Tag: Brooks Koepka

LIV Golf: 2022-23 PGA Wrap-up and Power Rankings

Brooks Koepka: 2023 PGA Champ

After his performance at The Masters, there was no question that Brooks Koepka was back and would be a force at the PGA Championship. At Augusta Brooks dominated early, jumping out to a big lead—but faltered in the final round. The PGA, however, was a different story. Koepka started slowly, gradually building momentum each day before bringing the hammer down on Sunday afternoon.

After posting 2 over in the first round, Brooks lurked in the shadows, 6 shots off the lead held by Bryson DeChambeau at -4. On Friday he glided through the front nine at even par, slowly moving up the leaderboard on the immensely difficult Donald Ross layout at Oak Hill.

And then Brooks kicked it, pouring in 5 birdies on the back nine for 31 and a second round 66, climbing to fifth—3 shots behind the leaders as the championship headed into the weekend.

Oak Hill Country Club: The Ultimate Grind

As if Oak Hill wasn’t tough enough already, Saturday’s weather for the third round featured continuous rain, making the already nasty rough that much more difficult and taking the opportunity to post a low number out of the equation.

It was the perfect storm for Koepka though, who loves nothing more than a hellishly difficult golf course combined with horrendous conditions and maximum pressure. Again, Brooks quietly glided through the front nine with a 1 under 34, and then battered the back with 3 birdies for another 66—going into Sunday with a 1 shot lead over young Victor Hoveland.

Brooks Koepka: 5 Major Championships

Unlike Sunday at The Masters, Koepka put his foot on the gas right out of the box with 3 birdies in the first 4 holes, extending his lead to 3 shots. Hoveland wouldn’t quit though, pulling to within a shot on the sixth hole and staying right there until a double on 16, combined with yet another Koepka birdie, ended his chances.

The win was Koepka’s fifth major championship, one more than Rory McIlroy, and the same number reached by Byron Nelson, Seve Ballesteros and Peter Thomson. It will be hard to bet against Brooks at the Los Angeles Country Club for the U.S. Open Championship in June—although Jon Rahm and Scotty Scheffler won’t just step aside and hand it to him.

On the other hand, Koepka will no doubt relish the competition—and we can look forward to the kind of gunfight not seen at a major championship in a long time.

DJ: Holding onto #1

LIV Power Ranking Update

Players have been rated and ranked on the basis of events played, average finish, wins, runner up, Top-5 and Top-10 finishes–as well as performance at the 2022 and 2023 major championships (LIV Player Rankings).

While seventy-five players have participated in one or more tournaments since the inaugural event in London last year, we’ve included only the top forty-eight. With Brooks Koepka’s win at the PGA and Cam Smith recording a Top 10, a big bite has been taken out of Dustin Johnson’s lead in the Power Rankings—and if either were to win this weekend at Trump National in DC, Johnson may find himself knocked from his perch.

Top 3

No. 1 Dustin Johnson: 95.4 Rating
Dustin is still the only player with a Top 10 average finish (9.6). He has also recorded the most wins (2) and the most top 10’s (7).

Unfortunately, DJ wasn’t sharp at The Masters (T48), and after firing a 67 in the first round of the PGA he followed up with 3 consecutive rounds of 74 to finish far back at T55.

Dustin will have to pick up his game to keep Koepka and Smith at bay—perhaps he’ll put it in gear over the weekend in DC.

Cam Smith: Open Champ plus Two Major Top 10’s

No. 2 Cameron Smith: 89.7 Rating

With a T10 in Singapore, runner-up in Tulsa and final round 65 at the PGA to record a Top 10, Cameron Smith has moved back up into the No. 2 position. If Cam takes home the trophy in Washington and DJ were to finish back in the pack, he can vault past Johnson and grab the top spot.  

No. 3 Brooks Koepka: 87.2 Rating
2023 is shaping up to be a monster year for Brooks Koepka. His second LIV win at Orange County National/Orlando in early April was immediately followed by the fantastic performance at the Masters where he made it clear that the injuries were in the past and his game was back.

Following the runner up at The Masters, Brooks finished 11th at Adelaide, 3rd in Singapore and 5th at Tulsa—and then came his magnificent PGA Championship victory.

It will be fun to see if Brooks keeps the peddle to the metal at Trump National in DC this weekend—and the field better take cover if he does. 

Pat Reed: Masters T4 and PGA Top 20


Patrick Reed: No. 5—73.5 Rating
While Reed is still looking for his first LIV win, he has recorded 5 Top 5 finishes in 12 starts, including a runner up and 3 third place finishes. Patrick is also second only to DJ in average finish at 12.5.

