It is good to know that one can rely on some things: for example, Donald Trump’s contempt for the mores of playing golf continues to plumb the depths. He has previously been pictured driving a golf cart across greens at his course in Bedminster, New Jersey, and it was at the same place last week that he pitched up nearly 10 minutes late to play in the pro-am ahead of the third instalment of the Saudi-financed LIV Golf series, which was won last night by Henrik Stenson. Trump would never care about keeping other people waiting.
However, I could not suppress a smile at a report in The Times about events on the 2nd hole last Thursday. Trump was playing with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who manages the sovereign wealth fund which backs the series, and two of LIV Golf’s marquee names, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. (Trump’s son, Eric, was also in the group, so the previous president had subverted the customary fourball into a fiveball, but by his egregious standards that was a mild blemish.) Tom Kershaw’s story told how Trump drove up to the green to look over his own shot, either unaware or uncaring of Al-Rumayyan lining up his shot to the green. “After a chorus of whistles,” wrote Kershaw, “Trump did eventually reverse his presidential buggy out of harm’s way.”
Aside from behaving like a buffoon in his buggy, Trump has come out big-time in favour of LIV Golf, saying: “All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all its different forms, will pay a big price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big ‘thank you’ from PGA officials who are making Millions of Dollars a year.” Aside from his regularly irrational use of capital letters, he clearly has not relinquished any of his resentment against both the PGA Tour for removing a tournament from his course in Miami – where the 2022 LIV season will finish in October – and the PGA of America for taking away this year’s USPGA Championship from Bedminster because of the violent events at the Capitol on January 6 last year.
Moving on. There were 13 new names in the 48-man field at Bedminster compared to the first tournament at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire in June – out have gone such as Andy Ogletree, Blake Windred and Kevin Yuan and in have come major champions DeChambeau, Stenson and Patrick Reed. Bubba Watson, twice a Masters winner, has just moved to LIV, too, but the chances of them recruiting anyone presently in the world top-10 (their highest-ranked player is Johnson at 18th) may at least in part depend on how their application goes to have their tournaments count for points on that same Official World Golf Ranking. That may not be straightforward given that the relevant committee includes people who are distinctly on the other side of the fence – Jay Monahan and Keith Pelley, respectively the heads of the PGA and DP World (formerly European) Tours.
There are also player concerns. Ernie Els, winner of four major championships, is now 52 and not a LIV target. Last month he told John Huggan for Golf Digest: “The rest of the world is playing 72-hole strokeplay events. You have a cut after 36 holes and that’s how you get your ranking and make your money. LIV Golf doesn’t do that…Just because you’re playing for $20 million a week doesn’t change anything. [In fact it’s $25 million but that doesn’t change this either.] It’s still 54 holes. You can’t have a 48-man tour playing no-cut golf and expect the world to take you seriously.” Although I think Messrs Monahan and Pelley are taking LIV Golf very seriously.
LIV says it will have a 14-tournament season next year. More immediately, the next tournament of 2022 is scheduled for Boston from September 2-4, the week after the FedEx Cup series ends on the PGA Tour. Before the sixth of the eight tournaments this year, the Presidents Cup will have been played. By that point we will likely know if such rumoured LIV newbies as Cameron Smith, the Open champion and world No. 2, and/or Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, have indeed taken the plunge and if Els’ scepticism re LIV and the world rankings has been borne out.
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