By Ben Freeman, Responsible Statecraft

“They’re scary motherf***ers to get involved with. …We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. …They execute people over there for being gay,” professional golfer Phil Mickelson said of the Saudi dictatorship that is financing LIV, a new golf tour that hopes to “supercharge the game of golf” and rival the PGA tour.

But, through this Saudi financing, the LIV events offer golfers payouts that dwarf anything the PGA tour offers. So, despite Mickelson’s candid words about one of the most repressive regimes in the world he, along with 47 other professional golfers, agreed to participate in the first-ever LIV golf tournament this past weekend in London, competing directly with a PGA Tour event in Canada. How did things go at the LIV event? Not well.

A putter, a golf ball, and the Saudi Arabian flag

The trouble for LIV started just after the event began, when the PGA commissioner announced that Mickelson and every golfer competing alongside him, was suspended from the PGA Tour. The next day, American golfers involved with LIV, including Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Kevin Na, and Patrick Reed were sent a letter from the 9/11 victims’ families calling on the golfers to sever ties with the Saudi-backed event because, “When you partner with the Saudis, you become complicit with their whitewash, and help give them the reputational cover they so desperately crave—and are willing to pay handsomely to manufacture.”

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