Reed also followed up his T4 at The Masters with a top 20 finish at the PGA—perhaps this is his week to nail down that first win.

Bryson DeChambeau: Before and After

Bryson DeChambeau: No. 15–52.5 Rating
With only one Top 10 finish in his first 11 LIV events, Bryson was treading water in the middle of the pack—and then he recorded a 5th place finish two weeks ago at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Tulsa and followed that up with a T4 at the PGA Championship.  

Bryson decided to shed much of his bulk toward the end of 2022, and it seems he now feels comfortable in the new slimmed down version of himself—look to see him start packing on more LIV Top-10’s and make some noise at the U.S. Open in LA.

Phil: 100 Major Championship Cuts

Phil: No. 31—40.3 Rating 

Phil is an enigma, no doubt about it. In thirteen LIV events he has recorded only one Top-10—but let him step foot on Augusta National and suddenly he fires a 65 in the final round and adds another runner-up to his amazing major championship record.

And making the cut in the PGA at Oak Hill, as an army of pros half his age packed up and headed home, was yet another milestone in Phil’s illustrious career—the 100th time he made the cut in a major championship.

Only Jack (131) and Gary Player (102) are in front of him—so Phil has a chance to tie Player for second before the year is over.

Now if only he’d stop fooling around and put up some numbers in the regular LIV events…

Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester NY

PGA Championship: Summary

Brooks Koepka WIN
Bryson DeChambeauT4
Cameron SmithT9
Patrick ReedT18
Mito PareiraT18
Harold Varner IIIT29
Thomas PietersT40
Dean Burmester54
Dustin JohnsonT55
Phil MickelsonT58
Sihwan KimT62
Pablo LarazabalT65
Joaquin NiemanMC
Taylor GoochMC
Abraham AncerMC
Anirban LahiriMC
Trump National Washington D.C.

2023 Upcoming LIV Schedule

DC Trump National Golf Club, Washington (May 26-28)

Valderrama Real Club, Spain (June 30-July 2)

London Centurion Club, Hertfordshire UK (July 7-9)

Greenbrier Old White/The Greenbrier WV (August 4-6)

Bedminster Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster NJ  (August 11-13)

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LIV Golf: 2022-23 Power Rankings and Masters Look Back

Brooks Koepka: He’s Back

To the surprise of many, twelve of the eighteen LIV players who were invited to Augusta for The Masters made the cut. On top of that, three finished in the Top 5 (Phil and Brooks Koepka tied for runner-up, while Patrick Reed landed a T4). Young Joaquin Niemann also had a solid week, finishing among the Top 20 (T16).

The big story of the 2023 Masters was Koepka, dominating the field through the first three days of rain interrupted play. When the third round was halted through 6 holes on Saturday, Brooks appeared to be unstoppable in pursuit of his 5th major championship, standing at 13 under par with a 4-shot lead over Jon Rahm.

And as play resumed on Sunday, with both Phil and Pat Reed rocketing up the leaderboard, it looked like the PGA Tour’s worst nightmare was about to unfold.

The golf pundits had universally been saying that the LIV players would have a rough time because they were not used to stiff competition, and LIV tournaments were only 3 rounds. Phil (at 52 years old) closed with a fourth round 65 and Reed fired a 68—both finishing in the top 5 and putting a stopper on that theory.

Although Brooks faltered on Sunday and Rahm was able to overtake him, he exhibited a degree of humility and class worthy of a four-time major champion. There is no question that Koepka is back, and you can expect to see him among the leaders at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in May.

Dustin Johnson: Giving some Ground

LIV Power Ranking Update

Players have been rated and ranked on the basis of events played, average finish, wins, runner up, Top-5 and Top-10 finishes–as well as performance at the 2022 and 2023 major championships (LIV Player Rankings).

While seventy-five players have participated in one or more tournaments since the inaugural event in London last year, we’ve included only the top forty-eight. Not surprisingly, Dustin Johnson has dominated pretty much from day one. With his T4 at The Masters, however, Patrick Reed continues to move closer to DJ, and Brooks Koepka is beginning to bull his way toward the top with his second LIV win and runner-up at Augusta National.

Top 3

No. 1 Dustin Johnson: 81.9 Rating
After opening with an 8th place finish at the initial event in London, Dustin recorded a T3 in at Pumkin Ridge Portland, a T2 in Bedminster and then won the fourth event in Boston. In the ten stroke play tournaments held thus far, DJ has recorded a win, a runner-up, three top 5’s and two top 10’s with an average finish of 9.1.

