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LIV Golf Gets Real, Tour Rebuttal, US Open Week

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Phil Mickelson made his return to professional golf at LIV Golf’s debut event in London last week.

Every week, check out the unfiltered views of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in sports, and join the conversation by tweeting us. @golf_com. This week, we discuss LIV Golf’s first event, the PGA Tour’s response, and what to expect at the US Open this week.

1. Well, that was a week. But let’s start with next week. The US Open, maybe you remember it! — begins Thursday at The Country Club, in Brookline, Massachusetts. Of the stories that revolve around the event, which one catches your attention the most?

Nick Piastowski, Senior Editor (@nickpia): the the story is Phil and the LIVers, but I’m very interested in The Country Club. ooooooooooooooooooooo school. Blind shots. Up and down and left and right. Problems everywhere. Which Phil will no doubt find.

Josh Sens, Senior Writer (@JoshSens): I can’t argue with that. It has been more than 30 years since the event was here. The course has been renovated with excellent reviews. People I’ve talked to about it say the conditioning is pretty perfect for the event: the rough ones are especially juicy, and the green ones get crispy. The better the course, the more interesting golf will be. That rule should apply here.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan greg norman majed al souror

After a chaotic week, LIV Golf has a professional game in disarray. Whats Next?

By:

Sean Zack



Claire Rogers, Social Media Manager (@kclairerogers): Phil against the crowd. I am very curious to see how Mickelson is received at home this week at our national championship! Will they clap? Will they boo him? Will they put aside all the LIV stuff and just wait for it to hit the bombs? This feels like a reality show unfolding before our eyes, and I’m here for it.

Dylan Dethier, Senior Writer (@dylan_dethier): Rory McIlroy (and Justin Thomas) have planted their PGA Tour flags. I’m fascinated to see the dynamic between the players in his camp and the pros who made the jump to LIV. How will it be with McIlroy and Mickelson? Will they even see each other? Will they be paired together? And of course, who’s going to make the next leap?

Exclusive to InsideGOLF Members: Join Sean Zak and Dylan Dethier at 11 a.m. Monday for a live chat about what LIV Golf’s first on-site event was like, plus what the new league means for the game. Not a member? Join here for just $20/year.

2. Okay, let’s talk about LIV. The controversial Saudi-backed league began play last week at London’s Centurion Club; there were bells and whistles with a team draft, shotgun starts and gigantic bags, and golf was played, with Charl Schwartzel claiming the crown. We will ask some questions here. First, your biggest takeaway of the week?

Piastowski: Golf was lifeless. I’ll leave it like this.

senses: Regardless of what you think about the league, it has gained far more traction than any of us predicted in this space. Also, as I said last week: the divided opinions on it are a mirror of our own deeply divided politics. Anger and accusations in both directions are a depressing reminder of problems much bigger than golf.

rogers: MANY people are involved. And I don’t just mean golfers. Jessie J performed, trumpets were played on the first tee, and Dennis Quaid narrated a publicity video. It all felt like Coachella…with a golf tournament. It was a huge production that was clearly well planned, so I’m curious to see what else they have in store.

Thier: It definitely won’t go away! And, as with everything, opinions on the subject are becoming increasingly polarized and political. That will continue. I think the PGA Tour needs a response that includes updating its own product to ensure that the biggest events on the Tour are the envy of the golf world. So far, they have mostly stuck to the status quo.

3. Considering all the elements of the event: the play, the format, the players, the promotion, what surprised you the most?

Piastowski: In fact, I didn’t care about the team concept. If the players invest in it. Our Sean Zak reported that the winning team, don’t ask me the name of the team because my God, it was rigged to include certain players, so that’s it. But I like the idea. If there were real franchises, and players huddled around the last player on the last green and whatnot, maybe there could be something there.

senses: I wasn’t expecting a mainstream event or broadcast. But the hustle and bustle of the graphics and the carnival aspect of the promotional stuff around it, it was all more intense than I expected.

Nick Faldo, Jim Nantz

Nick Faldo criticizes the Saudi tour and its players; Jim Nantz feels ‘betrayal’

By:

Nick Piastowski



rogers: There was so much money and talent involved in the event, but the team names and logos reminded me of a local minor league baseball tournament. I expected more in that department.

