The behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has argued that people who are committed to a theory tend to dismiss inconvenient facts, preferring to believe that the facts are wrong rather than the theory. The Nobel laureate doesn’t want for supporting data in an era when alternative realities are constructed and vigorously defended in every sphere of daily life, and golf is providing its own book of evidence.
A comparatively inconsequential example came this week when Scottie Scheffler was voted the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. Tin foil hatters like to hint at ballot tampering in Tour headquarters, but if there was a tipping of the scale here it probably came in the locker room. Scheffler had an outstanding season, but with twice as many victories and a major championship, Jon Rahm’s was clearly superior. Then Rahm quenched a sudden thirst to grow the game and jumped to LIV halfway through the two-week voting period in December, leaving his peers sufficient time to will into existence a more palatable reality, honoring the amiable Texan rather than giving the Spaniard a going-away gift.
Across town, LIV’s social media foot soldiers remain alert for opportunities to legitimize their folly. Rory McIlroy’s conciliatory comments about players who went to the Saudi-funded league were seized upon by knuckle-draggers as tantamount to an endorsement after years of scorn. McIlroy is conflict-averse and disarming by nature (traits not shared by all of his countrymen) and this wasn’t the first time he has lamented friendships that fractured in the past couple of years. His praise for Rahm’s “smart business move” was brandished as his blessing LIV when it was more an inadvertent illustration of how elite stars see this issue — as a straightforward, yay-or-nay commercial opportunity — compared to the existentially threatened rank-and-file on the tours they’re undermining for personal enrichment. Nor was McIlroy’s suggestion that he might one day play team golf any revelation. He’s spearheading just such a concept with Tiger Woods, theirs being more likely than LIV to seed whatever team component takes shape in the future.
Untroubled by this context, Greg Norman promptly thanked McIlroy for “falling on his sword,” albeit not in the manner that Jamal Khashoggi fell on the sword of the flaxen-haired finger puppet’s employer. To Norman, McIlroy’s placatory words represented proof that he has seen through the propaganda, that LIV’s…