Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
LIV Golf now features 12 major champions with 22 major titles between them, with the latest batch of defectors including World #2, current Players Champion and Open Champion Cameron Smith. The strength of field at the Boston LIV Golf event was the strongest of any tournament in the world this past weekend, yet it was not listed in the Official World Golf Ranking inventory of events. Ironically, the inventory of 12 “other” events did not include a single major champion. Dustin Johnson won the Boston event in a playoff while the top dozen players on the leaderboard reads like a who’s who of men’s professional golf. Isn’t it time the World Rankings fast tracks LIV Golf into membership so the best players in the world can continue to get the recognition they deserve?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Sorry, but I say NO. In my view the Saudi Tour is nothing but a series of exhibition matches, like silly season events, for which OWGR points were never awarded. These defectors knew there were no OWGR points when they bolted, so I don’t see why they should get them now, simply because they’ve been joined by a bunch of other greedy, selfish players. I also don’t believe the structure of Saudi Tour events is as competitive as PGA Tour events, and therefore comparing the two and awarding similar points would not be valid.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I’ve mentioned this in pervious round tables, the World Ranking process is an interesting one as it includes all Major Professional Tours (as the Committee), with the PGA Tour at the head of the table. There is no chance the application by LIV Golf to have a seat at that table and its events in the short term recognized for points to be accepted under such structure. Its also unique in that they play 54 holes, and all other events require 72 to be played (unless weather has other plans and all 72 can’t be played) for points. I’m also unclear if a shotgun start is recognized either. So, its not just quite as simple as accepting LIV Golf events at par with all other events.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I think everyone should take a deep breath. LIV has come out stronger and faster than anticipated. The PGA Tour is racing to plug the holes by making many changes that are about 20 years overdue. Tours around the world are scrambling to figure out where they stand. Second-tier events on the PGA Tour don’t know their status for attracting players. Sponsors are confused and are undoubtedly evaluating the scene. We are yet to hear from the Majors re. their position and fans are spinning out of control with information and misinformation. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Hold.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well it’s officially a success I guess. They have lured some pretty prominent players and deserve consideration for OWGR points, however the format still doesn’t make it feel real to me. And they are still only competing against 47 other guys each week. So I’m not totally sold on the idea. But it seems to be moving in that direction!
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): This has become one of the key elements in the fight between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. Although the Tour is supposed to be just one vote on the Official World Golf Rankings panel, because of its outsize dominance and financial influence on the other voting members, it effectively controls OWGR. So, the PGA Tour will throw up every obstacle imaginable to thwart the upstart league from gaining the one piece of credibility it needs for its members to gain entry to majors. They point to 54-hole events and no cut formats as not being appropriate golf tournaments. That’s crap in my view. Cam Smith was the #2 player in the world just a week ago. Just because he plays LIV Golf now hasn’t diminished his ability or his relative strength against anyone else on any Tour. Results in the majors should prove that out and those who run them should be doing everything possible to get the Cam Smiths and Dustin Johnsons into their events. That’s what golf fans want.
Phil Mickelson fully expects to be invited to Augusta next April as a Past Champion. Bubba Watson hopes to but says if he’s not, that’s ok too because he doesn’t want to be anywhere he’s not wanted. Given that the four majors make their own rules about eligibility and exemptions, would it make any sense at all to disinvite past champions or other players that have qualified just because they joined LIV Golf?
Deeks: I don’t believe that Augusta rules or tradition ever mentioned not inviting past champions because they are no longer PGA Tour members — so, reluctantly, I would say Phil and Bubba should not be excluded. Then again, as a private and exclusive organization, there’s nothing to prevent the board of Augusta from arbitrarily deciding that these players shouldn’t come on the basis that they’ve inflicted unnecessary and ungentlemanly damage to the men’s professional game (or words to that effect) and would therefore no longer be welcome on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. I wouldn’t argue with that.
Loughry: The 4 Majors have been around much MUCH longer than the PGA Tour as we know it today (was part of the PGA of America, broke as we know it today in 1968). I think these organizations respect each other, and they most definitely work together on schedules to maximize participation and exposure for each of their events. I think the PGA Tour and ask these organizations to help them, but I think that might lead to legal issues should they form an alliance and keep players out. More than that, these organizations don’t really have a dog in this fight. This is really about Professional Tour golf and the PGA Tour getting its house in order. What will get interesting is to see if these organizations change their eligibility requirements in a year or two’s time if LIV Golf and the POGA Tour don’t find some common ground, thereby affecting the validity and process by which World Ranking Points are awarded. These organizations want the best players in the world playing in their fields, and some a few of the right now aren’t on the PGA Tour.
Schurman: LIV is a competitive business enterprise. Sure, it is backed by Saudi Arabia and has a terrible Human Rights reputation but so does every country in the world including Canada. I don’t see anybody refusing to buy gasoline in protest. How many container ships full of merchandise from China are turned away because of their disgusting treatment of political prisoners and concentration/labour camps filled with over 1M people? Either accept LIV as a business or stand up against all abuses around the world equally. Stop being a hypocrite! BTW You can start right here, in Canada.
Rule: I think the Majors are going to have a tough decision to make in 2023. They want the best players in the world playing their events, and if a good number are playing on the LIV tour, they’ll be somewhat forced to invite them. So I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see lefty and lefty teeing it up at Augusta in April. It will be interesting to see how uncomfortable that makes everyone, given the split it has caused amongst the top players.
Mumford: Nope. And as I said in my answer to the first question, golf fans want to see the best players in the world, regardless of what Tour they come from. Past champions add history, prestige and interest to any event, so disinviting them makes no sense. In fact, it’s hard to see how that makes sense for any regular PGA Tour event either. I’d rather see Cam Smith defend his title at the Players Championship than watch a player that barely qualified. Just because Smith plays most of his golf on another Tour shouldn’t preclude him from being welcomed back as a past champion.
Greg Norman announced last week that LIV Golf players would be allowed to wear shorts during competition, breaking a long-standing tradition in men’s professional golf. What’s your take on the new look?
Deeks: Brilliant, the one good innovation by the Saudi Tour. I’ve been saying for years that it’s ludicrous that the PGA Tour insists on players wearing trousers when it’s over 22º on the golf course. As if the sight of men’s knees would give spectators a wave of the vapours. Give them the option, for heaven’s sake. (But also set some rules for length and fit — i.e., no cargo shorts, no short shorts, and no god-awful John Daly prints.)
Loughry: The decision isn’t going to make me watch one way or another. It will look a little odd at first, but this isn’t a major decision that will bring in millions to watching. Microfiber pants these days are so thin and breathable, you’re comfortable playing in them. I’m just kind of indifferent to the announcement, “meh, good for them”.
Schurman: Until I retired, I had never owned a pair of jeans and I have never worn shorts. If I did, I’d look like a Picasso painting with two Out of Bounds markers that are closer to blue than white. Being a traditionalist, I don’t like it. But then, I still take my hat off in buildings, I open the door for my wife, I hold the car door and offer her my hand and I actually wear my hat as it was designed to be worn so the peak protects my face and eyes from the sun.
Rule: I always thought that players should be able to wear shorts, never understood why they couldn’t…until I saw some of them in shorts last week. Perhaps pants is a better look after all.
Mumford: To those who say it’s not professional, you’ll have to explain then how baggy khakis and a shirt that’s two sizes too big is appropriate. Most clubs have a dress code and if the pros are comfortable within those parameters, let them wear what they want.