What many see as downtime for professional golf doesn’t mean things have gone quiet. In fact, there has been plenty of activity, such as:
Lexi in Las Vegas
There was a point in time well into the second round of the Shriners Children’s Open last week when Lexi Thompson was inside the cut line, trying to become the first woman to make the 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event in more than a half-century.
A couple of late bogeys cost Thompson the weekend, but her performance was still an overwhelming success, not just for her but for women’s golf and the game in general.
It’s no secret that Thompson struggled through the first half of this year but found at least a part of what’s been missing before the Solheim Cup, and it showed at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.
She seemed like just another golfer chasing the weekend, and that is meant in the best sense. It wasn’t just that she was a female. It’s that she showed how well she can play and how well that stacked up against the men.
It also raised the question of whether the degree of separation between the men’s and women’s game has narrowed. It seems that way.
The distance difference is still the factor that separates the two, but Thompson demonstrated the overall difference may be less than it historically has been. Thompson may not have made the cut, but she made a point.
This goes to the heart of LIV Golf’s challenge: What does winning there mean?
The money is so plentiful that Brooks Koepka seemed genuinely surprised that his individual victory in Jeddah earned him another $4 million. Most of us would be aware of that, but Koepka being Koepka – and LIV being built on money – had to be reminded of what came with the trophy.
As for Talor Gooch, he captured LIV’s individual season championship thanks to three wins and seven other top-15 finishes in 13 starts, earning him more than $33 million this year. If you’re wondering, that’s about 3½ times what he won in his PGA Tour career.
By any measure, it’s a special season. Most American golf fans haven’t watched much LIV golf, but they know how good Koepka, Cam Smith, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Joaquín Niemann and a handful of other LIV players are.
“Listen, you’ve got 48 guys. I don’t know how many major champions and Ryder Cuppers and Ryder Cup captains and hall-of-famers, but you’ve got 48 of the best players in the world, with some legends and some current great players, major champions,” Gooch said Sunday.
“When you’re playing all kinds of courses across the world in different climates, in different parts of the world and back home in the States and everything over the span of a season, to beat everybody over the course of that, it speaks volumes to the quality of golf that you’ve played.”
Jon Rahm won four times in the PGA Tour season, and he probably will be the player of the year. No question the depth of talent on the PGA Tour is far superior, but winning is still difficult, and Gooch has blossomed into something he wasn’t on the PGA Tour.
For all he accomplished this year, Gooch isn’t yet eligible for any major championships next year because LIV events do not qualify for Official World Golf Ranking points. He was 42nd when he played his first event in 2023 and, despite three wins, he has fallen to 201st.
Gooch can go through qualifying for the U.S. Open and the Open Championship, but he won’t be eligible for the Masters or the PGA Championship.
That’s where the schism hurts the game, limiting the times when all of the best players are together. But it’s also the reality of LIV’s place in the game today.
What’s the deal?
It had better be getting closer if it’s going to beat the self-imposed end-of-year deadline for reaching an operating agreement.
It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that enough progress could be made that the deadline is extended into early next year to accommodate finding an agreement with which each of the parties can live.
Last week, Jason Gore, a PGA Tour senior vice president, sent a memo to players updating them on the process, citing the interest of private investors in the negotiations.
Given the mood on Capitol Hill regarding the proposed deal, it didn’t help that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince publicly stated his support of the Palestinians after Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel.
The focus remains on getting a deal done among the three parties, but this was never going to be easy. The PGA Tour isn’t going to give up control of its product, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund wants a measure of influence and an assured return on its potentially heavy investment, and the DP World Tour wants to strengthen its position.
It’s unclear how open the PGA Tour might be to taking on private investment, but it could help soften the view of Saudi Arabia’s involvement if it is tempered by American money as well. Given the mood on Capitol Hill regarding the proposed deal, it didn’t help that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince publicly stated his support of the Palestinians after Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel.
A difficult and largely unpopular proposed alliance has gotten more difficult.
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC
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