In the end, a tournament did eventually break out. After all the talk of politics, “sports washing,” human rights abuses and who might or might not be playing next time out, the golf took over—as it tends to do amidst even the most controversial of controversies. And so it is that Charl Schwartzel is now the answer to what will surely be a popular trivia question: Who won LIV Golf’s inaugural event played outside of London?
The numbers, which have always been a big part of the appeal to players making the jump from established tour to this (so far) rebel circuit: Shooting 203, seven under par for three circuits of The Centurion Club, a par-70 layout 20-some miles north of the city, Schwartzel on Saturday made off with the biggest first-place check in the history of golf—$4 million. In addition, as a member of the winning “Stingers” team, the 2011 Masters champion collected another $750,000. For those counting, that’s almost $88,000 per hole, or $23,400 for every shot struck.
Schwartzel, 37, finished one shot clear of fellow South African and Stinger Henni DuPlessis. The 25-year-old shot a closing 70—two better than the eventual champion, who stumbled just enough over the closing holes in shooting 72 to make it “more difficult than it should have been”—to collect $2,125,000 and, of course, that $750,000 bonus. Not bad for a young man whose previous biggest payday amounted to $109,000.
Yet another Stinger and South African, Branden Grace, tied with former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein for third, which only served to underline what turned into a 14-shot victory over the team named the Crushers—Uihlein, Richard Bland, Phachara Khngwatmai and Travis Smyth. None of which seemed to embarrass Stingers skipper Louis Oosthuizen who finished in a relatively low-key tie for 10th alongside yet another South African, Justin Harding, and former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
“I’m just glad Charl didn’t make birdie [instead of bogey] on 18,” said the Oosthuizen said. “That meant my score today  counted for the team. I’m so proud of all of them. They played unbelievably well. Branden shot five under today, which was some score. Charl kept it together though. It was all so much fun this week.”
Mostly, of course, for Schwartzel, who has two PGA Tour wins alongside 11 victories on the DP World Tour, but had fallen to 126th in the world heading into the week. He had shown signs of returning to his old form recently, but this was his first individual victory anywhere since the 2016 Valspar Championship. Little wonder then that he looked and sounded a little wiped out after three putts from long range on the final green proved to be just enough.
“Honestly, what I’m feeling is relief,” said Schwartzel. “It was tough finishing there. I made a bad mistake on 12 (a double bogey) which put me on the back foot. I needed to just stay calm and get this thing in the house. It’s a great feeling.
“It got a bit tight. Henni played fantastic golf. He’s got a bright future. I’m proud of him and my teammates. I’m proud of how I hung in there. This is a historical moment, the first LIV-league tournament. It’s all been awesome. The guys put up an amazing show. What they’ve done is way beyond our expectations, with the entertainment and the way they treat everybody It’s out of this world.”
Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player in the field at No. 15, scored 70 in the final round and finished in eighth at one under. Phil Mickelson, a lightning rod for the controversies surrounding the LIV, scored 76 in the final round to end up at 10 over. Former U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree was last in the 48-man field with a total of 24 over.