LONG ISLAND, New York – Let’s look at the last LIV Golf event in Tucson. Danny Lee won a four-man playoff with a spectacular putt from way off the fringe that went into the cup the third time the playoff group played the 18th playoff hole. It was a massive win. Lee won a first prize of $4 million. That is enormous.
Lee won a four-man playoff over veterans Louis Oosthuizen, Brendan Steele and Mexican Carlos Ortiz. Who else is on the LIV Tour? Well, the leaderboard last Sunday included such stalwarts as Charles Howell, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Mito Periera, Peter Uihlein, Brendan Grace, Matthew Wolff, Pat Perez, Marc Leishmann, Dustin Johnson, Cameron Tringale, Talor Gooch and Patrick Reed. Just below that group were two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, Harold Varner, 2022 TPC champion and current British Open champion Cameron Smith and 4-time major champion Brooks Koepka.
Honestly, that is a stellar lineup for the new LIV Golf League, which is funded by money from Saudi Arabia, which is a criminal country. But still, it doesn’t even come close the lineup of stars on the PGA Tour. So a bunch of PGA stars left that tour and migrated to the LIV Tour for super money. Yes, they will get paid very well. But they won’t be competing against the best players in the game anymore. The LIV Tour now is the opponent of the PGA Tour, which has far more great players and much more depth.
As veteran Freddie Couples said to Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, “If you could win the L.A. Open and get $1.9 million or win a LIV event and get $4 million, which trophy would you rather have?” Phelps said he would rather “be a part of history. That’s what it’s all about.” In his view a PGA Tour event takes precedence over an LIV event that might have a $4 million first prize.
So, the Masters dinner is coming up in about two weeks. This is when the past Masters champions break bread together. Scottie Scheffler is the current Masters champion, and he has prescribed a dinner with cheeseburger sliders as the appetizer followed by ribeye steak and a mac & cheese side. Here’s the big question: How will all these past Masters champs get along? Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, and Dustin Johnson all are playing for the LIV Tour. But every other Masters champion has remained loyal to the PGA Tour.
Former Masters champion Couples has denigrated Garcia since his change to LIV Golf. They both say they will get along at the Masters dinner, but that remains to be seen. Also, it was Couples who described Mickelson as a “nutbag.”
Okay, he’s 53 years old, but 1992 Masters champion Couples has been outspoken in his opposition to LIV Golf versus the PGA Tour. He was friends with Mickelson for many years, but Couples said, “I don’t think I’ll talk to him again.” Couples also belittled everyone who left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf.
Describing his relationship with Mickelson at this point, Couples said, “I’m not in the same boat as him anymore, I probably never will play golf with him again. We’re in different orbits.”
So that defines Couples’ disengagement from Mickelson, and it defines the separation of the PGA Tour from LIV Golf. At the same time, it must be admitted that the advent of LIV Golf, which has 54-hole events instead of 72 holes, has elevated the purses on the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour now has a bunch of “enhanced” events with $20-million purses and first prizes of more than $3 million. So, that’s good.
In the end, the PGA Tour is far deeper than LIV Golf. The TV ratings for LIV Golf were less than 1 percent last weekend. They were horrible, like, .14%. The regular PGA Tour averaged 2.59 million viewers on Sunday, which is better than 1 percent. So, the players who left the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf for the chance to win more money abandoned the larger TV audience for the PGA Tour.
Golf fans have said, “Screw them,” to the players on the LIV Tour, according to TV ratings. LIV has some very good players, but overall, they simply don’t compare to the PGA Tour, which has the best fields every single week of the golf calendar. The PGA Tour remains the gold standard in golf. Players can go to LIV golf to accept money from Saudi Arabia, which is a serious political decision, but they will not be competing against the best fields in PGA golf. In the end, taking money from #SaudiArabia is a huge political decision. But many pro golfers don’t care about politics. Sad to say.
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