Cut line: LIV players knew defecting would have risks, now they’re fooling themselves
In this week’s edition, we applaud some much-needed clarity in the world ranking debate with LIV Golf, celebrate the celebrity and play of golf’s newest star and question Phil Mickelson’s attempt at gaslighting.
Truth to power. Whatever the outcome between the Official World Golf Ranking and LIV Golf, the precarious position of those who jumped to the Saudi-backed league is, to be clear, of their own making.
While many LIV players argued this week at the circuit’s penultimate event that any ranking that doesn’t include the likes of Dustin Johnson and Cam Smith can’t be considered “official,” Harold Varner III provided the most relevant context.
“For me, I think we knew what we were getting into. I think it’s easy to sit here and say what could happen, what should happen. But obviously, for me, I knew what was going to happen,” Varner said. “I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew what could happen in my career and I accept that.”
The arguments for LIV Golf events to be included in the world ranking – most notably from Graeme McDowell who said, “the word ‘official’ has to go away from OWGR if they don’t take care of the players out here” – do hold some merit, but every player who jumped to the new league knew there would be risks. Those who claim otherwise are only trying to fool themselves.
Tom Terrific. It’s easy to be pulled into the hype surrounding Tom Kim, the wunderkind who became the first player since Tiger Woods to win twice on the PGA Tour before turning 21 last week in Las Vegas.
The South Korean is now 15th in the world ranking, up from 149th at this point last year and has quickly established himself as one of the game’s brightest with his play and personality.
“I’m playing on the PGA Tour as a 20-year-old. It’s hard to get tired from this. I’m a 5-year-old at Disneyland for sure,” he said.
The Tour created the Player Impact Program to identify and reward those players who move the needle both competitively and collectively using all manner of ratings and indexes, but if the circuit wanted to streamline the process they could just use Kim as the benchmark going forward.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Back benching. Unlike other professional sports, golf doesn’t lend itself to second-guessing, but Sunday’s finish at the Shriners Children’s Open did appear to create an opportunity for some bona fide Monday morning quarterbacking.
Patrick Cantlay was tied with Tom Kim at 24 under when he hooked his 3-wood tee shot at the 72nd hole well left of the fairway and into a bush.
Instead of taking a drop out of the bush, Cantlay attempted to play the original shot and only advanced his ball to the next bush. By the time he was done, he’d sign for a triple bogey-7 and tie for second place.
Awful, right? Particularly for a player who almost shot 59 a day earlier and is one of the Tour’s best ball-strikers — but consider the process.
“I thought if I could get it back in the fairway, I’d have a chance, and I figured it was worth the risk because I didn’t think I’d have too much of a chance of getting it up and down from the brush there,” Cantlay said.
As much as it would make for a worthy debate, neither Cantlay’s decision nor his process was the problem. The issue was execution.
El Nino. Earlier in his career, before he became a catalyst for petulant behavior, Sergio Garcia was “El Nino,” the hard-charging and carefree youngster who pushed Tiger Woods to the brink at the 1999 PGA Championship and became a pillar of the European Ryder Cup team room.
That time appears to be over.
Garcia is set to lose his European tour membership after failing to meet the minimum requirement of four starts this season. Without European tour membership, he would not be able to play next year’s Ryder Cup.
“When I see that so many people are against [Garcia playing] … if the team is better without me, I’d rather be out of it,” Garcia told SI.com.
Garcia has largely become an unsympathetic figure in recent years but El Nino, the young man with limitless potential and a passion for life, will be missed.
War of words. It was interesting this week that while some on the LIV side of the pro golf divide continue to call for compromise and inclusion, Phil Mickelson doubled down when asked his thoughts on the current rift.
“Pretty much all the best players played on the PGA Tour, at least for the last 20 years. That will never be the case again. I think going forward you have to pick a side. You have to pick what side do you think is going to be successful,” Lefty said. “I firmly believe that I’m on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.”
Mickelson went on to opine that the Tour is “trending downwards” and given his status as the unofficial front-man for LIV Golf and repeated attempts to create some sort of inroads between the two leagues, the landscape suggests it’s wildly early for a victory lap.
Tweet of the week:
Remember when the biggest issues in golf were pace of play and distance concerns?