A few years ago there was a movie with a very scary plot.

Not monster-under-your-bed scary, it was worse than that. It was monster-inside-you scary.

The name of the movie was Indecent Proposal. I haven’t seen it and won’t. Who wants to be scared like that? Besides, in spite of a solid cast it was nominated for worst picture by the Razzie Awards. (It didn’t win. Lose. Whatever.)

Basic plot: a billionaire is attracted to a beautiful girl and offers her and her husband $1,000,000 to spend the night with the wife. He wanted her and knew they needed the money, desperately.

What would you do if you were the husband? The wife?

white and black printer paperThere is a way of thinking developed by Joseph Fletcher called situation ethics. What Fletcher actually wrote about was moral relativism. That basically means your moral choices depend greatly on the situation.

The classic example I heard many times was this: A man walks into a bar, sits next to a young woman and strikes up a conversation. After buying her a drink he says, “I like you, and I’d like to spend the night with you. Will you sleep with me for $100,000?”

She’s taken aback a little. Then she says, “You seem nice enough. Yes, I will sleep with you for $100,000.”

“Great,” he says, “but that’s more than I can really afford. Will you sleep with me for a quarter?”

She’s livid and says, “What kind of a girl do you think I am?”

And the fellow replies, “Oh, we’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling over price.”

Hard choices

Life is filled with choices — some say as many as 35,000 each day. Most of those choices are of little consequence, but some of them are life changing.

The big question is, how do you make choices? Do you make them based mostly on the situation, or do you have a standard you lean on?

In the world of professional golf that is a “real time” question. Even if you don’t follow golf you may have heard about the LIV (rhymes with give) Tour.

It started in Saudi Arabia, a country known for oil, desert, and murdering Jamal Khashoggi. The same Saudi government that authorized (or perhaps ordered) his assassination is the funding source for LIV. (Roman numerals for 54, which is how many holes they play.) It is sometimes called “The Saudi Golf League.”

Critics of this new golf venture call what they are doing “sports-washing.” Having high-profile athletes compete in a golf league certainly helps Saudi Arabia look good, and that may be their ultimate goal.

Whatever their purpose, they’ve pledged $2 billion dollars to achieve it.

And that created, for some professional golfers at least, a very hard choice.

Free agency in golf?

Professional golfers are independent contractors. They pay their own expenses and earn their own income. Some get endorsements from sponsors, some get speaking fees and fees for clinics.

Those who are members of the PGA Tour, an association, have earned that membership through playing. That still doesn’t get them in every event, because some fields are limited. It is, in short, a very tough way to make a living.

In terms of big time sports, professional golfers are among the lowest earning athletes. Yes, some of them make a lot of money, but most of them don’t. This year to date, the top earner on the PGA Tour, Scottie Scheffler, has won $11,215,187 in 17 tournaments.

He has also paid all of his own expenses, including travel, meals, entry fees, caddie fees, etc. And so has the fellow at number 226 on the money list who has played in 14 events and won a total of $57,701.

In other words, #226 may have already spent more money trying to make a living than he has made. You can see that an opportunity to have a guaranteed income doing what you love to do would be enticing.

And I do mean guaranteed, because on the PGA Tour only about half the field gets a paycheck each week. On the LIV Tour, everyone gets paid every week. Last place this week (48th) will be worth $120,000. First? $4,000,000.

The bottom line

What this comes down to is a very big income increase for — currently — a very small number of golfers. Several of those golfers are already quite wealthy, but almost everyone wants a little bit more.

When I worked in high-tech I saw a lot of people jump ship from one company to another for stock options. Sometimes those paid off and sometimes they didn’t. But people knew what they wanted: more money.

One big wrinkle with the LIV Tour is the Saudi connection, and different people have processed that differently.

Jack Nicklaus, who no longer plays golf, confirmed he was offered $100,000,000 to be the face of the Saudi league. Greg Norman, who took on that role and is the league’s CEO, said that Tiger Woods was offered something in “the high nine figures.” He said it in a way that indicated his surprise that anyone would decline an offer like that.

But Woods did decline, and so did Nicklaus. Twice.

So have many others. Some have done so out of loyalty to the PGA Tour, some out of not wanting to be associated with the Saudi government. Others are undoubtedly waiting to see how it “washes out.”

And you?

Perhaps you don’t think the Saudis are so bad. A friend of mine said, “You have an iPhone, and some of that is from China.” Personally I think those choices differ in kind, not degree, but maybe I’m wrong.

I’m not condemning or condoning the pros who are playing the LIV Tour. I don’t know their minds or hearts. But I am challenged — and I hope you are — by this question: do you, like the girl in the bar, have a price that would change your answer from no to yes in a moral dilemma?

Let me know in the comments what you think.

