Tiger Woods’ Recent Comments About LIV Golf Reveal a Total Misunderstanding of the Nature of Work

Imagine you hired a freelance coder to help you build your business. Over the last few years, she made a lot of money working on your projects. You made a lot of money from the products she helped you create.

Then one day she says she won’t be able to take on any new projects; she’s been engaged by another company. You try to convince her to stay, but the money she can make elsewhere is just too good to pass up.

You’re disappointed, and also a little pissed. After all, you kind of gave her her start. Shouldn’t she be more grateful? And more loyal?

You’re probably familiar with the LIV Series, the new deep-pocked professional golf tour that has emerged as a competitor to the PGA by offering huge up-front payments and appearance fees. (Phil Mickelson reportedly received $200 million to sign up.)

And by offering total prize money as high as $20 million, with the last-place finisher receiving $120,000. (Some players have made close to $1 million at events even after finishing in the bottom third of the field.)

And by creating a limited schedule, with 54- rather than 72-hole tournaments.

In short: Less work, more money.

In response, the PGA Tour has suspended LIV Series players for playing in a non-PGA Tour event without the PGA Tour’s permission. (The Justice Department is investigating the PGA Tour for “anti-competitive behavior.”)

Some players and pundits have criticized players who have joined the LIV Series due to its connection with the government, seeing the tour as attempted Saudi “sportswashing” — LIV is funded by Saudi Arabia’s wealth sovereign fund — and that their participation involves approval ( or at the very least, disregard) for that country’s human rights violations.

Others just think those players are ungrateful and disloyal.

Like Tiger Woods, who while preparing to play The Open just said:

The players who have decided to go to LIV… I disagree with it. What they’ve done is they’ve turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position…

You’re just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes.

I like Tiger. He’s smart and often insightful.

But not in this case. The PGA Tour didn’t allow those players to get to “this position,” one where a competitor is willing to pay them a massive amount of money. What got them to “this position” was their talent, their hard work, their public appeal… they got themselves to that position.

Like your company, the PGA Tour was just the platform. Sure, the PGA paid those players a lot of prize money, but they earned that money — and in turn, the PGA Tour made a lot of money from their participation. They don’t owe the PGA Tour anything.

Nor does the PGA Tour owe them anything; As in any company/independent contractor relationship, services were provided in exchange for compensation.

Woods is also concerned the LIV Series will attract golf’s top amateurs, who will then be barred from the PGA Tour and possibly from some of the major tournaments; events like the Masters are independent entities that may or may not choose to bar LIV Series players, or to count LIV results in world-ranking points. (This week’s (British) Open decided not to ban LIV players.)

They’ve gone right from the amateur ranks into that organization (LIV) and never really got a chance to play out here and (understand) what it feels like to play a Tour schedule or to play in some big events.

It is a possibility that some players will never get a chance to play in a major and walk down the fairways at Augusta National. It would be sad to see some of these young kids never get a chance to walk these hallowed grounds and play in these championships.

I just don’t see how that move is positive in the long term for a lot of these players. I just don’t understand it.

All of which reminds me of the scene in The Aviator when Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) has dinner with the Hepburns.

The Hepburns say they don’t care about money.

Leo responds, “That’s because you have it. You don’t care about money because you’ve always had it.”

Tiger has money; he can “afford” to think about the joy of walking Augusta fairways.

Eugenio Chacarra, a highly-rated amateur who just the LIV Series, has joined considerably less money than Woods. He weighed his opportunities, evaluated his worth — which, as with any employee or independent contractor is what someone else is willing and able to pay — and chose the most attractive offer.

I’m not smart enough to comment on the politics involved in the LIV Series. Nor am I presumptuous or hypocritical enough to tell people who they should or should not do business with, or what they should or should not purchase or consume based on the country or company of origin.

But I do know about work, and money.

Most of us, as employees or independent contractors, take the highest-paying job we’re offered, especially if that job also means working less hours.

Granted, taking that job might mean you never get to walk the halls of Google. Or Apple. Or wherever your dream gig might be. That’s the trade-off you make for greater financial security. Or better work-life balance. Or any other manner in which you choose to define success.

As for loyalty? People who take a better offer — financial or otherwise — haven’t turned their backs on the people who “allowed them to get to this position.”

Maybe you did give me a chance when no one else would. Maybe your work did help me gain skills and experience. I will forever be grateful.

But that doesn’t mean I have to stay forever. Nor does that mean I can expect you to keep using me forever, no matter how valuable my contribution in the past may have been.

Because the contractee/contractor relationship always goes both ways. It’s based on mutual self-interest — not on someone else’s perception of loyalty, gratitude, or personal fulfillment.

Because we all get to decide what is best for us.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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