While DJ made the cut at Augusta, his T48 finish was very forgettable—and allowed Reed and Koepka to close the gap quite a bit in the LIV Player Rankings.

Patrick Reed: Masters T5

No. 2 Patrick Reed: 67.6 Rating
Reed recorded a T3 in his first LIV event in Portland, and finished among the top 5 in four of the ten events he’s played (including a T3 at Orange County National in March). Patrick is also among the top echelon for consistency with an average finish of 12.4.

On the heels of his Top 5 finish at the Masters, Reed will look to carry the LIV banner through each of the remaining majors in 2023.

No. 3 Brooks Koepka: 67.0 Rating
After a slow start in 2022, Brooks recorded a T8 at Bangkok and followed that up with a win in his next event (Jeddah). After mediocre finishes in the first two events of 2023, Koepka recorded his second win in Orlando last week—making him the only LIV player with multiple wins thus far.

While his Sunday stumble at Augusta was no doubt a major let down for Brooks, he certainly sent a message that he’s far from done—and Rahm will have his hands full at the PGA this year.

Cameron Smith: Looking to Heat Up at the PGA


Cameron Smith: No. 7–60.6 Rating
After a fast start, Cameron Smith has tumbled from No. 2 at the conclusion of ‘22 to No. 7 after finishing 24th at The Gallery Golf Club in Tucson, 26th in Orlando, and a disappointing T34 at The Masters.

He will be a force at the PGA, however, should he brandish the wand as he did at The Open Championship last year.

Joaquin Niemann: Young Gun

Joaquin Niemann: No. 9–57.3 Rating
At 24 years old, Joaquin Niemann is one of the brightest young stars in golf. After joining the PGA Tour at 19, Niemann recorded 22 Top-10’s including 2 wins in 5 years–making the cut in just under 80% of the events he entered while reaching the Tour Championship in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Joaquin had an excellent Masters with a T16 finish, but we won’t see him at another major until the U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club in June—where you can expext him to make some noise with his precision ball striking.

Mito Pereira: No. 12—55.3 Rating
Virtually unknown in the U.S. prior to bursting onto the scene with a T3 at the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, Pereira’s outstanding play came as no surprise to golf fans in his native Chile. After winning multiple junior titles, including a victory on the Chilean Professional Tour in 2013 as an Amateur, Mito climbed to number 5 in the official World Amateur Golf Rankings in 2015 at twenty years old.

Mito made the cut and had a solid week at Augusta, and we’ll see him at the PGA Championship in May. Like his fellow Chilean, Joaquin Niemann, look for Mito to have a solid season at the majors in 2023.

Phil: Masters Runner-Up

Phil: No. 37–34.6 Rating 
While Mickelson’s LIV career could only be described as a lead balloon thus far, leave it to Phil to pull a giant rabbit out of his hat when you least expect it. The stunning 65 that he fashioned in the final round at Augusta was a flashback to his incredible PGA win in 2021.

While the Masters runner-up finish propelled Phil from No. 46 to No. 37 in the LIV Player Rankings, it also appears to have ignited a flame as we head toward the PGA (Phil fired a solid 2 under round of 70 in the first round at Adelaide in Australia this week, and followed up with 65 in the second round to move into the Top 10).

Could Phil pull off another bit of magic at Oak Hill? We’ll have to wait and see….

The Masters: 12 of 18 Make the Cut
PGA Tour (https://www.pgatour.com/)

The Masters: Summary

Brooks Koepka           T2

Phil Mickelson            T2

Patrick Reed               T4

Joaquin Nieman          T16

Harold Varner III        T29

Cameron Smith           T34

Talor Gooch                T34

Abraham Ancer          T39

Mito Pareira                T43

Dustin Johnson           T48

Thomas Pieters           T48

Charl Schwartzel        T50

Sergio Garcia              MC

Bryson DeChambeau  MC

Jason Kokrak              MC

Bubba Watson            MC

Louis Oosthuizen        WD

Kevin Na                     WD

The Grange Golf Club: A Greg Norman Design

2023 Upcoming LIV Schedule

Adelaide The Grange Golf Club, Australia (April 21-23)

Singapore Sentosa Golf Club (April 28-30)

Tulsa Cedar Ridge Country Club (May 12-14)

DC Trump National Golf Club, Washington (May 26-28)

Valderrama Real Club, Spain (June 30-July 2)

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LIV: Money for Nothin’

The consensus seems to be that Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi Kingdom are using LIV Golf to improve their image (“sportswashing”). If that’s the case, they have failed completely. Regardless of whether LIV survives in the long term, the high-profile names and exorbitant sums being paid have dramatically increased public attention to the human rights record and various crimes committed by the Kingdom.

