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Bruce Dowbiggin

Can Rory and Tiger Save The PGA Tour From Greg Norman?


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The PGA Tour season wound up with a bang for Rory McIlroy, who won US$18 million for capturing the Fed Ex Cup— and maybe Player of the Year, too. Otherwise it was, as the British say, a damp squib for the preeminent golf body in the world.

Even as the final putt dropped on the 18th hole, word had dropped of  more frontline stars defecting to the upstart LIV Golf Tour. Open Championship/ Players Championship winner Cam Smith, Marc Leishman, Cameron Tringale, Anirban Lahiri, Joaquin Niemann, Harold Varner III and possibly Mito Pereira are headed to the lucrative rival circuit. And banishment from all things PGA Tour.

In one fell swoop that could rob the World Team for the upcoming Presidents Cup of at least four stars when they tee it up at Quail Hollow on Sept. 19. Added to the other international players (Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel) who’ve already jumped to the Saudi-backed LIV it turns the showpiece event into a walkover.

Worse for the PGA Tour, it was forced by its remaining major stars into making accommodations that sound suspiciously like those that were being demanded by LIV CEO Greg Norman as far back as  the 1980s. Namely, more emphasis on the Tour stars playing together more often, innovative formats, global outreach and tons of new money.

As we foresaw on Feb. 3, 2020, “It’s not a new idea in golf. Investors using former world number one Greg Norman as their front man tried the same tactic as far back as the 1980s. But the combination of Norman’s reputation with fellow pros and the lack of a digital media marketplace  stalled the idea. This time, with integrated media and innovation in travel, it could succeed.

Rory McIlroy confirmed that he’s talked to the people behind the idea to create a league of extraordinary golfing gentlemen.  “You know, it’s a hard one. … I love the PGA Tour, but these guys have exploited a couple of holes in the system, the way golf at the highest level is nowadays and how it’s sort of transitioned from a competition tour to entertainment. Right? It’s on TV, it’s people coming out to watch. It’s definitely a different time than what it was before.”

McIlroy resisted the LIV seduction and is now one of the hardliners left on the PGA Tour. He partnered with Tiger Woods and a handful of other elite players in pressuring the PGA Tour to make big changes if it wants to survive as the preeminent Tour. The plan— it goes into effect in January 2023— means bribing the superstars into playing more than just the four majors and a handful of other prestige events.

As Sports Illustrated explains, the new template will create “Two tiers of tournaments, one of “elevated events” featuring the best players in the world and larger purses, and one for everybody else on Tour. It’s not quite that simple, and of course players can move up and down based on how they play each year. But that is the gist of it. 

The Tour also doubled its Player Impact Program payout from $50 million to $100 million. This will all be better for the best players, and the Tour had to keep the best players. But whether it is better for the sport is to be determined.”

The PIP slush fund will be based on internet searches, general awareness, golf fan awareness, media mentions and broadcast exposure. And, ending a long meritocratic tradition of no guaranteed money on the Tour, fully exempt members — Korn Ferry Tour and above — will be guaranteed a league minimum of $500,000. There will also be $5,000 to players who miss the cut.

So, after the new 20 “prestige” events— not including the RBC Canadian Open— that will leave 15 openings for other tournaments on the schedule. If The Canadian Open wishes to make it up with the big boys their sponsor RBC will likely have to pony up US $20 M in prize money.  Even that won’t guarantee the Canadian Open a good midsummer date or a respectable field. (The Canadian government has indicated it will bump up its contribution to the Open and the LPGA CP Championship.)

Now squeezed between two “elite” events players will flock to, the Open will only dream of the quality field it had in 2022 with McIlroy winning the title as St. George’s in Toronto.

Anyone  counting on the Saudis getting bored with golf and dumping LIV is likely going to wait a while. To ratchet pressure on those who choose the Bobby Hull route of changing leagues, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan declared a permanent ban from all its events for defectors like Smith Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. The Tour will also pressure the organizers of the four majors to honour those bans. For the foreseeable future— or unless a court allows for players to mix-and-match Tours— it’s cold war. Think NHL versus WHA.

As a footnote, it would be remiss to ignore the impact of Tiger Woods in all this. The aging, injured supernova was integral in getting the Tour to adapt. He knows he still moves the needle on TV, and thus will get PIP money even if he only plays a few tournaments a year.

He and McIlroy also got the Tour to accept their new prime-time venture that will feature 18-hole events played on a virtual course across a two-hour window. The 15 regular-season matches will be contested by six three-man teams of PGA Tour golfers. Woods and McIlroy are already on board with 16 more spots to fill before the inaugural season kicks off in January 2024.

The time for talk is over. The sides are dug in. What happens next is a coin flip. But if money wins the day, place your bests ion the Saudis getting some—or all— of what they and Greg Norman want.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster ( A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft YearsIn NHL History, , his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book of by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best, and is available via


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Bruce Dowbiggin

Succession Planning: Justin’s Excellent Chinese Adventure

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Bruce Dowbiggin

The Formidable Superstar, Jim Brown Never Fit Black Or White Stereotypes

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“M***er fuckers be hanging off him. Eight of ‘em be begging Jim, ‘Please, Jim, would you fall down, please? We’re on TV, my kids are watching’.” Richard Pryor  on NFL players trying to tackle Jim Brown in the 1960s. 