Do good in your choices. It’s in you.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Jim Berson

    Wow Lewis…Great great thoughts this week…I always appreciate your point of view but this one was special!!!

  2. Mark Starley

    Lewis,
    Well written. You nailed it.
    Not sure of future of LIV, but understand that a guarantee income with fewer events to play and still have a life is an attraction. Also could be a opportunity for new amateur golfers and golfers that are not making enough money to live on and still play golf for a living. Wonder if PGA will let them come back if it doesn’t work out?? PGA is great organization that gets funds from many organizations that support all kinds of things. Not sure we can throw rocks at Saudi’s about moral abuses. USA has a issues too. (like legalized abortion, illegal wars)

    1. Lewis Greer

      My hope, I suppose, is that LIV goes the way of the ABA, the WHL, etc., and that the PGA learns some lessons and makes some changes. Didn’t the 3-point shot come out of the ABA?

      Your point on charity is a good one. Annually the PGA Tour causes more money to be given to charity than any other league. Since 1938, but mostly since the 1970’s, the PGA Tour has generated more than $3 billion dollars for charity. That doesn’t come directly from the Tour, but they are the ones that make it happen.

      Every country, including the US, has issues, but Human Rights violations are very high in Saudi Arabia. Many people are in jail for their peaceful expressions of protest against the government. That was Khashoggi’s crime as well. Even Mickelson said they were “very bad people,” but justified his participation.

      From a golf perspective, BTW, it was telling for me this morning that I cared more about watching the Curtis Cup than I did LIV. Amateur women golfers playing for their countries is more compelling to me by far than a few guys playing for nothing more than money.

  3. Randy Wolff

    Now that we have established what I am, we are haggling over price. And yet, my priorities and choices have changed since arriving at 77 years of age. And my moral compass is much different than it was 50 years ago in 1972. Now, let me tie a bow on this and move on.
    1. I love Mr. Nicklaus and he has made a wise choice. I am loyal to the PGA Tour, and I have some questions and doubts about the LIV Tour. I hate what they are doing to the game of golf that I love so much. And my faith in Jesus tells me to be content. So what they are doing is wrong.
    2. And if I were 27 years old, which I was 50 years ago, and struggling to make a living playing professional golf (which I was doing) and someone (anyone) offered me fewer tournaments, less rounds per tournament, a huge appearance fee, no cut, and a last place prize of $122,000, I think I would listen intently and “do what I considered best” for my family. I can see why they would do this.

    So, the answer is “it depends.” I hope that I could do a lot of good with the wealth and have a platform to point others to where the real wealth is–which is a relationship with Jesus. That’s doing good. As Jeff Hopper would say, “You know, it’s all true!”

    1. Lewis Greer

      You’ve lived it, so you understand it better than most of can. On the other hand I could have once gone to work (I think) for a bigger salary but for a company I didn’t respect, so maybe that’s similar.

      And I get the “what’s best for my family” phrase, but when DJ has already earned about $75,000,000 on the PGA Tour (third all time), the phrase loses a little of its power.

      As for whether or not you’d do something good with the wealth, you would. Others would not. You can tell by what they are doing with what they have now. Money rarely changes hearts for the good. If the heart is good, more money results in more good. Otherwise it results in Scrooge McDuck.

      Far too many people are aware of any moral compass in their lives, which is why I asked the question. Since you have one, and it is pointed to true north, you would not have taken this money. The old you without the compass might have, but maybe not.

      You get it in a way most people wouldn’t because you’ve been there. And I totally understand “what’s best for my family.” Of course you have DJ, who is number 3 on the career money list with $74,276,710, and that phrase loses some of its power.

      I love that you said your priorities have changed and your moral compass is different. That’s good, and one of the good things is that you recognize that. Priorities will change for most of us with experience, and some may notice. But far too many people are unaware of any moral compass in their life, and that’s why I ask the question.

      At one point in my life I might have taken the money, although I’d like to think I wouldn’t have. Those who have taken it have potentially damaged their own reputation with some and possibly enhanced it with others.

      For me, both Mr. Nicklaus and Tiger (and Justin and Rory — who Greg Norman said has been “brainswashed”) have all gone up in my estimation.

      I’m neither a prophet not the son of a prophet, but I’m already working on a piece titled “LIV didn’t live.” You know, just in case.

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Randy, and the excellent reference to Mr. Hopper. Made me smile!

  4. patrick fleming

    Lewis, My view of the players joining the LIV most lack a moral compass. Just look at now they are living their lives so far.
    ( children without marriage, gambling debits and not appreciating what they have) The final outcome for LIV will take
    time to develop but hopefully will not impact the PGA’S ability to provide significant financial support to the communities
    where their tournaments are played..

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