Tag: LIV Golf

LIV Golf: Top 5 Through Boston

DJ and Cam Smith Lead the Field
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Now that the first four LIV events have been completed, it’s a good time to take a look at which players have had the greatest success heading to Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago (September 16-18). We’ve rated and ranked players based on events played, average finish, wins, Top-10 finishes (including runner-up, top-5 and top-10) as well as performance at the 2022 major championships (LIV Player Rankings). To date, 68 players have competed in one or more of the LIV tournaments played thus far, and each has been rated on the performance criteria outlined above to provide a basis for our rankings.

Rich Harvest Farms, Chicago IL

The Leaders

Dustin Johnson: No. 1 / 72.5 Rating

Late Sunday afternoon at The International in Boston, DJ found himself in a sudden death playoff with newly minted LIV players Joaquin Niemann and Anirban Lahiri. When DJ rammed in a lengthy putt for eagle on the opening playoff hole, he raised the trophy for his first LIV tournament win. Having already recorded top 10’s at each of the first 3 events (T2 at Trump National Bedminster, a T3 in Portland and 8th place finish in London), along with a T6 at the Open Championship, Johnson is at the top of the LIV player rankings.

Cameron Smith: No. 2 / 64.0 Rating

Although Cam came up one shot shy of joining the playoff in Boston, a T4 (14 under) along with his Open Championship victory in July and T3 at The Masters back in April vaulted him all the way to Number 2, just behind Dustin.

Talor Gooch, Henrik Stenson and Brandon Grace
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Talor Gooch: No. 3 / 56.0 Rating (Tie)

While Talor has yet to record an LIV win, he has finished among the top 10 in all four events (9th in London, 7th in Portland, T6 at Bedminster and a 6th place finish in Boston). Gooch also made the cut in 3 of the 4 majors he played in 2022 (including a T14 at Augusta), which places him in a tie for No. 3 with Henrik Stenson.

Henrik Stenson: No. 3 / 56.0 Rating (Tie)

Stenson held off Matt Wolff and DJ at Bedminster to win the only LIV event he’s played thus far. Unfortunately, Henrik had to withdraw from the field in Boston last weekend—but all indications are that he will be ready to go in Chicago.

Brandon Grace: No. 5 / 55.7 Rating (Tie)

Brandon recorded a T3 in the first LIV event in London, and followed that up by winning at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland. With his T13 at Bedminster and a 12th last week in Boston, Grace has the 3rd highest average finish (7.3) of any player who has competed at all four LIV tournaments (behind DJ at 3.5 and Taylor Gooch at 7.0).  

Louie Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed: LIV Top 10
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Notables

Louis Oosthuizen: No. 9 / 49.2 Rating

Louie is among the Top 10 on the strength of a T10 in London, 5th place finish in Portland, and a T9 last week in Boston. With one of the great golf swings in history, it’s a pretty good bet that Oosthuizen will record his first LIV win before the final event of the season at Trump Doral in October.

Patrick Reed: No. 10 / 48 Rating

Reed has recorded 2 top-5 finishes in the 3 events he’s played thus far (T3 in Portland and 5th at Bedminster). Patrick also made the cut at all four of the major championships in 2022.

Brooks and Bryson: Need to Kick it in Gear
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Treading Water

Brook Koepka: No. 25 / 35.3 Rating

While Koepka puts the most stock in major championships, it’s still a surprise that Brooks hasn’t made a bigger showing in his first three LIV events (a T16 in Portland, T11 at Bedminster and a T26 last week in Boston). 2022 has also been Koepka’s worst season in memory at the majors with missed cuts at The Masters and The Open Championship, along with a 55th place finish at the U.S. Open and a T55 at the PGA.

Although Brooks hasn’t made any excuses, it looks like the knee injury he suffered back in 2021 is a likely a factor in his mediocre performance thus far in 2022.

Bryson DeChambeau: No. 26 / 34.7 Rating

Bryson recorded a T8 at The Open Championship and a T10 in his first LIV event in Portland, but followed that up with a T31 at Bedminster and a T17 last week in Boston. Given his tremendous length from the tee, those performances are significantly below what most would expect.

I’m guessing that “The Scientist” will be heading for the lab, however, and will soon come up with a potion to improve his average finish number (currently at 19.3).

Phil: Missing in Action
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Missing in Action

Phil Mickelson: No. 60 / 15 Rating 

To say Phil’s first four LIV tournaments have been a struggle is an understatement. In twelve rounds, Mickelson has carded only two under 70 (a first round 69 in London and a second round 69 last Saturday in Boston). At the first event in London, he finished at T33 (+10). In Portland he came in at T40 (+10), and then followed that up with a 35th place finish at Trump National Bedminster (+6).

