Ian Poulter wept as his son Luke hugged him on the 18th Green at Le Golf National.
The Englishman had just defeated Dustin Johnson to bring Europe within one point of the now unavoidable Ryder Cup victory over the United States.
Poulter said, “That’s why your practice so hard,” to the youngster as they hugged on that putting surface. It was almost four years ago.
It seems like a distant memory.
Poulter is putting at risk his chance to ever again enjoy the rare sporting glory that makes Ryder Cup the most prestigious golf event on the globe.
There is no exchange of money. It’s about winning, losing, and participating. It is the purest form of top-level sports.
Instead, the man they call Mr Ryder Cup, The Postman who always delivers on his continent’s behalf – is the one on the receiving end. He accepted an offer that was too good to be turned down in monetary terms.
The 46-year old returns home to Hertfordshire this week, in contravention of established tours, where he has been practising his trade with distinction over two and a half decades with an inflated back pocket full of Saudi Arabian cash.
He is joined by fellow Ryder Cup heroes Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, and Martin Kaymer – who was the German who so thrillingly capped ‘Miracle at Medinah’ 10 years ago.
We will never achieve the glory, so forget about the glory. It’s all about the money, and there is plenty of it.
Johnson, Poulter’s French champion, is the headline act for a $150m signing fee (PS119m). This is before you compete in the first eight $25m events, which offer a $4m first prize and $120,000 last place money.
This is a power struggle for big money where the vast Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has a huge amount of Saudi Arabian wealth, are used to destroy the status quo and change the future of golf.
Before we get too sentimental about the Ryder Cup’s relative innocence and sporting purity, let us also not forget that professional golf has always been about financial rewards.
In 1921, the first money matches, which were large betting events, resulted in the establishment of tournaments that offered prize money.
These became formalized circuits, which led to the establishment of the PGA Tour in 1968. This was a breakaway organization from the Professional Golfers Association.
This preeminent tour was untouchable for decades, keeping the European Tour in place and fighting Norman’s attempt to establish a World Tour in mid-1990s.
The Australian is back, and it’s with a very well-funded vengeance. To allow their players to participate in Norman’s series, both the PGA Tour (and DP World Tours) refused to sign waivers.
Poulter and his team are subject to possible bans and fines for participating in the Ryder Cup – though none of these are likely to be known before the players start to tee off on Thursday. Some of the most revered legends of the biennial Ryder Cup are at risk of losing their future roles.
It is a contest which helps to sustain the DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour – and although its future is certain, its core characters may not be there.
LIV is already having an immediate impact in the US. Kevin Na, a 37-year-old American, has resigned as PGA Tour player to avoid any potential punishments for his participation in the LIV project.
Some people laugh at him for being a relative nonentity, with a reputation of slow play and no loss. His extraordinary move is significant, however.
One player has turned his back to the most lucrative circuit of professional golf, having won more than $37m.
Like most golf organizations, the PGA Tour doesn’t do frantic, but it is clearly busy planning its next moves, knowing that costly litigation seems inevitable and its opponents have extraordinary deep pockets.