GOLF

“It looks like a stupid golf season”

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Ernie Els was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2010.

Images: getty

Ernie Els understands the temptation of LIV Golf, especially for older players.

Heck, he was there himself just a few years ago.

“Age 45 to 50, you’re nowhere,” Els, now 52, ​​said the other day as he watched the course at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey. “You are no longer the player you were. You cannot compete. It is a delicate period.

Els, who is a sports legend in his native South Africa thanks to his more than 70 victories around the world, including four major championship titles, reflected on the decision some of his fellow professionals have made to, in fact, cutting ties with the PGA and DP World Tours in exchange for huge salaries from LIV Golf.

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Some of those notable LIV engagements — Bryson DeChambeau, 28; Talor Gooch, 30; Abraham Ancer, 31 – are still in their prime. But many more – Phil Mickelson, 52; Lee Westwood, 49; Pat Perez, 46; Ian Poulter, 46; Graeme McDowell, 42; Sergio Garcia, 42 – are at stages in their careers where competing for paychecks against, in many cases, players half their age has become a daunting proposition.

So when an upstart league comes with nine-figure signing bonuses and no-cut events with $25 million purses, the pull is strong regardless of payout source, which in this case, happens to be a government with an abysmal human rights record. (Even PGA Tour lifer Rory McIlroy acknowledged the allure earlier this week, saying, “I get why guys went, especially guys who are sort of in the later stages of their careers. and if I were in their place, I would be serious, you have to think about doing the same.”)

Other LIV signatories include three of Els’ compatriots: Branden Grace, 34; Louis Oosthuizen, 39; and Charl Schwartzel, 37, who won the first LIV event in London last month. Els said none of those players had consulted him before contracting with LIV – “they’re too shy to talk to me”, he said – but he thought about what he would have told them.

“I would have said, ‘You have to think about it,'” Els said. career, you have to think about it. But-“

And it’s a big but for Els.

“…it’s not golf as we know it anymore. It’s a very different product.

Much of LIV, of course, is exactly like golf as we know it. Clubs and balls. Birdies and bogeys. Fairways and flagpoles. But that’s not what Els was aiming for. It’s LIV’s format that he can’t top: the lack of pure meritocracy – beat half the field or go home with nothing – that is so integral and inherent to virtually every other major tour.

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“If it was a 72-hole system, then you should look at it,” Els said. “But it’s 54 holes, no cut, shotgun tee. It’s like it’s a silly golf season. Els said he’d be okay with the big tours getting together in the offseason to play an unconventional style of golf like LIV designed it, but he can’t figure out the format everyone of LIV as a believable player. way to test and identify the best golfers in the world.

“Go play this kind of format for three or four months and have fun,” he said. “But then go play some real golf after that. That’s how I think it probably should have gone down, but it didn’t.

Despite his Hall of Fame resume, Els knows what it’s like to go years without winning, to struggle to make cuts. He won his 19th PGA Tour title – the 2012 Open Championship – at the age of 42. A 20th victory never came. In 2017, still three years short of 50, Els earned $155,926 on the PGA Tour; a year later, he took in just $102,868.

If a rival tour then signed players, would Els have jumped ship for guaranteed money?

“I would have been against it,” he said. “You would have to think about it, yes, but I have very good sponsors. I have really great people supporting me. We have our autism effort. A lot of things are at stake for me. In my case, it’s not just about taking the money and seeing each other later. The [would be] many consequences. »

That, and a throbbing feeling in her belly.

“It just doesn’t leave a good feeling, does it?” Els talked about LIV’s advances. “That doesn’t seem fair to me.”

alan bastable

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As Editor-in-Chief of GOLF.com, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of gaming’s most respected and trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats – editing, writing, ideation, development, daydreaming breaking 80 – and feeling privileged to work with such an incredibly talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before taking the reins of GOLF.com, he was editor of GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and four children.

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