Perhaps the Prince should have taken a page from organized crime, where maintaining a low profile was always the best bet for successfully conducting unsavory business (it certainly didn’t end well for John Gotti, who’s penchant for notoriety accelerated a trip to the federal pen).

Prince Mohammed bin Salman

In any event, bin Salman has chosen to double down in the public eye, allowing Greg Norman to fill the pockets of professional golfers with a seemingly endless supply of money. Based on reported estimates, signing bonuses paid to PGA Tour and DP World Tour players are rapidly approaching $1 Billion. While this may only be petty cash in Saudi Arabia, it is still a pretty big number for the rest of us.

Now that two LIV events have been played, the time is right to take a look at the golf itself.

Player Pass

Is it right to blame the players for accepting Saudi largess? After all, they themselves are not out killing reporters (although I’m sure it’s crossed a few minds here and there). Attorneys often represent clients who are guilty of terrible crimes. Should PGA professionals be held to a higher standard? When a journeyman pro like Pat Perez is suddenly offered a chance to “hit the lottery,” perhaps he should be allowed to cash his ticket without feeling any guilt.

Pat Perez: Hits the Lottery

And why should it matter to anyone if the Kingdom is getting a commensurate return on their hefty golf investment from a business standpoint? The PGA Tour has been the primary beneficiary of the increased media attention that LIV has brought to the game—while at the same time laying claim to the moral high ground.

The ultimate fate of LIV Golf will be decided by the fans. Should the golf enthusiast worry about where the money came from when choosing whether or not to attend an event? And will potential viewers stop to consider the rights of women in Saudi Arabia before searching YouTube to catch some of the action?

It would seem like a lot to overcome, but if LIV can deliver quality shot making and magical moments that build to dramatic Sunday finishes, Norman’s vision has a pretty good chance to succeed—in spite of the odious baggage it carries.

The Quality

The entertainment value of a professional golf event hinges almost exclusively on the caliber of play and level of competition. Since LIV players are precluded from competing on other Tours, major championships offer the only opportunity to gauge their level of play.

2022 U.S. Open: The Country Club

Of the 48 players who competed at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland for the second LIV event, 15 were in the field at The Country Club for the U.S. Open in June. Of the 15 who qualified, 5 made the cut–and none finished among the top 20. Not surprisingly, Dustin Johnson was the best at 4 over par (T24). Richard Bland, formerly of the DP World Tour, finished at 8 over par (T43). Patrick Reed, LIV’s most recent big-name addition, came in at 10 over par (T49). Two of the most high-profile prizes—Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau—ended at 12 and 13 over par respectively (outside the top 50). Phil, Sergio, Louis Oosthuizen, Brandon Grace and Kevin Na failed to make the cut.

Success at the highest level of golf demands extreme focus, and coping with the media frenzy surrounding LIV undoubtedly affected their play–perhaps it will be a different story for The Open Championship at St. Andrews next week. Tiger’s presence will also draw much of the attention away from LIV, although the big names will certainly feel additional heat to deliver a strong performance.

Portland Recap

Pumpkin Ridge is home to two solid tracks deigned by Bob Cupp; Ghost Creek (74.5 USGA Rating) and Witch Hollow (75.6 Rating). For the LIV event, a combination of the two courses was used to push the total yardage to 7,641 and provide a stiffer test.

Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, North Plains OR
Image by PJKoenig Golf Photography (http://www.pjkoenig.com/pumpkin-ridge)

Brandon Grace claimed the top spot at -13 with Carlos Ortiz as runner-up at -11. Of the 48 players in the field, 15 finished under par. Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed came in at -9 (T3), with Bryson DeChambeau at -2 (10th). Brooks Koepka finished at even par (T16), while Sergio and Phil struggled, finishing at +4 and +10 respectively.

While Dustin and Patrick Reed played solid golf at a quality venue, the field for the second LIV event lacked depth and offered few opportunities to generate excitement. Rumors continue to fly about additional players who are eyeing the money, so perhaps the third event at Trump National Bedminster will offer something more.


While no cut, guaranteed cash and minimal competition are no doubt highly attractive to many, the top echelon players face a heavy decision regardless of how much up-front money they receive. Participation in LIV events currently secure no World Golf Ranking points, the primary criteria for gaining entrance to major championships. And winning Majors, along with PGA and DP World Tour wins, are the main basis on which a player is ranked among the all-time greats of the game.