Unfortunately, it didn’t get any better in Boston where he finished with a T40 (+2). When you throw in missed cuts at the two major championships he played this year, it’s hard to believe this is the same Phil who won the PGA only last year—perhaps he’s waiting for the big stage at Trump Doral in October.  

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LIV Player Rankings

Trump National Doral, Miami FL
Rank Player Events Average Finish LIV Wins LIV Top 10 '22 Major Wins '22 Major Top 10's '22 Major Cuts Rating
1 Johnson, D. 7 5 1 5 1 2 80.9
2 Smith, C. 4 17 1 1 1 1 1 62.2
3 Niemann, J. 4 7 3 4 58.7
3 Reed, P. 6 11 3 4 57.2
5 Schwartzel, C. 7 19 1 2 1 1 54.3
6 Garcia, S. 7 13 4 2 54.1
7 Grace, B. 6 12 1 1 52.5
8 Gooch, T. 7 14 4 3 52.4
9 Koepka, B. 6 14 1 1 2 52.2
10 Casey, P. 5 11 3 1 50.8
11 Wolf, M. 6 14 3 48.8
12 Ancer, A. 6 18 3 1 1 48.0
13 Westwood, L. 6 13 2 2 47.8
14 Oosthuizen, L. 7 17 4 1 47.6
15 Uihlein, P. 7 19 3 46.9
16 Ortiz, C. 6 15 2 46.0
17 DeChambeau, B. 6 17 2 1 43.2
18 Howell, C. 5 15 2 41.6
19 Lopez-Chacarra, E. 6 22 1 40.0
20 Bland, R. 7 21 1 1 38.0
20 Lahiri, A. 4 18 2 39.5
22 Canter, L. 7 21 1 2 38.0
23 Kokrak, J. 5 20 1 3 37.6
24 Poulter, I. 6 21 1 1 35.8
25 Stenson, H. 4 25 1 2 35.2
26 Koepka, C. 7 22 1 34.6
27 Varner, H. 4 23 1 3 34.2
28 Na, K. 6 24 1 2 33.8
29 Kim, S. 6 26 32.5
30 Jones, M. 7 23 31.9
30 Piot, J. 7 25 1 32.1
32 Kaymer, M. 6 22 31.8
33 Horsfield, S. 7 25 1 30.1
34 Khongwatmai, P. 7 26 29.1
35 Wiesberger, B. 7 29 1 1 28.9
36 Leishman, M. 4 29 1 3 28.2
37 Tringale, C. 4 27 3 28.2
38 Mickelson, P. 7 29 1 27.6
39 McDowell, G. 7 30 1 27.0
39 Morgan, J. 7 32 23.4
41 Kaewkanjana, S. 7 33 23.1
42 Norris, S. 7 35 1 21.1
42 Vincent, S. 7 29 22.9
44 Perez, P. 6 33 21.0
45 Pettit, T. 7 36 1 21.0
45 Swafford, H. 7 35 1 20.6
47 Ormsby, W. 7 35 20.0
48 Tanihara, H. 5 36 16.8
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LIV Golf: Reality Check

Henrik Stenson and Charl Schwartzel: LIV Winners

As the final round of the FedEx Cup playoffs gets under way this afternoon at East Lake Golf Club to determine if Rory or Xander Schauffele can chase down Scottie Scheffler, much of the media’s attention has been focused on LIV. Conjecture abounds concerning Cam Smith’s imminent departure from the PGA Tour, the identity of a large contingent of “big names” rumored to be on the verge of making the move, where that will leave the future of the Tour, and Tiger’s plan to thwart the attack.

While these are hot topics, perhaps it’s a good time to take a step back and examine the facts as they currently stand. Rory McIlroy, the highest profile player in the world, isn’t going anywhere. Should Scotty Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth or Xander Schauffele suddenly announce an intention to defect—well, that could certainly change the landscape. Don’t expect it to happen.

Unless LIV moves from 3 rounds/54 holes (similar to the Champions Tour) to 4 rounds/72 holes (in line with all significant professional golf tours worldwide), and can bolster field depth, the OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings) will be justified in viewing their events as glorified exhibitions—offering no WGR points for LIV tournament finishes.

Jon Rahm: Committed to the PGA Tour

One of the primary criteria for gaining entry to major championships, the most important events in golf, is a player’s position in the World Golf Rankings—and lucrative sponsorship opportunities inevitably go to major championship winners. Performance at the majors is also the biggest factor in determining where a player will be viewed among the all-time greats of the game.

Golf professionals have a limited window of opportunity to build their record, with major championships and tour wins coming at far lower frequency as a player moves into their mid to late 30’s (the “prime” years for a PGA Tour pro is 25-35). Jack and Tiger won 28 of their 33 major championships before reaching 36 years of age.

