Rory McIlroy placed the future of the PGA Tour on his shoulders, and he ended the season with an exclamation point a week ago with his triumph at the Tour Championship.
But LIV dominated the news in golf during the previous weekend. The PGA Tour was in its two-week “offseason,” thus a fresh group of LIVers entered the scene. World No. 2 Cameron Smith strengthened the legitimacy of the contentious breakaway circuit. The competition intensified as well: rookies Anirban Lahiri and Joaquin Niemann advanced to a three-way playoff but fell to Dustin Johnson. The biggest week yet for the Saudi-backed league served as a reminder that LIV and the PGA Tour are on distinct tracks and have little chance of compromising anytime soon.
But somewhere in the middle, there lies the DP World Tour, originally known as the European Tour. It sought to punish and ban LIV players from taking part in its tournaments, but an English arbitrator temporarily stopped that action. A few LIV players have participated in DP tournaments this summer since a hearing on the issue isn’t scheduled to begin until February. The BMW PGA Championship, which is taking place this week and is perhaps the biggest competition on the tour, will now include more than a dozen players. A few prominent PGA Tour players are also traveling to Wentworth after competing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, creating an unpleasant cross-circuit collision.
McIlroy was frank in discussing his travel expectations.
At his champion’s news conference at East Lake, he said, “I hate what [LIV] is doing to the game of golf. I hate it. I really do. Like, it’s going to be hard for me to stomach going to Wentworth in a couple of weeks’ time and seeing 18 of them there. That just doesn’t sit right with me.”
Not only McIlroy is preparing for stress. Matthew Fitzpatrick, the U.S. Open champion, expressed a more nuanced version of the same idea. “It’s going to be odd seeing certain people at Wentworth,” he said.
All eyes will be on how players from competing circuits interact—or don’t—as Wentworth approaches.
Sergio Garcia told Golf Digest, “I’m sure some guys will be tense about it [because] we’re going to go out there and play.” “What I’m going to do is support the European Tour and that’s all I can do. Whoever doesn’t like it, too bad for them.”
McIlroy and Garcia being on such opposing sides is a sign of the times considering that they were Ryder Cup partners at Whistling Straits in a very significant Ryder Cup only one year before. Ian Poulter, another of their colleagues from the previous season, is one of the athletes who has joined LIV in their antitrust action against the PGA Tour. He will also be on the field.
Martin Kaymer is using a distinctive strategy. Because he feels unwelcome, the former World No. 1 (and past European Ryder Cup winner) is missing the BMW PGA.
On Thursday at the LIV competition, Kaymer told Golf Digest, “Of sure, there will be tension there, which is why I’m not going. “I don’t know why I would fly to England and spend four or five days playing golf where you aren’t really welcome,” he said.
Golf Channel said that LIV professionals who participated “will be docked a six-figure fine but are not disqualified from competing.” Keith Pelley, CEO of the DP World Tour, also contacted the participating LIV professionals to let them know they weren’t compelled to take part in the pro-am on Wednesday. Additionally, he asked:
“Out of respect for our partners, our broadcasters and your fellow competitors, we would kindly ask you to consider not wearing LIV Golf-branded apparel during your participation at Wentworth,” he wrote in a memo. Certain LIV contracts have clauses requiring participants to compete while wearing LIV-branded attire.
Who will be there, then? Abraham Ancer, Garcia, Talor Gooch, Kevin Na, Poulter, Patrick Reed, and Lee Westwood are experts in the subject of LIV. PGA Tour athletes McIlroy, Fitzpatrick, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, and Billy Horschel are among those anticipated to participate.
The rest of the golfing world will be paying attention.
Original article posted on Golf.com
Photo credit: Eóin Noonan