Not everyone is driven by an intense desire to attain greatness, and for many the opportunity has already passed them by. But there are currently an extraordinary number of highly talented young players with a chance at golf immortality, and it will be interesting to see what choices they make.

At the LIV press conference prior to last week’s event in Portland, Brooks Koepka was asked about a report that tournament prize money would be deducted from his signing bonus. His response was “No, I don’t know—it’s irrelevant.”

Irrelevant? When a $4-million first place check becomes “irrelevant,” there is something wrong with that picture. It would seem that a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame may no longer carry much relevance for Brooks as well.

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LIV Golf: Patrick Reed to Assume Bad Guy Role

LIV: Patrick Reed—The New Bad guy in Town

With Patrick Reed becoming the latest big name to join LIV Golf, Phil Mickelson will have to relinquish the bad-guy role he’s been shouldering thus far. Phil can only claim a few months of questionable decisions and unfortunate remarks after decades of good deed and immense popularity. Reed, on the other hand, can point to a vast resume of unsavory incidents and eyebrow-raising episodes going back a great many years.

Even the swarthy new look that Phil introduced for the LIV event in London, and the testy attitude he displayed at the U.S. Open press conference, won’t change the fact that he will eventually return to his natural nice guy habitat. And while Reed has not done or said anything recently to draw the spotlight, you can be sure it won’t be long—and the media will have an enormous reservoir of ammunition to work with.

Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, NY

The Incidents

Most everyone is aware that Reed has been called out a number of times over the years for skirting the rules to improve his lie and gain an advantage on the field. The first was in 2016 during the Barclays Championship at Bethpage, when he was faced with a 300-yard second shot from heavy rough on the long par-5 13th hole. The ball was sitting down, and it was clear that Reed would have no choice but to lay back with an iron. After placing a wedge behind the ball 4-5 times as if preparing to hit the shot, all the while depressing the tall grass, he suddenly reached into his bag and whipped out a wood—an option that was originally out of the question—and striped it down the fairway to set up a short approach. He didn’t receive a penalty, because there was no official near-by and his playing partners didn’t see it.

Peter Kostis: “By the time he was done, he hit a freaking 3-wood out of there, which when I saw it, it was a sand wedge layup originally.”

2019 Hero Challenge: Building Sand Castles
Golf Digest (golfdigest.com)

Another episode occurred at the 2019 Hero Challenge, when Reed prepared to hit his third shot from a waste area on the par-5 11th hole. Sand was piled behind his ball, so he placed his wedge behind it and took a couple of “practice” back swings, sweeping the sand away to allow a nice clean strike. This time he was hit with a 2-stroke penalty, because it was simply too flagrant and observed by thousands watching the telecast.

Brooks Koepka: “…there’s no room for intentional rule breaking…Yeah. I don’t know what he was doing, building sand castles in the sand. But you know where your club is.”

The most recent blow-up came during the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, when Reed hooked his approach well left into thick, damp rough. After seeing his ball sitting well down in the grass with little chance of getting his third shot anywhere near the pin, he asked a near-by volunteer if the ball had bounced before coming to rest. When told it had flown directly into the grass without a bounce, making it possible for the ball to be embedded (which would justify relief), he quickly scooped it up and began probing with his finger—determining that it “broke ground” and was therefore entitled to a free drop. He then called for an official to examine the area where he had been probing, and received a favorable ruling. The problem is that television coverage clearly showed that the ball took a low trajectory bounce forward before coming to rest, making the chance that the ball would then “embed” in the ground extremely remote. In light of his prior infractions, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Xander Schauffele: “Obviously, the talk amongst the boys isn’t great, but he’s protected by the Tour and that’s all that matters, I guess.”

Reed then threw Rory McIlroy under the bus, claiming he had done exactly the same thing. Indeed, Rory had taken embedded ball relief on a shot that bounced before coming to rest. The difference was that Rory’s ball had also been stepped on by a volunteer while he was trying to locate it—and of course, there has never been a question about McIlroy’s integrity.