The reality is that the vast majority of players who have moved over to LIV are either at the tail end of their prime or beyond it, with little to lose and a great deal to gain by taking the money.

DJ and Koepka: Cashing Out

The Biggest Names

Dustin Johnson, at 38 years old, has his prime years behind him. 2021 was the first season since coming out on Tour in 2008 that Dustin failed to record a win, and 2022 wasn’t looking any better with just 2 top 10’s in 12 events. While Johnson still had an opportunity to move into the top 20 players all-time, the window was beginning to close—so his decision to cash out was not all that surprising.

Brooks Koepka, now 32 years old, had a solid year in 2021 with 3 major Top-10’s and a win at the Phoenix Open, but his 2022 season was looking pretty dismal with just 2 top 10’s in 17 starts. And while Brooks is known for coming up big at the majors, he recorded just 4 wins at regular tour events in his career. To move into the top 50 players all-time, Brooks would need a number of muti-win seasons on Tour with another major championship or two in the next few years—so like Johnson, his decision to opt for big guaranteed money should not be a shocker.

LIV Winners

Charl Schwartzel, winner of the first LIV event in London, is 37 years old, and like Johnson, his prime years are behind him. Through age 33, Charl made the cut in over 80% of his starts on the PGA Tour while finishing in the top 10 almost 20% of the time. His win at the Masters, however, came back in 2011 and his last Tour win was in 2016.

Since 2018, Schwartzel made the cut in only 34 of the 67 Tour events he entered, with a total of just 8 Top 10’s—so his opportunity with LIV could not have come at a better time.

Brandon Grace: Wins in Portland

The Portland event was captured by Brandon Grace. At 34, Brandon has entered the final years of his prime—and while he’s recorded 2 PGA Tour wins and 9 wins on the DP World Tour in his career, the last 2 years have been difficult for him with 20 missed cuts in 46 events and only 4 top 10 finishes. No doubt LIV has provided welcome relief.

Winner of the New Jersey event at Trump National Bedminster, Henrik Stenson reportedly received $50 million to join LIV—and that’s a lot of money to walk away from at 46 years old. Henrik had an outstanding career with 5 wins on the PGA Tour, 9 wins on the DP World Tour plus a major win (2016 Open Championship) as well as 13 major Top-10’s.

The last 3 years, however, have been a struggle for Henrik as he made the cut in just 12 of the 36 PGA events he entered, without recording a Top 10 in any of them. While Stenson is among the top 75 players in the history of the game, and his epic battle with Phil on Sunday at Troon in 2016 will always be remembered, his ability to compete successfully on the PGA Tour was winding down—so LIV was a dream come true.

Patrick Reed: Playing the Asian Tour

The Wrap Up

Other players who have reached their twilight years and opted for LIV include Sergio Garcia (42), Paul Casey (46), Louis Oosthuizen (39) and Charles Howell III (43)—not to mention Phil at 52 years old.

Patrick Reed, who stated that his primary motivation for joining LIV was to have more time with his family, has begun entering tournaments on the Asian Tour in order to secure WGR ranking points and maintain his position among the top 50 in the world (he recorded a T31 in Singapore last week).

Unless LIV endeavors to make changes to their tournament structure and is recognized by the OWGR on a similar basis to the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour (or at the very least on par with the Asian Tour), LIV will have a difficult time luring the brightest young stars away from the PGA Tour. And its life span will be extremely limited.

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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.

Perspective

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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DJ and Phil to Headline LIV Inaugural Event

Dustin Cashes In

It is hard to see “LIV Golf” (Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed series of golf tournaments) posing much of a threat to the PGA Tour over the long term. At some point it will likely go the way of the USFL and the Canadian Football League, but for right now Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson have hit the jackpot. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of room in the marketplace for an alternative golf experience, and perhaps Greg Norman’s brainchild is just the ticket for engaging broader appeal. The field for the first event this weekend in London is a bit thin though, so the individual stroke-play portion of the format is not likely to generate much excitement–unless a handicap system is implemented to give the field a fighting chance against DJ.

The “team” element, on the other hand, may provide a dynamic and emotional outlet not generally found at PGA Tour events—with the exception of the Phoenix Open of course. Fans only have a chance to let their hair down and root for a “team” once a year at the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. 12 teams will be competing at each LIV tournament, and each have a team name, logo and color scheme—with DJ’s team announced as the “4 Aces” and Phil’s squad the “High Flyers.” Perhaps “The Gunslingers” might have been a better choice for DJ as he sidles’ up to the first tee (complete with cowboy hat), and “Dark Thrill” for Phil’s squad, now that he’s been cast in the bad guy role (their team color could be all black—which Phil often wears anyway). And when Ricky Fowler finally makes up his mind to jump, perhaps his team can be called the “Biker Boys.”

