BROOKLINE, Mass. — “Do you have any scoop for me?”
Joaquin Niemann smiled from the edge of the green.
This has become the theme of the US Open week. Who knows what? The media wants privileged information from the players. That’s typical. But these days gamers also want inside information from the media. LIV’s Saudi-backed breakaway tour has stolen big names from the PGA Tour (Misters Mickelson, DeChambeau, Johnson, Reed and more) and now there’s an obvious question: Who is the next one?
“Everyone wants to know what’s going on and who’s going and who’s not,” Matthew Fitzpatrick said earlier in the week.
Hence Niemann’s question.
But I had one of my own. what were they its plans? For several months, Niemann’s name has been mixed up in rumours. Sergio Garcia, who played in last week’s LIV event, has long been one of Niemann’s golf mentors. The two also share an agent.
However, Niemann confirmed that he is not looking to make the leap.
“Nothing to tell about me. I want to do my best to beat all these guys,” he said, pointing to the practice area, where the best players dotted the scene. “They’re still here and as long as they’re here, I’m not going anywhere. No possibility.”
Niemann is among the youngest and most talented stars on the Tour. The Chilean golfer, winner of the Genesis Invitational in February, is just 23 years old and is ranked number 17 in the world; no one younger is ranked higher. He’s the kind of player who would make a splash at LIV, which so far is mostly populated by golfers past their competitive peaks. But not now.
“If I was 40? Maybe it would be different,” Niemann concluded.
LIV has now snagged an all-time great in Phil Mickelson. He has Ryder Cup legends in Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood. He has Masters champions that include Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel. He has made a noticeable dent in the world ranking. But the next step for Greg Norman’s breakout series would be to lock up a superior player at the peak of his powers. Johnson, at No. 16 in the world, is currently the highest-ranked pro on tour, followed by DeChambeau (No. 29) and Kevin Na (No. 33). Rumors swirl around other big names. They hear the whirlpool.
“Honestly, I am very happy. You actually asked me,” Xander Schauffele said. You are the first. No, I’m not going. I want to play against the best players in the world and they are on the PGA Tour. Nobody who has left has moved the needle for me.”
Not everyone was so eager to have the discussion. Brooks Koepka, whose brother, Chase, was at LIV camp last week, responded to a reporter who asked if he would consider making the jump.
“I haven’t given it much thought,” he said. “I don’t get it. I’m trying to focus on the US Open, man. I legitimately don’t get it. I’m tired of the talk. I’m tired of all this stuff. Like I said, you guys are throwing a black cloud over the US Open. I think sucks. I actually feel bad for them for once because it’s like… a situation. We’re here to play, and you’re talking about a [LIV] event that happened last week.”
Collin Morikawa got angry on the same topic.
“One of my best friends just texted me about this tweet from a random account saying, hey, there are these rumors,” he said. “It’s crazy to see and hear all these rumors because that’s what they are, right? I can read all this stuff, but everyone tells their kids not to believe what’s on the internet. That’s what we’re doing. That is exactly what we are doing right now.”
Morikawa’s comments were a reminder that beyond the Rory McIlroys, Justin Thomases and Jon Rahms of the world, there is a layer of Tour professionals who would rather not think too much about other tours, let alone address their dynamic in press conferences. .
“Who doesn’t like gossip, right? But it also becomes a distraction, and you don’t want to focus on this or that,” she said. “You want to focus on playing golf. I’m not going to blame any part of my golf game. Put that aside. But it’s an added distraction from thinking about this, thinking about that, and worrying about who’s going to ask what.”
Therein lies the puzzle. Those who haven’t been asked want to, just to set the record straight. Others, constantly answering questions, are fed up with the sideshow it has created. Some players are undecided about their future. Others, like Johnson, DeChambeau or Pat Perez, were apparently committed to the PGA Tour, until they stopped being.
One thing is for sure: the questions are not going to go away. This represents a seismic shift in the status of men’s professional golf. As a result, everyone is curious. Some PGA Tour professionals hope that no one else will leave because they are concerned about the preservation of their tour. Others are hesitant to leave and at the same time reluctant to miss out on the huge guaranteed money that is handed out. So the talk continues.
“I’m sure it’s the same with all of you. You can’t go anywhere without someone bringing it up,” Thomas told the media earlier in the week. “It’s sad. This is the US Open, and this is an amazing place, a place with so much history, an amazing course, so many stories, and yet that seems to be what all the questions are about.”
Thursday morning means real, counting golf shots. It means simpler stories about birdies and bogeys and rough and greens. The start of the US Open means that players, fans and the media have another place to focus their attention.
Rumors will roll in the background.