Patrick Reed at Torrey Pines
Photo by WWLG (https://www.whywelovegolf.com)

The Rep

Reed’s tremendous talent and laser focused desire to win have always been unquestioned, as illustrated by the success he’s had at every level of golf—but his tendency for rubbing people the wrong way, combined with an abrasive public persona, have fueled his “bad guy” image. Patrick was born in San Antonio, TX and his family moved to Baton Rouge, LA when he was in his mid-teens. His record as a Junior was outstanding, leading his high school golf team to state championships in 2006 and 2007, and he reached the semi-final of the US Amateur in 2008. After High School Patrick opted to play his college golf at The University of Georgia, where his current public persona began to take shape. Confidence is a critical element for success, and Reed possessed it in abundance. His supreme confidence, however, soon morphed into what might be called “disagreeable arrogance,” impacting team chemistry. Following an alcohol related incident that would not typically result in dismissal, Reed was dropped from the program while still in his freshman year.

Jason Payne (Georgia Golf Coach): “While getting to know Patrick through the recruiting process as a coach, a few character issues came to light, that we as coaches thought we could help Patrick with,” he said. “Once Patrick was on campus for a few months, it became clear that Patrick was not going to mesh with the make-up of the team at that time, and he was dismissed from the team.”

Leads Jaguars to two National Championships
Photo by CBS Sports (https://www.cbssportsf.com)

Reed promptly transferred to Augusta University, where he led the Jaguars to consecutive NCAA Division I golf titles (2010 and 2011), while going undefeated in match play (6-0). The second championship, ironically, came when the Jaguars bested Georgia in the final, with Reed defeating Harris English in the deciding match. The win over English, who also went on to a successful PGA Tour career, burnished Reed’s reputation as a hard-nosed competitor—but his image among peers remained less than stellar.

Kevin Kisner: “They all hate him—any guys that were on the team with him hate him and that’s the same way at Augusta…. I don’t know that they’d piss on him if he was on fire, to tell you the truth.”

Following the second NCAA championship in 2011, Reed turned pro, earning exempt status on the PGA tour by 2013. Throughout his career, Patrick has recorded 9 Tour wins, including a major championship (2018 Masters) and 43 Top-10’s. He has also been outstanding at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, with a combined record of 11 wins, 6 losses and 4 ties (particularly when he defeated Rory McIlroy in 2016, one of the greatest matches in Ryder Cup history).

His successes, however, have been accompanied by statements and episodes that made Reed less than appealing in the public eye, beginning in 2014 when he declared himself to be one of the top 5 players in world after winning his 3rd tournament at 23 years old (he was No. 44 in the World Golf Rankings at the time, although the win moved him up to No. 20). At Bay Hill in 2018 an official refused to grant him relief when his ball landed in a bush, at which point he turned to the gallery and said “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth.”

As P.T. Barnum said, “there is no such thing as bad publicity,” so Patrick Reed and LIV may well be a match made in heaven.

Brooks Koepka Joins LIV

LIV Update

Brooks Koepka and Abraham Ancer have become the latest PGA Tour players to announce their intention to join LIV Golf. Following a dismal finish at the U.S. Open, in the midst of a disappointing season in which he’s recorded only 2 Top-10’s and missed the cut in 6 of the 15 events played, Brooks’ departure does not come as a complete shock. Koepka has always focused primarily on the major championships, and with 4 major wins at 32 years of age, still has the opportunity to add to his record and etch his name among the greats of the game. While the USGA allowed LIV members to compete at the U.S Open, and the R&A has announced that they will be allowed to compete at the Open Championship in July, the position of the powers that be at Augusta National and the PGA of America are less than clear with regard to the 2023 Masters and PGA Championship. Should joining LIV prevent him from participating in 2 of the 4 majors going forward, Brooks may have deep regrets over his decision to take the money.

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The 2021 Ryder Cup

Whistling Straits, Haven WI

The 2021 Ryder Cup

Today begins the long-awaited, and highly anticipated 2021 Ryder Cup. With all the pent-up energy of waiting an extra year (postponed from 2020 due to COVID), and then being trapped inside for much of the time, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict the crowds will be even more motivated and raucous than usual. Tournament organizers briefly considered holding the competition without fans last year, but that idea was quickly dismissed after negative comments made by a number of players, most notably Brooks Koepka (“The fans make the event”). And the fans have been particularly important for the American side. Europe has taken the Cup in seven of the last ten competitions, including four of the last five, and the three won by the American side have all come on home soil. Prior to each, the general consensus would always be that the American team should dominate because they had so much depth of talent, yet somehow the Europeans, with a couple of stars and a host of no-names, would walk away with a shocking victory. Well, this year’s battle will be no different with a powerhouse American team going up against Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, what’s his name, and who’s that guy. Just don’t take it to the bank—the European players have been ingrained with a hate-to-lose attitude that goes all the way back to Seve Ballesteros. And two of their biggest victories have come right here (Oakland Hills in ’04 and Medinah in ’12). Something tells me this is going to be a special weekend.