Phil Makes it Official

Keep in mind that professional sport is essentially entertainment, and contemporary golf fans comprise a diverse cross-section of society, not just the high-brow country club set who expect serious golf in deadpan silence with a smattering of polite applause.

The Venues

The LIV Invitational Series will consist of eight events, with the first being played at Centurion Club in the UK just outside of London. Five of next seven will be held in the United States (two being Donald Trump courses—Trump National Bedminster in NJ and Trump National Doral, FL). The other two will be at international venues—one of which being Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Jedda, Saudi Arabia (no surprise) and the other Stonehill Golf Club in Bangkok, Thailand.

Centurion Club, UK

The Format

Each event will include a field of 48 players, with both an individual and a “team” component over 3 rounds totaling 54 holes and no cut. The total purse for each event will be $25 million, with $20 million divvied up among the field for the individual competition, and $5 million split between the top 3 finishers in the team competition. The individual component is straight forward, with the winner for each event determined by the lowest 54-hole score. Individual winners will also accumulate “ranking points,” and the player with the most points will be named the over-all individual champion after the first 7 events have been completed (the overall champion will take home an additional $18 million).

The team component is a little harder to follow. Each event will include twelve 4-man teams, comprised of a “Captain” (named by “LIV”) and 3 additional players who will be selected by the captain in a “draft” prior to each tournament. Team competition is also based on stroke play, and for the first two rounds the team score will be the total of the 2 team members carding the lowest scores, with the third-round team score being the total of the 3 team members carding the lowest scores. The team with the lowest aggregate score after 54 holes will be the winner. Once the first seven events have been completed, the teams will be “seeded” and the final event will be a match play tournament held over 4 days in October at Trump National Doral, FLwith no individual competition.

The structure for the match-play finale is a bit baffling, however. Since the fields will vary for each event, and captains will be named from players among the individual fields, it is unclear how the final 12 “captains” are to be determined for the Match Play tournament (perhaps they are permanent, and required to participate in all 7 events). It is also unclear how the composition of the teams themselves will be determined—since there will be a separate draft of players held prior to each regular event (so players may end up on different teams for each event—unless previously drafted players are permanent members of a particular team, with the draft only applying to new players being added when a team player isn’t participating in a particular event). The basis on which “seeding” will be determined for the Match Play finale is equally mysterious—but all will no doubt be revealed in good time.

Kevin Na

The Field

Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Kevin Na comprise the list of familiar names. DJ made the cut in 7 of the 10 tournaments he played this year on the PGA Tour, with 2 Top 10’s (his best being a 4th at the Match Play and a T9 at the Players). Phil hasn’t played since he missed the cut at the Farmers back in January, and Louie Oosthuizen hasn’t recorded a Top 10 since last season. Sergio has 1 Top 10 this year (a T7 at Mayakoba) and Lee Westwood missed the cut in 5 of the 9 events he’s played.

That leaves Kevin Na (9 of 12 cuts made on Tour this year with 2 Top 10’s) standing in Johnson’s path for the $4 million individual first place check. No wonder DJ had that Cheshire cat smile on his face at the LIV press conference.

The Motivation

Johnson is reported to have received a $125 million bonus for making the move, and based on the competition, he’ll very likely pocket a great deal more. At the LIV press conference, DJ stated “I don’t want to play for the rest of my life,” so it would seem he just can’t get by on the $74 million he’s already won on the PGA Tour. On the other hand, DJ may also have looked around at Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, and a host of mega-talented young guns currently on Tour, and thought it was an opportune time to cash in his chips and slip out the door.

Phil received a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $200 million, and even though he’ll turn 52 in a couple of weeks, the light-weight fields without a cut will give him the opportunity to earn a great deal more. And since his skill with games of chance appears to be quite a few notches below his ability with a wedge, perhaps he simply needs the money.

DJ and Phil Hit The Jackpot

The Future

The second LIV event will be played June 30–July 2 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, a great track in North Plains, OR designed by Bob Cupp and Andy Johnson. It’s been reported that Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed will be joining the field, which should spice things up a bit. Chances are also pretty good that a few additional name players will announce their intention to jump over to LIV following the U.S. Open (and one of them is likely to be Ricky Fowler, who no longer enjoys exempt status on the PGA Tour).

When asked his reaction to LIV Golf at the Canadian Open press conference, Scottie Scheffler said “I haven’t really noticed anyone missing this week. Maybe outside of DJ.” Come on Scottie, you didn’t notice Kevin Na wasn’t around anymore?   

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