Thier: I was thinking backyard baseball, Claire. I don’t think your local Rotary club can afford to sponsor the Fireballs. What surprised me the most is how quickly some of these last-minute signings seemed to come together. There is cash available and it is available now. DeChambeau was out and then, poof, he was in. Same with Patrick Reed and Pat Perez. More will follow. Who will they be?

4. Shortly after the event began, the PGA Tour suspended its members who were playing in London and said it would do the same for any players they might follow. Two questions: What do you think of this movement? And with a week of LIV on the books, what’s the Tour’s next best move, in terms of protecting their turf?

Piastowski: The Tour had to make the move, but without buy-in from the majors, it doesn’t make sense. It seems that some of the LIVers are upset about all this, but a few million should help them. As for the next best move on the Tour, sit down with your stars, listen and act on what they want, get some kind of commitment and invest and promote them heavily. Do you want fewer tournaments? Cool. Do you want alternative events? Cool. Whatever it is, do it. LIV won’t win with the 45+ set, but they could if they continue gobbling up the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and Talor Gooch.

senses: I’m not sure what other answer the Tour could give players at this point. In terms of protecting their turf, it’s about the big leagues and the other four of the Five Families of golf that run them. The Tour will need his backing if it wants to avoid further defections.

rogers: I think the Tour had no choice but to suspend the players. They were a bit cornered on the decision, but I wonder if they’ll have to compromise somewhere along the way. They lost a lot of players to LIV this week. I think the Tour’s next best move is to a) adjust its schedule to give players more time in the off-season and b) work with the best fans in the game to ensure the Tour remains the place they’ve always dreamed of playing. That means highlighting heritage and tradition more than money.

Rory McIlroy

The LIV reaction of the stars of the Tour? Rory will watch, and suspensions are good

By:

Nick Piastowski



Thier: I mentioned this before, but the Tour needs some kind of super series so that the fans know when to pay attention and when they will see all the best. That means 12-18 events (including majors and Players) with high prize pools, creative format tweaks, franchises, team skins, and all the best players going head-to-head. The best move for the Tour to protect its own turf is to relax its existing rights deals and give people the best golf TV product they’ve ever seen.

5. Earlier in the week, Mickelson spoke about his absence from the morning reading‘s Bob Harig, admitting he had a gambling problem, then kept relatively quiet for the week and tied for 33rd in the actual event. What did you do with Phil’s return?

Piastowski: That he was a little there. Though, I guess he wasn’t expecting much more at this point. It’s all really sad.

senses: No wonder his game was rusty. What struck me was the solemnity of him. He has admitted that he is struggling with personal issues. So obviously not all is rosy in his world. I kept thinking how miserable he must be. I’m sure she looked at him. This can’t be how or where I wanted to be with his career right now.

rogers: A month ago, I thought Mickelson would be the face of LIV Golf. He was lost in the crowd once the event started, which I think was for the best. I will consider his start at the US Open as his official comeback.

Thier: Pretty grim response from the three writers above me, but I’m not sure what the other side of this might be. If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s definitely no such thing as a free nine-figure deal. Pursuing the heralded “free agency” version of golf, Mickelson seems more committed than ever, and I’m not sure that makes him happy. I am fascinated to see how and what he does at the US Open this week. Mickelson got absolutely paid out. But at what price?

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy shoots 62, wins the Canadian Open and digs into Greg Norman

By:

Nick Piastowski



6. Boston loves sports and has no shortage of vocal fans. What do you think the reaction will be to Mickelson and the rest of the LIV contingent playing at Brookline?

senses: As a native of the area, I expect polarized reactions. Support for open throat and hard interruptions. Boston fans have a legitimate reputation for their passion and ruthlessness. They can also be funny wicked. The atmosphere will not be sober.

Piastowski: I’ll lean on Josh and agree that you’re going to hear some things. And if the USGA is in any mood, please put Phil in the Friday afternoon tee time, perhaps with DeChambeau and Reed, when the crowd is well oiled with Sam Adams.

rogers: I think it will be interrupted on the first few holes on Thursday, then I think the fans will just want to see some interesting golf. And they’ll cheer whoever gives them that, including Mickelson.

Thier: I think most golf fans generally know the LIV stuff, but most know that they like Phil Mickelson, and they like Phil Mickelson. Yours may be the most followed group, especially if you can string together a couple of solid rounds. But yes, there will be plenty of scathing comments from my fellow Bay Staters. It’s going to be a hell of a week.

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