It’s time to evaluate the distribution of talent in men’s professional golf in light of Tuesday’s revelation that six more players have left for LIV.
The fact that 17 of the best 18 players in the world continue to participate on the PGA Circuit, if you’re the tour, is something you can brag about. Although the news is dominated by LIV’s defectors, it’s important to keep in mind who stayed. Cameron Young, Rookie of the Year, to name one. I’ll add Hideki Matsuyama. It seems that all but one of the participants in the covert Delaware meeting will be back on the Tour in 2019. That’s significant.
However, you also can’t overlook the huge setbacks LIV has suffered in recent months. By my calculation, 31 PGA Tour professionals have left for the Land of Shotgun Starts (and gold bricks) before the league’s first “real” season has even started, plus Martin Kaymer, who doesn’t play much on the Tour but seems like he should count.
So which of them—and to what extent—will the PGA Tour miss out? Which players will be most important to the prospects of LIV? Who sways public opinion? To find the LIV signees who felt (and feel) the most significant, I rated them all from No. 32 to No. 1 using an arbitrary set of judgment calls. These are them!
The Major Champs
Three men with strong pasts but weaker current selves.
- Graeme McDowell
a former Ryder Cup winner and U.S. Open champion who was ranked No. 4 at one point but is now at No. 399.
- Martin Kaymer
Who attained World No. 1: a two-time major champion, Players champion, and Ryder Cup winner? That’s a lot of power. However, he has dropped out of the top 300 players in the world, like McDowell, and doesn’t raise the level of competition in LIV.
- Charl Schwartzel
A four-time Presidents Cup winner and one of LIV’s stable of Masters winners who is still competitive (T10 at Augusta this year), but who isn’t necessarily selling tickets for either circuit.
The competitors for the Presidents Cup
- Anirban Lahiri
- Branden Grace
- Matt Jones
Grace, the youngest of the group at 34, is hardly a spring bird, but if they hadn’t taken the leap, they would have been strong candidates for the Presidents Cup squad in September. Lahiri is the first important LIV signing of a Tour player from Asia and was an inspirational watch and great quote during his week at the Players Championship (he finished in second place). Grace and Jones both achieved victories on the Tour in 2021, which required them to give up some Tour privileges in exchange for cash and establish the basis for other members of their national teams to build South African and Australian teams with them.
The Retirement Planners
- Kevin Na
- Charles Howell III
- Pat Perez
These three American men in their 40s [Correction: Kevin Na is really just 38! Apologies for the early aging!] are fairly well known on the PGA Tour. Howell has been using the Tour as his personal ATM for more than 20 years, Perez is a cult favorite, and Na was just ranked within the top 30. However, it’s quite simple for the Tour to write them off as good professionals whose prime years have passed. As Perez put it: “It’s simple. I’m 46. I’ve been on the road since 1998 … It’s like winning the lottery for me. I couldn’t be more excited.”
The Americans in their 30s
These folks aren’t close to retiring, but they’re also not close to being famous either.
- Peter Uihlein
Uihlein is definitely ranked much too high at No. 23, but I still loved this tier.
- Cameron Tringale
Tringale’s departure from the PGA Tour seems a little melancholy given that he is most recognized as the player who has earned the most money without ever winning a tournament. Possibly a self-own on that one by LIV.
- Hudson Swafford
Where credit is due, Swafford prevailed in 2022! But in his subsequent 12 outings, he likewise failed to get a result that was better than T30. Maybe he was trying to maximize value by selling at a premium.
- Jason Kokrak
Kokrak won the Houston Open in late 2021 and shot up to No. 20 in the world while playing the greatest golf of his life. Because of this, his jump is noteworthy; despite having a promising career on the Tour mapped out for him, he chose LIV. However, Kokrak already had a contract with GolfSaudi, and he has said that it is a top goal of his to earn as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time, so this seemed like a logical fit.
The Fan Favorites
likable and proficient at golf? We are now in the “value” realm.
- Carlos Ortiz
The Mexican golfer, age 31, hasn’t been in the greatest of shape lately. Nevertheless, he is a Tour champion, a fan favorite, and a role model for newer Latin players like Mito Pereira and (spoiler warning) Joaquin Niemann.
- Harold Varner III
One of the most adored characters on Tour is HV3. He interacts with everyone because he is honest and amusing. He is one of the few Black players on the PGA Tour and has an interesting backstory as a young man who attended a Gastonia municipal school. Varner’s Instagram post was honest, which I loved, and it said that he couldn’t refuse LIV’s offer of any amount of money.
- Marc Leishman
Leishman is regarded as a kind Australian with a nice grin and a great lawn. Even if the five-time Tour champion isn’t in the same shape that propelled him to No. 12 in the world a few years back, he still has enough left in the tank and was instrumental in helping someone far higher on the list get a spot.
- Louis Oosthuizen
Oosthuizen is in a difficult position to evaluate since he is on the verge of greatness and retirement. He was No. 10 in the world at the start of this year and came close to winning many majors in 2021. He also most likely would have played seldom if he hadn’t joined LIV. But everyone has always admired his graceful swing.
- Paul Casey
- Lee Westwood
- Ian Poulter
- Sergio Garcia
There are three important things about this group. They are well-known figures. They are heroes of the Ryder Cup. And they (with the exception of Casey) were early adopters of the LIV, standardizing the league and bearing the brunt of the criticism before assisting in the recruitment of others to follow in their footsteps. They are among the team’s most illustrious players of all time, thus it is unfortunate to say the least about their prospects with the European Ryder Cup squad.
