last weekend.
Having finished runner-up in seven events since her last victory at the ShopRite Classic 2019, and blowing more than one opportunity to add to her major victory in 2014, her victory in the individual section of the Aramco Team Series was met with a touch of cynicism, particularly after her comments last week.
LIV Chaiman Greg Norman has continued to comment positively about the possibility of a LIV Womens series, hardly denied by LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan, who was asked in July about the rumors of a link with the Saudi sponsored organization.
Samaan confirmed that:
“It’s my responsibility to evaluate every opportunity. 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.”
Whilst the Aramco series is not officially part of the LPGA season, there has been a recent link between the LPGA and Ladies European Tour, considerably enhancing the status and prize-money of the latter – no wonder Lexi, Nelly et al turned up last weekend.
Before LIV held its first event, there was, naturally, much disagreement over playing a tour backed by a regime with a poor human rights record, particularly against women, and the comments of Thompson at last week’s press conference have been met with a reprimand from Golf Channel’s Eamon Lynch.
In front of reporters, 11-time LPGA Tour winner Thompson spoke in favour of the backing from Aramco, a company closely linked with the Saudi regime.
“I would say that without the support of Aramco, LET would not be as strong as it is today.
And I think they are growing the game of golf in women’s golf, and I think that if you speak to any of the Ladies European Tour players, they are extremely grateful for this opportunity, and I think that’s what Aramco is trying to do. They are trying to grow the women’s game, and I support that fully.”
Of the talk of a women’s series, both Nelly Korda and Thompson spoke in very much the same way, with Korda saying:
“I mean, right now that’s kind of speculation. As a player I don’t really know and that is not in my hands. That’s for the Tour commissioner,”
“Yeah, exactly. I mean, the talks is out there that that might happen but hasn’t been brought to us. We are just doing what we can and that’s playing the LPGA and there’s not much else. We are just growing the game. There’s not much else we can do.”
However Lynch isn’t having any of that, calling Thompson’s comments “distasteful”.
Continuing, Lynch commented, “There’s a certain element of controversy to that and you can make a nuanced argument that there’s a difference between sponsorship and ownership of a tour, but that argument only takes you so far.
“It’s still … it’s soft sportswashing by another name what the Aramco Team Series are doing. And it’s easy prey because the Ladies European Tour runs on fumes.”
Following Charley Hull’s comments after her win at the Volunteers of America Classic, there seems momentum behind some LIV investment in the womens game, and Lynch isn’t a fan.
“So, it’s an easy thing to throw money at and get attention for but they did get attention from a lot of top LPGA Tour players this week, ” he said. “The LPGA Tour was off [and] a lot of players showed up and it’s not uncommon to see appearance fees paid to top players on the Ladies European Tour.
“Whether any were paid this week has not been disclosed. What I was struck by was Lexi’s comments afterwards where she said, of the sponsors, what they are doing is ‘amazing’ and they ‘are giving girls opportunities’ they are ‘growing the game’ and we’re ‘very grateful’ which seems to me a little bit distasteful to lay it on when you are talking about a regime with a record of Saudi Arabia and its state-owned oil company sponsoring the event.”
He added: “All it does is prove, I think, if there is ever some kind of alignment between Golf Saudi or LIV Golf and the LPGA Tour, if that threat arises, anyone who expects to see more evidence of a moral compass on the LPGA Tour is probably going to be disappointed.”
— LIV Golf Latest (@LIVGolfLatest) October 18, 2022
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