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Better Sports Villains: LIV Golfers at Augusta or Russians at Wimbledon?

It’s time to break out your finest polos and bone up on the latest stock market trends because we’re going to the country clubbing. The Masters are next week, and Wimbledon is in a few months, but we have news from both, and I don’t want to write two separate stories, so we’re going to combine and tie them together. No, I’m not talking about home invasions in the suburbs. I’m talking about villains — specifically, who are we rooting against more: LIV golfers at Augusta, or Russian and Belarusian players at the All England Club?

The answer seems simple until you look at the details, so let’s do that.

LIV golfers at the Masters

Cameron Smith, the No. 2 golfer in the world before he defected to the Saudi Tour and his ranking plummeted, will be among the 18 LIV golfers to tee it up at the Masters next week. There have been stories from PGA golfers and pundits about the Saudi Tour not being real golf, and they’re right.

The upstart league only has 14 events this season, all of which are 54 holes. There’s no cut in any of them. I have no idea what the format is from course to course, and there are teams.

Well, all of that chatter has Smith’s knickers in a bunch and he’s proper mad. Not sure if that’s how Aussies talk, so just read the quote.

“Most of us will get four cracks at it this year [in the majors], and hopefully we get maybe a win out of it. Maybe we just show a really hearty effort,” Smith said in an interview Thursday. “I think for us, internally, there’s a lot of chatter going around about ‘these guys don’t play real golf anymore.’ And I think it’s B.S. to be honest. And we just want to show people that.”

Of all the shit that’s been talked about LIV golf and its members, that’s what you’re mad about? People questioning whether a tour with fewer weekends of action than a college football season is “real golf”? I don’t know about you, but I’d be more upset about the people who called me a soulless chum bucket for trading my integrity for blood money.

This just proves how insulated golfers really are, and it’s no surprise considering their life involves going from exclusive golf course to exclusive golf course seeking the approval of a bunch of white guys in their 60s.

Russians and Belarusians at Wimbledon

The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club confirmed Friday that it lifted the ban on Russian and Belarusian players at Wimbledon. The ban originated shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the participation of athletes from the supporting countries remains a controversial topic.

That’s why Wimbledon put some restrictions in place. Players from Russia and Belarus will have to play as neutrals and cannot show support for the invasion. Also, anyone who receives Russian and Belarusian funding, including state-backed sponsorships, will be prohibited.

Alright, cool. Easy enough, right? So the tennis players who show up in early July will be adequately scrubbed of any ties to the countries currently occupying Ukraine or abetting in it. As long as they give the correct responses — ones the All England Club just gave to them — they’re good to go.

Call me naive, but it seems like it’d be pretty easy to just lie to gain entry. “Oh, all I need to do is check the right boxes, and I’ll be allowed back at the biggest Grand Slam of the year? Show me what to do and where to sign.”

However, there is a heavy dollop of ambiguity when it comes to Russian and Belarusian athletes. If every supporter was as overt as the Russian gymnast/zealot who basically heiled Vladmir Putin on the medal stand, it’d be safe to root against any and all repping Mother Russia or its dopey sidekick.

It’s easy to say, “Renounce your government” when your family isn’t within Putin’s reach though. There are likely many Russians and Belarusians horrified by the actions of their countries’ leaders, but to speak out is to risk a relative getting disappeared.

The answer to the article

If the only way to know which tennis player to root against is to know where each individual stands on Ukraine — which we don’t know and won’t be able to find out truthfully — it’s really hard to paint all of them with the same broad brush that we do the LIV golfers.

Is accepting Saudi money worse than supporting the invasion of Ukraine? I’m not playing that game of would you rather. Disappointing as that may be (I’m not sorry) if you’re looking for a villain to root against alongside Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Smith, and Co., look at the tournament organizers themselves.

Augusta was never going to bar LIV golfers from playing because there are too many big names. And even though Wimbledon is trying to do the right thing, your run-of-the-mill cynic can blast loopholes through their stipulations. There’s no way of getting the answers they seek, but that didn’t stop them from finding a way to get the best players in the world on Centre Court.

So, the real villain here, as always, is greedy capitalists.

Source: deadspin