The History

The first Ryder Cup was played in 1927 at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, and named in honor of English businessman and golf enthusiast, Samuel Ryder. The American team, captained by Walter Hagen, pounded the Europeans led by Ted Ray with a thumping 9 1/2 to 2 1/2 victory. Until 1977, the European team consisted of only players from Great Britain and Ireland, and the American team dominated the competition, winning 21 of the 25 Ryder Cups played. Beginning in 1979 the rules were modified, allowing players from all of continental Europe to participate in the competition, and the tide began to turn. The American team, led by Jack Nicklaus, won handily in ‘79 and ‘81, but the 1983 Ryder Cup was extremely close as the Americans pulled out a tough 14 ½-13 ½ victory. In ’85 and ’87 the American teams went down to defeat, ushering in a period of intense competition and European ascension, led by the charismatic leadership of Seve Ballesteros. Since 1985, the European team has won 11 times, the American team 5 times, and there was one draw (1989). The last quarter century of Ryder Cup competition has produced some of the most memorable moments in sports history, including the “War on the Shore” (1991) and the “Miracle at Medinah” (2012) as the European team staged an incredible comeback victory following the tragic passing of Seve Ballesteros.

The Teams

The 2021 American team is captained by Steve Stricker, and includes a powerful group of big names, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth. Long hitting Tony Finau, a resurgent Harris English, up-and-coming Scottie Scheffler and the gritty Daniel Berger round out an incredibly deep cast of talented players. The European team, captained by 3-time major champion Padraig Harrington, will be anchored by Rory McIlroy and Jon Rham, two of the greatest players in the world. Backing them up will be seasoned veterans of Ryder Cup competition Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey. They will be joined by Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowery, a pair of solid professionals who don’t back down to anybody, as well as talented youngsters Victor Hoveland and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Tyrell Hatton and Bernd Wiesberger, two of the top players on the European tour, round out a tough European team.

The Venue

Whistling Straits, located in Haven WI, and host to three PGA Championships (2004, 2010 and 2015) will host the 2021 Ryder Cup. Home to two Pete Dye masterpieces (Irish/Straits) and opened in 1998, Whistling Straits is among the finest golf resorts in the World. The matches will be fought on the Straits course, which boasts a course rating of 77.2 and a slope of 152. Don’t miss a minute of what is sure to be some of the greatest golf you will ever see.

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2020 BMW and The Tour Championship Preview

East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta GA

The BMW Championship Wrap-Up

Last week concluded the BMW Championship, the final event leading up to the Tour Championship this weekend—and what a way to head into the final week of the PGA season. The back nine battle on Sunday between Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau was every bit as thrilling as “The Duel in Sun” between Jack and Tom Watson at Turnberry back in ’77, or the epic struggle between Phil and Henrik Stenson in the final round of the 2016 Open Championship. Cantlay and DeChambeau began the day tied for the lead, and it ended the same way as they each fired sizzling rounds of 66 and went to a playoff. Bryson ramped up the pressure throughout with titanic bombs off the tee, while Cantlay countered with steely discipline and tremendous nerve, making clutch putt after clutch putt. On the par 5 sixteenth, DeChambeau took a one-shot lead after making birdie, and on the par 3 seventeenth it looked like Cantlay was finished when his tee shot found the water. But he refused to quit, getting up and down from a hundred yards by canning yet another huge putt to stay within a shot after Bryson hit a poor chip and failed to convert his putt for par. On the eighteenth, Cantlay dug deep yet again, knocking in a twenty-foot birdie putt to force a playoff.  It took six holes of pressure packed thrills, but Patrick finally prevailed. With the win, Cantlay sits atop the FedEx Cup standings, just ahead of Tony Finau. It would seem too much to ask for another finish like this one, but with the cast of heavyweights who will be teeing it up at East Lake, anything can happen.

The Tour Championship

Today marks the first round of the season ending Tour Championship at famed East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. The tournament was founded in 1987, and was originally played in November. However, in 2007 with the establishment of the FedEx Cup, the tournament was moved up to September. The field includes the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup points standings, and because of a format change adopted in 2019, Patrick Cantlay will start the tournament at -10, based on finishing first in the FedEx Cup point standings. Tony Finau, at second, will be starting at -8, while Bryson DeChambeau, sitting at number 3, will start at -7 and so on down to the last five players in the standings who will start at even par. Historically, the Tour Championship was structured such that a player could win the Tour Championship, but not win the FedEx Cup. The change in format now means that the winner of the Tour Championship will also take home the FedEx Cup (along with the $15 million that comes with it). With such a fantastic lead-up to the main event, it appears the PGA Tour season is headed for a final weekend of pure excitement—so don’t miss a minute.