The Up and Comer
- Aaron Ancer
Ancer is maybe the best male golfer in Mexican history in addition to being a current top-20 player worldwide. That matters a lot.
- Scott Reed
Reed has teetered on the edge of controversy while playing on the PGA Tour. But he was also the winner of the Masters, a star on the Ryder Cup, and an exceptionally inventive golfer. Losing all of that would be detrimental to the Tour; in addition, every sport requires divisive personalities. However, Reed’s most recent $750 million lawsuit against Golf Channel and Brandel Chamblee wasn’t exactly an outreach, so for the time being, relations between Reed and the PGA Tour ecosystem may remain a little chilly.
The captain of the Ryder Cup
- Henrik Stenson
Recall that Stenson was chosen to lead Team Europe in the 2023 Ryder Cup. He did so by signing a document that forbade him from playing in a league like LIV. He afterwards enrolled in LIV. (And he triumphed on his debut.) Pulling out before being selected for the Ryder Cup squad or leadership is one thing. It’s another thing to use your assigned position as leverage before departing for LIV. Stenson’s exit highlighted a tough day for the Ryder Cup.
- Talor Gooch
Gooch should be farther down this ranking, either based on résumé or Q-Score. Gooch was the only Tour professional who was really having his best round of golf when the original group of participants for LIV London was announced. In the weeks that followed, Gooch didn’t back down from a fight either. In addition to filing a complaint against the Tour, he also requested a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, likened one LIV victory to a Ryder Cup, and continued his online tirade. It’s difficult to measure the influence he had on others who came after him, but he undoubtedly demonstrated that it was possible.
- Matthew Wolff
In his two years on the PGA Tour, Wolff had highs and lows. He had a lot of success, including winning the 3M Open as a rookie in 2019 and finishing second four times the following year, including in the 2020 U.S. Open. But there were also many difficult times: Wolff struggled with melancholy, self-doubt, and loneliness. After Tiger Woods, Wolff was the first golfer that Gatorade signed. He was a crucial component in the golf portfolios for Nike and TaylorMade. Although he had difficulties at the conclusion of his Tour career, there is little doubt that Wolff is the Tour’s loss and LIV’s gain.
- Joaquin Niemann
Niemann, who is just 23 years old, anguished about his LIV choice for weeks since he was aware of the consequences. The top golfers under the age of 25 include the world’s No. 19 player. He is South America’s top golfer. At Tiger Woods’ competition, the Genesis Invitational, he is the reigning champion. The Tour Championship practice rounds were attended by Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy separately because they wanted to persuade him to remain. He will no longer compete in PGA Tour tournaments for the foreseeable future and will miss the Presidents Cup. That’s a serious setback.
The Open Champ
5. Cameron Smith
Even more so than Niemann, Smith stands out on this list as an oddity. He is playing the greatest golf of his life at the age of 29. He is now a major winner and a consistent Masters contender. For many years to come, he is exempt. He resides in Ponte Vedra Beach, which is much worse for the PGA Tour. He worked out at the TPC Sawgrass. The Players Championship went to him. Smith made a fortune this season on the PGA Tour. His departure indicates LIV’s financial strength as well as its capacity to grow internationally: Smith has been concentrating on residing in Australia more often, where LIV anticipates hosting at least one tournament.
- Bryson DeChambeau
Although it seems like ancient history, DeChambeau was perhaps golf’s biggest newsmaker during the 2020–21 PGA Tour season. We shouldn’t overlook how crucial DeChambeau was to the excitement of the PGA Tour, whether it was via his victory at the U.S. Open, the continuance of his physique change, his par-5 drive at Bay Hill, or his spat with Brooks Koepka. At the Open Championship, he placed eighth, demonstrating the continued strength of his game. Even if he is exempt from future majors due to his victory at the 2020 U.S. Open, we shouldn’t expect Bryson to return to the PGA Tour any time soon, even though we will see him at the next majors.
- Brooks Koepka
In one version of his narrative, Koepka is hurt and useless, his greatest days are behind him, and it makes sense for him to accept the money and go. But I believe that Koepka and the PGA Tour are both very much missed. It’s easy to see Koepka setting the tone that the majors and other significant Tour events are the gold standard and that everything else is unimportant in a scenario where he remains on the circuit. Koepka has always favored the majors while deriding normal Tour events, it’s true. But neither his skill at competing nor his recent success can be disputed. His voice would have significance.
The loss of Brooks Koepka to LIV seems huge.
The First To Go
- Dustin Johnson
It’s difficult to speculate on what would have transpired if Dustin Johnson hadn’t entered the first LIV competition. Even his signing was last-minute, which serves as a reminder of how little room there was for error for LIV. Johnson’s departure, though, indicated that it was on, since he is the PGA Tour player with the most victories since Tiger Woods. LIV really existed.
There have been several players who have spoken about LIV’s future, but none have had an impact that even comes close to Phil Mickelson’s. The architect is he. The brains behind. For better or worse, LIV’s legacy and that of Phil Mickelson are inextricably entwined. The league is him. And as a result, he will never lose his position at the top of this list.
Original article posted on Golf.com
Photo credit: golfdigest.com