2023 U.S. Open: With blanks to be filled, players have little option but to wait, see … and play golf

2023 U.S. Open: With blanks to be filled, players have little option but to wait, see … and play golf
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LOS ANGELES – So many questions, so few answers.

It’s been a week since the stunning announcement that the PGA Tour was entering into an agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, and there remains little clarity on the future of what the professional game will look like next year, let alone over the next decade.

Jay Monahan and Jimmy Dunne have hit their talking points. PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan has reportedly signaled his intentions, too, to LIV leadership. But the players who would actually be participating in golf’s new world order?

Full-field tee times from U.S. Open

“I literally know as much as you,” Matt Fitzpatrick said.

Added Cam Smith: “There’s definitely a lot of curious players.”

Collin Morikawa said that he doesn’t “know anything,” and then transitioned into talking about a youth initiative he was working on. 

When a reporter suggested that a lot of players were “clueless” about the news last week, Jon Rahm interrupted to say, “Add me to that, by the way.”

“It’s just not easy as a player that’s been involved, like so many others, to wake up one day and see this bombshell,” Rahm said. “That’s why we’re all in a bit of a state of limbo. … It’s a state of uncertainty that we don’t love.”

Because uncertainty creates angst. Angst creates a distraction. And distractions simply can’t be tolerated during these legacy-defining major weeks.

That’s why Rory McIlroy may have been the smartest one of all Tuesday. Having been pressed for his immediate reaction last week in Canada, he canceled his news conference here at Los Angeles Country Club – one of just two top-9 players who didn’t meet with the press on the eve of the year’s third major.

When asked why, McIlroy said, “Because I’m the one that’s already talked about it.”

Rory McIlroy had no interest in talking about the state of the game on Tuesday at the U.S. Open. Instead, he’s focused on his game.

Everyone else was left to try to answer what, at least right now, are unanswerable questions about a deal that still has significant hurdles to clear, especially with the Department of Justice looming large and a U.S. Senate subcommittee opening an inquiry on Monday.

By now, we get the gist. That players were shocked at the timing. Confused by the partnership. Angered at being left in the dark.

Even as a Tour policy board member, Patrick Cantlay was all of those things, too – shocked, confused, angered – and now he will be tasked with voting on the agreement on June 26. Needing, in his position, to represent the entirety of the membership, he has spent much of the past week quizzing Monahan, the independent directors, other influential players on the board. He’s as plugged-in as anyone, and yet, “It’s still too early to have enough information to have a good handle on the situation.”

And that’s true for players on both sides of golf’s civil war.

Players react to PGA Tour/Live Golf merger

Players react to PGA Tour/Live Golf merger

Dustin Johnson said he’s been assured by Al-Rumayyan that LIV will continue next year, but nothing beyond that.

Someone asked Smith whether he’d attempt to reapply for PGA Tour membership, if LIV ended up folding.

“That’s a pretty hypothetical question,” he said. “I’m unable to answer that one.”

Another reporter queried Brooks Koepka if he’d be OK with any sanctions the Tour could impose on him prior to a return.

“It’s a lot of what-if games,” he said. “I’m not going to play the what-if game.”

It’s a massive story. The story of the moment. But it’s a story that, for now, doesn’t get past the first few paragraphs.

More will come out in a few weeks, when Cantlay and McIlroy and the rest of the 10-man Tour policy board meet to sign off on the agreement.

But more important is what transpires in a few months, when the all-important details are hammered out – assuming, of course, that they are hammered out at all.

Until then, the focus can return to majestic Los Angeles Country Club and handicapping the list of favorites here at the 123rd U.S. Open. At least, in a welcome change, we can make some educated guesses about that.

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