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PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf: Former tour regular Daniel Summerhays weighs in

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What’s happening in professional golf these days worries and saddens Utah native Daniel Summerhays, the former BYU golf All-American who earned nearly $9 million in PGA Tour earnings before quitting playing full-time in 2020.

“My heart aches to see all these great players go in different directions,” Summerhays told the Deseret News on Sunday, a few hours after fellow Utah player Tony Finau placed second to Rory McIlroy at the RBC Canadian Open, one of the most entertaining and successful. star-studded PGA Tour events in recent memory.

However, Summerhays says that, in the long run, he believes “competition can make a product better” and that the PGA Tour will come out of LIV Golf’s “challenge” as a better organization and tour because of it.

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“Even though I really don’t like seeing some of the best players in the world divided up into different places, I really think the PGA Tour will be a better product for the players, fans and sponsors because of the (competition).” — Daniel Summerhays, former PGA Tour regular

“Even though I don’t really like seeing some of the best players in the world divided up into different places, I really think the PGA Tour is going to be a better product for the players, fans and sponsors because of the (competition),” Summerhays said. “I think the competitive nature of the (new rivalry) will bring out the best, if that makes sense.”

Of course, Summerhays, 38, was referring to the controversy that has dominated professional golf in recent months: A new professional golf circuit funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and officially called the LIV Golf International Series has attracted several renowned golfers. away from the PGA Tour, which has been the highest level of professional golf for nearly a century.

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Pat Perez, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Bryson DeChambeau have joined, or will soon join, among others. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson is rumored to be considering it as well.

The 37-year-old Johnson, No. 15 in the official World Golf Rankings, reportedly received $125 million from the LIV to leave the PGA Tour and play in eight events a year over the course of the next four years. He is the highest ranked player to date to have made the move.

Mickelson, despite being 51 years old, will receive $200 million to move to LIV Golf, which is drawing considerable criticism due to alleged widespread human rights violations by the Saudi Arabian government. Mickelson defended his decision again Monday at a US Open news conference in Brookline, Massachusetts.

“It allows me to have more balance in my life. It allows me to do things that are off the golf course that I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I prioritize those who are important to me, the people who are important to me in the future. This allows me to spend more time with them and be more present.”

Despite the schism, the aforementioned stars will play in the US Open this week at The Country Club, near Boston, because the US Open is sponsored by the United States Golf Association and not the PGA Tour. It should be an interesting and tense meeting, especially after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan attended CBS’s broadcast of the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday and described the Saudi-funded league as a “series of exhibition matches.” and accused her of spending billions of dollars on players without getting a return on her investment.

PGA Tour officials say LIV Golf is a “sports laundering” attempt by the Saudi Arabian government to launder its reputation through golf.

“I would ask any player who has left, or any player who ever considers leaving, ‘Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?'” Monahan said, three days after suspending all 17 members. on the PGA Tour who competed in the inaugural event won by Charl Schwartzel at the Centurion Club outside London. Schwartzel pocketed a whopping $4.75 million for the win.

Meanwhile, McIlroy and third-place finisher Justin Thomas have also tried LIV Golf, and specifically commissioner Greg Norman, who has 20 PGA Tour wins.

“This is a day I will remember for a long, long time,” McIlroy said. “Twenty-first win on the PGA Tour, one more than one other person (Norman). That gave me a little extra incentive today and I’m glad I did.”

Utah’s Finau, who earned $948,000 for second place, was apparently not asked by reporters in Toronto about LIV Golf after his best tournament of the 2021-22 season. Summerhays’ brother, Boyd, is Finau’s swing coach, but Daniel Summerhays said he has “no idea” what kind of stance Finau has taken in the new golf league.

“I haven’t talked to him about it at all,” Daniel Summerhays said.

Finau recently told Sports Illustrated’s Bob Harig that LIV Golf contacted him, pretty much repeating what he told Golf Monthly last January.

“Competition is always going to be present at any level of any sport,” Finau told SI. “Now we are seeing that in golf. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to (personal) opinion. But having competition is a natural thing. It is something positive. There is a lot of talk about it.

“It’s something that my team and I continue to look at and what it looks like for us,” Finau continued. “It’s a natural thing to have competition in sports and that’s what we’re seeing now with LIV Golf.”

Summerhays, who became a volunteer assistant coach for the BYU men’s golf team in January but isn’t sure if he will continue in that role next year, said McIlroy and Thomas are understandably more upset with the new league than he is because he hasn’t been on tour for several years. Still, he sees many problems with LIV Golf.

“When you have a fixed course every week, and there’s no in and no out, it’s not great,” Summerhays said. “I mean, you had guys last week (at LIV) shooting 30 over par almost. And you don’t have to compete for your spot every week. I think the quality of golf could deteriorate.”

Summerhays believes that the PGA Tour will continue to be the premier golf circuit in the world.

“The PGA Tour produces the best players in the world because it’s so competitive week to week, and it’s a meritocracy, not a monopoly,” he said. “I think they have that advantage because they know that the cream of the crop is really going to come up on the PGA Tour, as opposed to maybe the LIV Tour, which is just kind of a little traveling group of exhibition matches, (which) is the way that Jay Monahan said it today.”

Would Summerhays consider joining LIV Golf if this happened six years ago, when he was in the prime of his Tour career?

“I would have to think about it,” he said. “Financially, it sure sounds good to not have to worry about anything anymore, really, honestly, if you played well and signed a guaranteed contract. But at the same time, there’s this little urge in you that says you don’t want it easy, necessarily.”

Summerhays, who was third at the PGA Championship and tied for eighth at the US Open in 2016, said he remains a big believer in the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts and hopes that never changes, as that bags and fields are scrutinized like never before.

“The PGA Tour does a lot in every community it enters,” he said. “I don’t know the exact numbers, but I read something a couple of years ago that the PGA Tour has donated more to charity than all other professional sports combined. That’s a big problem.

“The tour has raised more than $2 billion in charitable donations,” he continued. “I think sometimes people forget that it is a non-profit organization and that it does a lot of good. That’s the purpose of this, and it’s an amazing model. So it would be hard to leave.”

Professional golfers Daniel Summerhays and Tony Finau shake hands before playing a scramble on Saturday, June 13, 2015, at Nibley Park Golf Course in Salt Lake City. Summerhays played his son Jack and Finau played Grace Summerhays, daughter of Boyd Summerhays.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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