The PGA Tour seemed happy, heading out of Atlanta and its hallowed season-closing event.
For months of heckling of defections and bile, it’s very fortunate even though LIV is suing the PGA Tour and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan asked a question last week about whether defectors can return with , as following :
LIV, the young Saudi circuit that has poured oil into the sport and shaken it up with huge contracts, has just landed its first top-five player, second-placed Smith. He just trapped a second current top-20 player in No. 19 Joaquin Niemann. He’s gobbled up 12 of the top 50 and 27 of the top 100 global players at the moment, though the LIV player rankings are expected to slip if LIV events can’t earn the rights to ranking points. He has mastered the lane from No. 90 to No. 95, missing only No. 94. He has 13 major winners who have won a total of 24 majors. It has an exhibition-style format — music, shotgun tee times, 54-hole events, no cuts — and bottomless cash.
British Open champion Cameron Smith joins LIV Golf
The PGA Tour, the 54-year-old organization created by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus et al that defended itself against the intruder with sentiments and improvements, just had a meeting of the best players on August 17, adding to the sport’s long history of sudden player encounters deemed important. It has all the rest of the top players, all the top events, and new proposals for more events filled with top players. He still has Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 16 player and 2021 Masters winner from a sports-loving country (Japan) with 125 million pairs of eyeballs. It has No. 1 player Scottie Scheffler, after a $14 million season on the course, just giving Atlanta an impromptu treatise that money is nice but means being nicer. It has a long revered format – 72 holes, cups, the winner “in the dirt,” as Tiger Woods put it – alongside ships, if not frigates, silver.
“I feel like the PGA Tour has a lot of momentum right now,” Jordan Spieth said in Atlanta.
“In a way,” said Rory McIlroy, “there was really – there was a big thing that happened, and that was that the 20 of us who met in this Delaware room are all committed, most of us, maybe 22 out of 23, committed to each other and committed to ‘Guys, what can we do to make the tour the best possible product so we can all enjoy it?’ I think that was a turning point in all of this, and I think we’re all on the same page – there’s an opportunity in every challenge, and it was an opportunity for all of us to come together .
The 23rd in McIlroy’s reunion reference would have been Niemann, the Chilean who won at Riviera in Los Angeles last year and follows pals such as Sergio Garcia and Carlos Ortiz to LIV. He’s 23, a number that bolsters a LIV outfit often seen as a way station for sunny types on the downward slope of prowess. He now joins with new defectors Smith, 29; Harold Varner III, 32; Anirban Lahiri, 35; Cameron Tringale, 35; and Marc Leishman, 38. It’s Chile, Australia, USA, India, USA and Australia, deepening LIV’s offering for global flavor.
They join a media outlet often condemned as aiming to “sportwash” Saudi Arabia’s dire human rights record, and Tringale joins “after much thought, prayer and conversation with trusted advisers”, as his Twitter handle always noted both “living my dream by playing on the PGA Tour” and the Bible verse Mark 8:36, the one that says, “For what good will it profit a man if he wins the whole world and loses its own soul?”
Tringale would be the quietest of the new entries, with four finalists in 13 years, plus a victory in an off-tour team event in 2014.
The loudest, Smith, won both the Players Championship and the British Open this year, a staggering double on courses dissimilar enough to reveal towering talent. He is a master of the Masters with four top-10 finishes already. He has major exemptions for five years ahead, a boon for LIV in uncertain times. No sooner had the Florida-based Australian shot his final 64 at St. Andrews than the public part of the LIV dance began with a knowledgeable question to which Smith replied, “I just won the British Open, and you ask about it. I think it’s not that good.
Who are the LIV golfers? They range from famous to anonymous.
It continued from there with almost silent awkwardness, with the Daily Telegraph appearing in the middle of the dance to signal an impending defection, through to the end of the PGA season in Memphis (tied for 13th) and Atlanta ( 20th) with a quiet exit from the closing Tour Championship and closing hope. He will give up his place in the Presidents Cup at the end of September in Charlotte, but it can’t hurt that LIV Golf and another Florida-based Australian, LIV CEO Greg Norman, are hosting Australia-based events.
Niemann’s victory at Riviera has already become his second, and multiple reports from Atlanta are also predicting Niemann’s defection. friend and fellow Chilean Mito Pereira, whose audacious bid for a shock PGA Championship victory in May at Tulsa croaked in a stream alongside No. 18. (Pereira is 27 and is ranked 49th.)
In Varner, LIV gains charisma, a big smile, a compelling story of learning her way on a municipal course in Gastonia, North Carolina, and last February’s winner of the Saudi Invitational, that notable event for Phil Mickelson. . bratty start blasting from the PGA Tour to John Huggan of Golf Digest. Leishman has six PGA Tour victories and appeared in the 2015 British Open qualifiers at St. Andrews with winner Zach Johnson and fellow LIV defector Louis Oosthuizen. Lahiri, who has two European Tour wins, seven Asian Tour wins and 12 Tour of India wins, finished second to Smith at The Players last spring.
They move on and their old tour bids farewell with plans to stay happy.
“They joined the LIV Golf Series and they made that commitment,” Monahan said in Atlanta, ahead of that latest wave. “Most of them have made multi-year commitments. As I’ve been clear throughout, every player has a choice, and I respect his choice, but he made it. We made ours. We will continue to focus on the things we control and grow stronger and stronger. I think they understand that.
Meanwhile, his tour ended with McIlroy trailing Scheffler by six, putting him on the 70th hole of a 72-hole event, calling it “a nice place to take the lead in a golf tournament – yeah, or the 52nd hole if you play elsewhere,” then hugging Scheffler’s family members as if the happy family had grown.