The Course

East Lake Golf Club was founded in 1908, originally designed by Tom Bendelow, and remodeled by Donald Ross in 1913. The course was later updated by George Cobb and most recently by Reese Jones in 1994. In addition to the Tour Championship, the home course of the legendary Bobby Jones has hosted many prestigious championships over the years, including the 1950 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 1963 Ryder Cup and the 2001 U.S. Amateur. With a USGA course rating of 76.2 and slope rating of 144, East Lake is a fitting test to crown the FedEx Cup champion each year.

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The PGA Championship-Phil Mickelson

PGA Championship, Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort SC

Congrats, Phil!

Watching Phil Mickelson stroll up the 18th hole at Kiawah Island with a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen was almost surreal. I think many of us “Phil fanatics” kept pinching ourselves during those final moments thinking it was a dream. The idea of Phil, at fifty plus, holding off the imposing figure of Brooks Koepka to win the PGA Championship, seemed like an impossibility. Like Ali when he fought George Forman—there would be flashes of brilliance and plenty of determination, but sooner or later the big one would land. I kept thinking about the 2014 PGA Championship, 2015 Masters, and 2016 Open Championships where Phil fought his heart out, put up strong performances with great thrills, but ultimately came up just short. Not this time though, as Phil found an even deeper level of resolve to deliver a historic win for the ages, just as Mohamed Ali did back in 1974. It was a remarkable day, and most certainly the high point of Phil’s fantastic career. And do we dare get our hopes up for that elusive U.S. Open title? You bet we do!

Phil’s Fanatics 

Early in his career, Phil Mickelson garnered the nickname “Phil the Thrill” because he had a seemingly endless number of shots in his arsenal, and was willing pull them out of his bag at any time, regardless of risk, almost always with unlikely and eye-popping success. Since he broke out on tour in 1991, and won the Northern Telecom Open as an Amateur, everyone knew that this young lefty was going to provide us with a ton of excitement. Phil immediately captured the hearts of golf fans with his fan friendly, warm persona, along with his aggressive style of play. That style of play cost Phil quite a few tournaments, including a number of major championships, but that just endeared him to the golfing public even more. Eventually Phil’s following of loyalists became known as the “Phil fanatics.” No matter how poorly Phil might be playing, these fans never left his side. Well, the Phil fanatics were out in full force for Lefty last week at the PGA Championship. They cheered and hollered for him all week, and assembled around the 18th green to share the moment with their hero. Not since Arnie’s Army has a player generated that kind of love and excitement from golf fans—and richly deserved.

The Thrills Keep Coming

Phil’s last major victory came all the way back at the 2013 Open Championship, and there have been a number of highs and lows since then. A dry spell in 2014 and 2015 saw Mickelson drop his longtime swing coach, Butch Harman, and hire Andrew Getson. Getson revitalized Phil’s game, and their partnership resulted in 6 top 5 finishes in the 2016 season, including 3 runner-up’s—but unfortunately no victories. 2017 proved to be another winless season for Phil, now 47 years old with many believing that his days of winning on tour were behind him. But lo and behold, Phil reached into his bag of magic and surprised us all by winning the WGC Mexico Championship in 2018. It was an unbelievable victory, as he took down Justin Thomas in a thrilling playoff and proved that Lefty was not done quite yet. And then in 2019, Phil won again, capturing his fifth AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, only to struggle for the remainder of the year, failing to record a single top ten. The 2020 season proved to be another disappointment for Lefty, with only two top 5 finishes in the shortened season. And going into the PGA Championship this year, Phil hadn’t placed among the top 20 in a single event, most recently a disastrous finish at the Wells Fargo where he opened with a 64, only to follow that up with a 75 and a pair of 76’s. While most of the golf world viewed it as yet another sign that Phil was done, his fanatics (and most importantly Phil himself), saw only the brilliant 64, and continued to believe. Well, he’s done it again—shocking the world when everybody counted him out. Congratulations Phil, this was truly an epic performance. You can bet that Phil’s faithful flock will have swelled to record numbers for the Open at Torrey Pines next month, and win or lose, you know he will be giving it everything he’s got. A seventh major? Don’t count him out.