Last February, when it appeared as if LIV Golf’s grand dream had fallen into chaos after Phil Mickelson’s hot-sauce comments about the tour’s Saudi backers had been made public and players were distancing themselves from the bold new endeavor that Rory McIlroy had declared “dead in the water,” Peter Uihlein went the other way.
He called LIV Golf and asked to join.
“I figured I might as well take a chance,” Uihlein said last month.
That chance earned Uihlein more than $11 million this year, nearly triple what he won in 126 starts on the PGA Tour. Uihlein finished second twice and fourth once in seven LIV starts, earning a $4 million bonus for finishing third in the season-long individual competition.
Is it because Uihlein found a comfortable place to play or because the competition level was different?
It probably depends on which side of the LIV Golf fence one stands.
“My wife and I, before the decision was made, we had discussions. She said, ‘What’s going to make you happier?’ … Getting back to doing something kind of different in the team format, traveling internationally, it just appealed to me.” – Peter Uihlein
Uihlein understood the blowback that would come with joining LIV Golf. The American also felt the personal tug to travel the world, to get closer to the younger version of himself when he played tournaments in more than 30 countries fresh off a spectacular amateur career that included two Walker Cup appearances and a U.S. Amateur title.
“I’m obviously financially in a much better place, and I feel like from a life standpoint, I’m just straight-up a lot happier doing this, being a part of this,” said Uihlein, 33. “My wife and I, before the decision was made, we had discussions. She said, ‘What’s going to make you happier?’ … Getting back to doing something kind of different in the team format, traveling internationally, it just appealed to me.”
Uihlein played five years on the PGA Tour, with no victories and limited success. That factored into his decision.
“This is the first time in my golf career I’ve had a guaranteed spot to play the following year. I’ve never had that. Is that playing a factor? I don’t know. Maybe,” Uihlein said.
“I wish I could have played better (on the PGA Tour), wish I could have done more out there. It wasn’t the case.
“At the end of the day, I’m happier. Whether or not that has translated into better golf, I’m not entirely sure. I feel like deep down I made the right decision.”
After playing at Oklahoma State (left photo, between teammates and future touring pros Rickie Fowler and Morgan Hoffmann), the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour, Uihlein hopes he has found a home with LIV Golf.
Uihlein is content to follow a different, more global path. When he finished his college career at Oklahoma State, Uihlein began globetrotting. He was successful enough to be named the European Tour’s rookie of the year in 2013 and he finished 64th in the FedEx Cup race in 2017-18, his first season on the PGA Tour.
It never felt quite right, however.
Uihlein wasn’t necessarily looking for more. He was searching for something that fit him better than the PGA Tour. Before LIV arrived and before COVID interrupted life in early 2020, Uihlein was already considering his options.
“The PGA Tour is more lone wolf. That’s fine. It fits some people, but it didn’t fit me,” Uihlein said.
“I was interested in getting back overseas because I just wasn’t really happy. As weird as that sounds, we play for a ton of money on the PGA Tour. We play great places. I just wasn’t happy. I wasn’t playing well.
“I wanted to get back overseas, then COVID happened. Everything fell through. It was in my mind and something of interest to me to going back to being a bit more global. It’s what I like. It’s what my wife likes. We like traveling.”
One of LIV Golf’s selling points to players is its limited (14 events in 2023) schedule, allowing for more down time. For Uihlein, it means more chances to go to more places. He intends to play some International Series events on the Asian Tour, in which LIV Golf is an investor, when he’s not playing LIV events.
“The PGA Tour is like the Seminole crowd, and we’re more like the new-school crowd: music, laugh, have fun, wear shorts. It’s just different. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different.” – Peter Uihlein
He won’t be returning to the PGA Tour, having been suspended for his participation with LIV Golf. The suspension is for at least four years, Uihlein said. He has no intention of returning to the PGA Tour, nor does he see himself as a “rebel.”
“Not really a rebel; more an opportunist,” Uihlein said. “I felt like this was a great opportunity to do something different. In my mind, it was no different than leaving college to go to Europe. It was something different. You didn’t just have to do the Korn Ferry and the PGA Tour. You could do something different.”
LIV Golf sells itself on being different: the shotgun starts; the team competition; the 54-hole, no-cut format; the all-day music.
It all fits Uihlein, who remains based in Jupiter, Florida.
“When we’re out playing at Medalist (Golf Club in nearby Hobe Sound), we’re driving convertibles, we have music, shirts are untucked, we’re laughing and having a good time. You don’t do that at a Seminole or a Pine Valley.
“The PGA Tour is like the Seminole crowd, and we’re more like the new-school crowd: music, laugh, have fun, wear shorts. It’s just different. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different.
“It’s not what people are used to, the khaki-pants, blue-blazer crowd. But in 30 years’ time – if LIV is still around in 30 years – then all of a sudden it becomes normal. You’re not really thinking anything of it.
“There’s a lot of smiles around here when you talk to players. There are a lot of happy faces.”
Peter Uihlein’s face is one of those.
© 2022 Global Golf Post
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