GOLF Sport

Opinion: Golf’s elite tours must find a way to live with LIV – for the fan’s sake

As another week goes by on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, LIV Golf was also in action, with American Talor Gooch winning the first event to be played in Australia as Greg Norman’s enterprise continues to “grow the game.”

Their intentions of growing the game and what that means is up for debate, but the reality is golf is a damaged sport with the drama that’s unfolded over the last year.

The Masters was the first time we got to see golf’s best go head-to-head on an iconic course in an iconic tournament for the first time since the 150th Open Championship last July – and that is how it will continue to be while the court proceedings rumble on in the background.

“The person who is worst off from all this is the golfing viewer,” says golf coach Simon Holmes.

“You and me, who love to watch the biggest events, are the worst off. All the other guys are unbelievably well off on the LIV tour, making millions just to sign up for it on paper.”

It’s been difficult for all involved in the sport to avoid talking LIV and everything that comes with that, it was announced the DP World Tour won its legal battle, giving them the power to suspend and ban LIV golfers from their events on the morning of the 87th Masters Tournament, and Holmes – who also works for Sky Sports as a pundit in their PGA Tour coverage – admits the organisation have had to find a balance in their broadcasts when discussing the situation.

“We have the rights to the PGA Tour, but I’m not against LIV and I don’t think any of the Sky Sports guys are against LIV unless they have been a former player or are on a committee or something like that. Perhaps then you would have some conflicts of interest,” he continues.

“I always think both sides need to be told on the coverage. We are there to promote the tournament that we are covering. It could be that Sky Sports aren’t completely unbiased because if we’re covering a PGA Tour event, that’s one thing.

“If we are discussing a news event, then I think all sides of the story should be told so the viewer is best informed with what is actually happening.”

Some people say politics and sport shouldn’t mix and perhaps that argument was best put forward at Augusta, where the build-up to the first major of the year was dominated by a PGA Tour vs LIV narrative – as much as the players tried to deflect it.

“When I was watching Phil Mickelson birdie four of the last six holes at the Masters, I wasn’t thinking ‘god, I hate Phil Mickelson because he’s gone to LIV,’” Holmes says.

“I’m thinking how unbelievable it is that a 52-year-old is the only person attacking the back nine. I wasn’t thinking of the Masters as LIV vs PGA Tour – maybe some people were thinking that – I wasn’t focused on that.”

Golf is broken at the moment, filled with divide that has created toxic relationships, throwing any hopes of a normal Ryder Cup out of the window – the future surrounding that tournament is a whole other story.

The DP World Tour has won their case, yet it will be a while before we find out how the PGA Tour will fare, with eight of the 11 LIV golfers who originally sued the PGA Tour in August backing out of the lawsuit, leaving just Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein as the remaining plaintiffs in the trial set for January next year.

Until then, we will have to wait until 18 May when the PGA Championship gets underway at Oak Hill before we see the elite back together again. With such an unprecedented situation, how do we get out of this?

“I would like to see who the person is that’s going to pull the two pieces of cloth and stitch them back together again,” concludes Holmes.

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“The best golf is going to be seeing the best players play in the biggest tournaments, at least that’s my personal belief.

“Are guys like Cameron Smith going to be able to prepare for the next major, he’s only going to play a few tournaments and none of them are going to be competitive, so will his game be damaged by a lack of competitive chances?

“Will Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson go up against the other players in a tournament and really show us who is the best player? How do you bring it back together? It seems very difficult – but I don’t think Jay Monahan (PGA Tour commissioner) wants that or Greg Norman wants that. Maybe while those two guys are in charge (of their respective tours), then that won’t happen.”

Regardless of how this ends, as more PGA Tour and DP World Tour players get picked off to join what some still class as an exhibition circuit, for now it is the fans who are missing out on seeing the best the sport has to offer. Unfortunately, it seems like it will stay that way for a while.

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