Check out the unfiltered views of our writers and editors each week as they break down the hottest topics in sports, and join the conversation by tweeting us. @golf_com. This week, we discuss the LIV Golf event in Portland, the response from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, Tiger Woods and more.
1. The battle between the PGA Tour and LIV took its long-awaited turn this week, as the beginner circuit played on American soil for the first time, going head-to-head with the Tour. Let’s start with the bigger picture: What was your takeaway from having two-man tours going against each other? Can competition be good? Could you dilute the product? Anything else?
James Colgan, Assistant Editor (@jamescolgan26): Did No helping the PGA Tour hold the John Deere, one of the weakest events annually by field strength, against LIV’s inaugural trip on American soil. Now, I don’t think the LIV event proved much of anything (other than maybe it’s a good idea for Talor Gooch to sit out the next few pressers). But I’m not sure the Tour’s “best players, tournaments and courses in the world” argument was any use watching Bryson, DJ and Brooks with… JT Poston.
Sean Zak, Senior Editor (@sean_zak): How about three! The Irish Open was also happening. Competition in this sense is nothing more than diluted fields. The LIV field is not good. The PGA Tour course is not good. The DP World Tour field was not good. The JP McManus pro-am would blow them all out of the water. The bottom line is that it’s okay not to have professional golf every week.
Josh Sens, Senior Writer (@joshsens): Okay Sean. There is no market for that much golf, at least not one that warrants the money many players would argue they deserve. As for the two events that were happening in the United States, my main takeaway was that they underscored the extent to which the dividing lines in golf fandom seem to be solidifying, with two sides yelling insults back and forth. The parallels with our politics are as discouraging as they are clear.
2. As for the actual play, Branden Grace won and cashed the biggest check of her life ($4 million), and the team of Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch and Pat Perez won the team portion of the event, with Pérez earning around a million great, despite shooting a Saturday 80. What do we do with all this? While there is something to be said for playing for a lot of cash, could the quality of the game diminish if players still take home a large sum regardless of its ending?
Pendant: I think there is something in the format of the team, even if the current use of LIV is crooked and inauthentic. Almost every other major professional sport thrives based on fans’ loyalties and rivalries with certain teams. Why wouldn’t it work in golf?
Zack: Dustin Johnson said it is plus more motivated to win LIV events than regular Tour events, given the size of the purse. Hmm! So maybe it’s about the money? It always has been. But I still don’t buy what DJ sells. I bet he tries harder at home to St. Andrews this week than he did at LIV Portland.
senses: DJ cried after winning the Masters. I don’t doubt money motivates him, but playing for significant trophies clearly does as well. Whether guys like him can continue to do both long-term will be a huge factor in how this fight plays out. As to whether the big guaranteed paydays hurt or help the quality of the game, I don’t know. The bigger question is whether it makes things more interesting for the fans. In my opinion, he doesn’t.
3. Two events in, is LIV working?
Pendant: If your definition of success is ‘creating a legitimate rival to the PGA Tour product for gamers,’ then yes, LIV has been a success at two events. There are real events, which pay a lot of money and attract legitimate professional players. If your definition of success is “creating a legitimate rival to the product of the PGA Tour for the fans,” then no, it hasn’t been a success. Through two events, there hasn’t been a single compelling reason to see the product on the course.
Zack: LIV London was all about getting to the finish line. Get an event completed. LIV Portland was all about momentum, opening up the wheel of content, and apparently Greg Norman became much more visible. Normalization is working to some extent. The biggest story of the week is that LIV is kicking off its 14-event season a year ahead of schedule. That means that they to know they will double their number of signed players in the next 6-8 months. That’s great evidence that they think it’s working.
senses: I’m with James on the first definition of ‘work’, and it will continue to work that way as long as the Saudis keep the tap running.
4. The PGA Tour and DP World Tour were not left without fighting back, as they strengthened their alliance in a new 13-year joint operating agreement between their organizations. As part of the deal, the PGA Tour will increase its ownership stake in European Tour Productions from 15% to 40%, providing a cash injection to boost the purses, and the deal also ensures that from 2023 the top 10 of the DP World Tour will receive a PGA Tour card for the following season. Good moves? Is not sufficient?
Pendant: not seem from no one happy with the current deal between the PGA and DP World tours. Will more money solve that? I don’t know. But I do think it’s good for the morally correct version of golf’s future to have the two major professional tours working together.
Zack: Big moves. Strong and sustainable movements. But we will not see the effect of movements for many, many months yet. As stated above, the biggest issue this week is that LIV is moving forward with its implementation plan even faster than previously imagined. And in the meantime, will we be waiting for the strategic alliance to be demonstrated until the end of 2023?
senses: I’m not sure what other moves the tours could make, but it’s also not clear to me if they’ll be enough to win the fight they’re trying to win. What all these upheavals seem to indicate is that the four majors will gain even more primacy, with golf starting to look more and more like tennis, with a small handful of events that mean a lot to fans and players alike, and the rest of the calendar was filled with the events of the most hardcore fans.
5. A notable rules sequence occurred during LIV play on Friday, when Brooks Koepka hit his ball into the water, then was able to look into a television camera to determine where his ball crossed the red line to make his landing. Now, that won’t work for us regular hackers, but would you like to see replay in play for rules dilemmas, where available?
Pendant: Replay has been a horrible, useless, and very bad addition to all major professional sports. It’s a pandora’s box of nonsense. A real nightmare for the rhythm of the game. A cacophony of shit. No, it’s not a good idea to add that to golf.
Zack: That would be a slippery slope towards GPS trackers in golf balls. Until baseball has robotic umpires, golf, too, should mostly be treated with the naked eye.
senses: If it could be done without slowing down the game, I realize a big yes, I think that would be a good thing. Sure, there have been plenty of hiccups with golf reps. But the video reviews have also led to greater clarity on some important moments. They have even helped lead to some clever rule changes.
6. Psst… Tiger Woods will play golf Monday and Tuesday at the JP McManus pro-am in Ireland. And then again the following week at the Open Championship, in what will be his first official start since the PGA Championship. What do you hope to see from him before the last major of the year?
Pendant: I’m looking to see Tiger walk four straight days on a relatively flat golf course without his gait or swing falling apart. I think we Will check it out. And if the wind picks up, beware: with the distance factor mitigated, he could think his way into contention.
Zack: It’s not so much what I want to see from Tiger as what I want to see from Mother Nature. It’s going to be sunny and DRY all week in St. Andrews. The course was smooth last week. He is firming up and will be very strong by the time practice rounds begin next week. That’s great for TW.
senses: While we watch the weather forecast, let’s hope it’s windy. If he’s quiet, these guys will do things to the Old Course that we don’t want to see, no matter how firm and fast he is. As for Tiger this week, I’m with James. It’s about him being able to walk and swing without too much pain.
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