The death at 87 of legendary athlete/ film star/ political activist Jim Brown comes just over three months from the death of hockey icon Bobby Hull. Both were alpha males possessed of adonis figures, the essence of vitality in their time. Brown gave up the NFL to become a film star. He went on to champion causes in the black political movement.

Hull went on to sire a HHoF player Brett Hull and work in the cattle industry. He also traded on his stardom. He is still regarded as one of the five most famous Chicago sports figures of all time, up there with Michael Jordan, Dick Butkus, Gayle Sayers and Ernie Banks.

Neither man was without controversy, however. Brown’s name was frequently associated with domestic violence. According to press reports, “On June 9, 1968, Brown, then 32, was booked on suspicion of assault with intent to commit murder against his girlfriend. The arrest occurred when Brown lived in Los Angeles while working as an actor. The woman, a model, was found semiconscious and moaning on a concrete patio 20 feet below the balcony of Brown’s Hollywood apartment.”

There were other incidents with police involvement, many in fact, but you get the drift. Hull, too, had a nasty legacy of domestic assault stemming from incidents involving his first wife. Neither man spent time in jail for the episodes. Hull made some politically insensitive remarks as well.

But, funny thing. When Hull died the Canadian sports press reports dutifully dredged up all his personal business to rebalance the adulation he received in life. As we reported at the time, some people thought that part of his life defined Hull.

But you had to look very hard into the reports of U.S. sports media on Brown’s death this week to find much about his less-attractive side. The praise for his athletic prowess was effusive. Rightly so. But for the liberal sports press that came of age in the 1960s, it was too much to taint Brown’s political legacy by showing his less-flattering past. So they almost universally gave it a pass. In one interview, Bob Costas, the liberal’s liberal in the press box, skirted the issue to dwell on his boyhood memories of Brown.

Wonder why? Those news sources that dared mention it— the New York Times— were lambasted for sullying his reputation with the facts. “It’s the New York Times vs. ESPN for scumbag of the week” is a sampling of the pushback from the sports world.

While playing at Syracuse, Brown was perhaps the greatest lacrosse player in American history before going on to football fame with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. We can still remember, as Richard Pryor did, the sight of No. 32 dragging defenders along behind him as he set rushing and TD records in a 12-game season— records that are still mostly unassailable. He’s a Top Five NFL player all-time. Colts HOF tight end John Mackey summed up Brown’s style. “He told me, ‘Make sure when anyone tackles you he remembers how much it hurts’.” They did. Vividly.

We can also recall the shocking news that Brown was ditching football in 1966 after nine NFL seasons to star in a Hollywood epic, The Dirty Dozen, with Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes and Donald Sutherland. (He intended to return to the Browns but when they wouldn’t let him miss training camp he retired.)  How would he do? We rushed to see the film. Brown was just fine, dragging his fellow cast members after him like NFL players as he took on the Nazis.

He went on to star in 100 Rifles as Hollywood’s first black action star. Other movies followed. When the glamour of films lost its lustre Brown became an icon for the black political movement. He supported Muhammad Ali in his fight to avoid prison for refusing to serve in Viet Nam. He created camps and schools for black children and was a recurring figure at the seminal moments for black empowerment.

But his philosophy was not today’s Marxist #BLM brand. “We’ve got to get off the emotional stuff and do something that will bring about real change,” he said. “We’ve got to have industries and commercial enterprises and build our own sustaining economic base. Then we can face white folks man-to-man and we can deal.” He was not easily intimidated.

In 2018, Brown and Kanye West met with President Donald Trump to discuss the state of America. Criticized by the black community for the meeting, Brown said, ”we can’t ignore that seat and just call names of the person that’s sitting in it”. Brown called Trump “accessible”, and said that the president was not a racist. The Brown obits in liberal media buried those quotes deep in stories.

Still he scared some folks. Files declassified in 2003 showed that the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and several police departments had monitored Brown and the Black Economic Union, attempting to smear the group as a source of Communist and radical Muslim extremism. Hillary Clinton would have been proud.

Brown himself was into unapologetic self-improvement as he showed when he went to Pryor’s hospital room after the comedian set himself alight while freebasing. While others soft pedalled their advice Brown made it clear that Pryor had to kick drugs, and that he would help him do so. (As thanks, Pryor later screwed Brown in a film deal that would have brought him millions.)

Brown was unrepentant when confronted about his past. “I’m no angel,” he told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer in 1970. Regarding the assault allegations, he said, “I’ve never been convicted. I’ve just been harassed. I’ve been hit so much I don’t sting any more… I take it and look my accuser in the eye. I don’t look at my shoes when I talk to anybody. I know what I am. I only have to live with myself.”

That he did. The biggest difference between him and Hull was that the critics of the Golden Jet wanted to get tawdry clicks from his life story. With Brown they wanted him to advertise their Woke selves. That’s a huge and crucial difference in this insane world.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via

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