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LIV dropouts fail at opportunity to prove worth of tour

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — At the same time the US Open leaders were on the first tee Saturday afternoon, a former champion with the build of an NFL fullback was busy on the 18th hole, finishing a round that had him down two touchdowns.

Bryson DeChambeau was 14 shots off the lead. His closing birdie for a 76 and a total of 8 over 54 holes probably didn’t impress his new Saudi employers, who probably didn’t have a temporary tie for 55th in mind when they signed golf’s Incredible Bulk with a guaranteed lead. – front deal north of one hundred million dollars.

DeChambeau, not the most famous and decorated Phil Mickelson, is the top LIV golfer on the planet for this obvious reason: age. Bryson is 28 and Phil is 52. Lefty got all of LIV’s (mostly unwanted) attention because he’s the biggest name with the biggest payday, reported at $200 million.

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But despite winning a Grand Slam 13 months ago, Mickelson left The Country Club on Friday looking like a haunted mess after missing the US Open cut. The stress of his four-month exile had clearly taken its toll on him, and if he never regains his former form, well, the Saudis will need some of their other recognizable faces to play the occasional big golf tournament.

And DeChambeau and his friends haven’t played that kind of golf at this US Open.

Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau
USA TODAY Sports

What a golden opportunity the LIV guys just sent whistling out of bounds. More than anything, emerging leagues yearn to go toe-to-toe with the establishment to prove they belong. After LIV CEO Greg Norman and his renegade cast of traveling stars weathered harsh criticism from 9/11 families and human rights advocates for associating with the Saudis, they needed something to change the conversation a lot. earlier than later.

That something was the 122nd US Open.

If an LIV golfer won this on Sunday night, it wouldn’t have had the same impact on golf that Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III guarantee he did well had on professional football and the way the old AFL was perceived. .

But it would have been a significant game changer in more ways than one. Fans caught up in the idea that PGA Tour dropouts had sold out for blood money might have taken time out to remember that at least some of the LIV guys can still play at a world-class level. And everyone in and around the sport would have been given another reason why it would be a bad idea for all four major championships to ban players from LIV in the future.

After all, the very purpose of major tournaments is to identify the best players in the world, regardless of where they come from and who they associate with.

Phil Michaelson
Phil Michaelson
fake images

That’s what the LIV circuit could have accomplished in the first two events that featured their extra babies. And yet, in the first match out of London, instead of Mickelson and Dustin Johnson rising to the occasion by moving up the leaderboard in the funky 54-hole, no-cut team concept format, LIV got Charl Schwartzel to beat Hennie du Plessis for the $4 million first prize.

That ending was acceptable for a circuit just trying to start and finish a tournament without completely embarrassing itself. The US Open was a completely different story, with completely different stakes. With USGA CEO Mike Whan saying he could definitely foresee a day when his governing body would make it more difficult for LIV players to compete in the tournament, Mickelson, DJ, DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and company could have responded. throwing a 3 iron at Whan’s. vision.

Instead, only four of LIV’s 14 players on the US Open course made the cut, with those 14 posting a combined 36-hole score of 64-over-par. Mickelson missed the cut by eight shots and was outscored by 10 fans. Reed, the 2018 Masters champion and Ryder Cup killer, bowed out of the tournament on Saturday with a 75. DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion, who has been limited by injuries and who ultimately made a cut from 2022, it was also reduced to a no. -person.

At 2-plus heading into Sunday, Johnson was LIV’s last man standing, though it would take him half a Father’s Day miracle, beating the 16 players in front of him, to win his second national championship.

Assuming that doesn’t happen, DeChambeau, not Johnson, will be the face of this big mistake. Though he’s been a shadow of his former self this year, before and after wrist surgery in April, he’s the quitter the PGA Tour fears the most. DeChambeau has speed, power and the timing benefit. If he makes a full recovery and doesn’t let her overly analytical mind and persistent immaturity conspire against his talent, DeChambeau could return as the kind of dominant force he once had the nerve to describe the par-72 Augusta National as a pair- 67.

But man, Norman and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund surely could have used some of that strength and bravado this week, after Rory McIlroy accused younger players leaving the PGA Tour of “taking the higher road.” easy” by taking the guaranteed money.

Instead, LIV’s biggest names have done the PGA Tour a favor by staying small at The Country Club. They have lost a significant battle in the fight for the soul of the sport.

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