INIt really is during the craziest times when Richard Bland’s scathing newsletter can grab your attention. Bland was the epitome of a journeyman before he rose to fame with his 478th DP World Tour victory. A Sky Sports documentary was even released celebrating his British Masters triumph.
In no time at all, Bland, now 50, joined the LIV circuit on the seemingly palatable grounds that it presented an inevitable opportunity for a man his age to earn life-changing money. The emotions associated with “478” have been taken over by commerce.
Bland hasn’t left a strong enough mark on his sport for anyone – except presumably those documentarians – to care about his drive for a pound of oil. However, the man himself seems irritated by the state of his former domain. Bland took to social media to criticize the strategic alliance that exists between DP World and PGA Tours after the latter carefully planned limited-seater events with no cuts in 2024. Hudson Swafford – another LIV man, with which even seasoned fans may find it difficult to choose from the lineup – to support the suddenly talkative Bland.
Perhaps, given the time spent, Bland is genuinely concerned about the state of his home tour. However, it is increasingly apparent that European LIV converts are trying to find loopholes in the alliance to publicly justify their pursuit of Saudi dollars. “We were the smartest, all nerds should have read the signs,” is the message. It was even more blunt than during Sergio García’s cursed tirade to other players in the dressing room in Germany last summer.
Throwing kitchen sinks by the PGA Tour at their top men was essential. Without it, the risk of further and high-profile trips to LIV remained a threat. If Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele switched gaming domains, the PGA Tour would be under serious pressure. Instead, the bleeding was stopped.
The earlier part of the PGA Tour strategy involved strategic alliance and basically making sure the DP World Tour eggs were in the US basket and not the Saudi one. Having achieved this, the PGA Tour has added prize funds to an organization that is confident of sustainable growth for many years to come.
Some at the top of the game tree wanted even smaller fields than the 70-80s who will be participating for $20 million at a time on the PGA Tour during the 2024 spells. With this format set up, it will be intriguing to watch the DP World Tour plan its own future. It is assumed that the key is to prove to Bland and others that the old European tour was not trampled by the onslaught of corporate America.
In the coming days, scheduled talks between the heads of DP World and PGA Tours will take place in Florida. What is certain is that it is not in the interests of the PGA Tour that their friends in Europe fail. But how to extinguish the sanity of first- and second-class citizens? Europa needs some stardust. Needs allotted time in the spotlight.
The plan proposed by many is that designated or elevated events should be held in both Europe and the United States. There are problems with this concept, however. Likely targets for such status – the Scottish and Irish Opens and the PGA Championships in Wentworth – could not reasonably function at 70-80 courses.
One should also ask oneself whether Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth or Max Homa would be tempted by increased prize funds in Europe when they can play for the same things in the US as they routinely do. The strong stakes the Scottish Open has had recently have owed a lot to convenience given their position in the tournament immediately before the Open.
The potential outcome of a sports arbitrage between DP World Tour and LIV golfers is also significant given that the PGA Tour’s chances of continuing to support tournaments that Bland and his pals may attend are less than slim.
When Rory McIlroy spoke in Bay Hill about “Europe getting into the mix,” he was aware that the PGA Tour was the holy grail for most golfers. McIlroy highlighted the opportunities available to players on his home continent.
Still, DP World Tour has to think creatively or the background noise from Bland won’t go away.