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Could the PGA Tour and LIV Golf Possibly Coexist? Here's One Blueprint How

The split is widening between golf's preeminent tour and the Saudi-backed startup, and the game is poorer for it. Bob Harig proposes how they could live together.
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Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy are pictured with the Weekly Read logo.

Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy have wondered recently whether it's time for some meetings to return pro golf closer to the normalcy it had a year ago.

The acrimony continues, with peace seemingly a fleeting thought. The idea of any kind of common ground when it comes to the PGA Tour and LIV Golf seems impossible to imagine. Now.

But it’s clear that LIV Golf is not going away, as many expected. And as the LIV Golf Invitational gears up for its third event this week at Trump Bedminster in New Jersey, the rhetoric only will seemingly get worse, as the prospect exists for more players to defect.

Remember the Patrick Cantlay-Bryson DeChambeau duel at last year’s BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup playoffs? The six-hole sudden-death playoff won by Cantlay that helped propel him to the FedEx Cup title? Something like that can’t happen outside of the major championships now.

DeChambeau, just two years removed from his U.S. Open win at Winged Foot, made the move to LIV Golf and is no longer allowed to play in PGA Tour events. His choice. But the fact remains the sport is headed toward a fracture that those who are taking part in the new venture are willing to endure.

For some, that’s fine. Good riddance, they say. But the overall picture does not appear bright for the game. And the idea of coming together, however abhorrent that might seem to the PGA Tour leadership, might be necessary.

Rory McIlroy a few weeks ago wondered if it might be time for PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to take a call from LIV commissioner Greg Norman. Jon Rahm said at the British Open he’s upset there might not be a way forward to LIV players to compete for Europe in the Ryder Cup. A prominent sports agent in Europe, Chubby Chandler, told INews in the UK that “they all have to get around a table and talk. They will have a massive problem otherwise.’’

With that in mind, how could some sort of meeting of the minds between the PGA Tour (and thus the DP World Tour) and LIV Golf work? There are no easy answers here. But it doesn’t take long to come up with an outline of ideas that could be the basis for something that sticks. Here goes:

1. Allow PGA Tour players (and DP World Tour) to compete in LIV events

Compromise is key and without it there is no chance for any of this to work. But for there to be a way forward between the two entities, there can’t be suspensions of PGA Tour players. They need to be able to compete on both circuits. The question: how?

Norman has said he believes that LIV Golf is “additive.’’ He continually has stated he’s not looking to replace the PGA Tour or even thwart players from players doing both. But if you are going to play 14 LIV events – the League concept going forward – it’s impossible to meet the PGA Tour’s minimum of 15 events for membership.

So here’s the compromise: LIV reduces its number of events to 10, and the PGA Tour lowers its minimum for those competing in LIV events to 10. That’s 20 events total, including the major championships, with obviously the ability to play more on the PGA Tour if desired.

2. LIV Golf would help subsidize PGA Tour purses

If you pass that first hurdle, those who compete in LIV events could still be PGA Tour members. And in exchange for the rights to get any PGA Tour member to sign on, LIV in turn could subsidize purses for the events played opposite LIV events. Let’s say $5 million per event, or a total of $50 million if there are 10 LIV events. If Saudi’s Public Investment Fund can afford huge signing bonuses to players, it can afford this rather paltry sum when the end game will help make LIV money in the long run. So this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, in theory, would get a $5 million boost, which would go a long way toward helping the rest of the membership not able to play in LIV events.

3. There would have to be some sort of TV agreement

This could obviously be a sticking point. And where compromise again would need to be in play. Would the 10 LIV events come under the PGA Tour’s television rights agreement? That is a complicated issue, and would likely mean the whole thing would need to be renegotiated. Not a simple task. If so, how would revenue be split? Most likely, LIV would want to make its own TV/streaming deal and cash in. But the way the Tour’s rules are written, it would require a fee for its own players to play on another circuit at the same time as its own events. The Tour owns a player’s media rights. In exchange for allowing players to compete in LIV events, the Tour would most certainly want some sort of financial return.

4. How is the PGA Tour helped by this arrangement?

It beats seeing a slow trickle of players – which is bound to happen the longer this plays out – head to LIV. And while you’d possibly be losing a majority of the top 50 players in the world to 10 LIV events, at least you’d have them for 10 of your own with the possibility of more. No matter what you think of this concept, it's not great that Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, among others, won’t be playing in the Players Championship in March.

5. The Schedule

The way LIV is set up now, five of its eight events this year are scheduled for after the FedEx Cup playoffs. That was not done randomly. LIV saw September and October as a good time to play a majority of its tournaments. There’s nothing to keep that from happening with a PGA Tour collaboration.

Let’s say they go with this hypothetical 10-and-10 model. LIV could potentially play once a month starting in February through July – a total of six events – and then leave four for September and October. Norman has said he is not interested in playing tournaments against legacy PGA Tour events, so a LIV player could still compete in the four majors, the Players, the Genesis, Arnold Palmer and Memorial. He’d need two more, which could consist of playoff events or others if not eligible. And if he falls behind in points, he’s got tournaments after the Open to try and earn a place in the playoffs.

6. The World Rankings

Ranking points would no longer be imperative for LIV events. With access to the PGA Tour, LIV players would benefit from earning points in those events. It would actually incentivize them to compete in more PGA Tour events if points are necessary. The LIV events, with their big purses and season-ending team championship would, in theory, be compelling enough.

7. A chance for success

If you are of the mindset that you don’t want LIV to succeed at all, that you hate the Saudi funding source, that you prefer the PGA Tour as it is now structured with no outside competition, then these ideas are not for you. And if the PGA Tour is of the same mindset, it can continue to do what it is doing by suspending all PGA Tour members and not allowing access to its tournament. And that is what could happen. But it would also face the risk of continually losing top players to the big money.

With some common ground, LIV’s 48-player fields with a good number of top players and the added team component might gain some traction among golf fans. It wouldn’t be every week, but a diversion from the regular PGA Tour grind for six months. And then something else to perhaps embrace after the FedEx playoffs. The majors would still be king, as would the Players and a majority of the favorite PGA Tour stops.

Those events that go up against LIV events would get enhanced purses and players competing in them an opportunity to gain ground on the LIV players, who would not be earning FedEx points. And perhaps those tournaments could be rotated.

It would also be helpful if the LIV events ended on Saturdays, thus giving the PGA Tour event opposite it a stage to itself on Sunday.

8. Last thing

If all of this happens, something for LIV to consider: drop the shotgun starts. Go to a two-tee start with eight groups of 3 each of the first two rounds, then go to twosomes of both tees on the final day. It’s still a condensed window of golf, which is one of the objectives. And far easier to follow.

Sergio’s Angst

To again highlight just how divisive this whole situation with LIV has become, Sergio Garcia had no trouble resigning his PGA Tour membership in the wake of joining LIV Golf. But dropping his DP World (formerly European) Tour membership was not something he wished to do. The Spaniard had hoped to play events in his home country and remain eligible for the Ryder Cup. Jon Rahm at the Open came to his defense on that matter.

But at the end of The Open, Garcia told the Spanish website ten-golf.com that “I like to play where they want me and on the European Tour right now I don’t feel loved.’’

Garcia, 42, won the 2017 Masters and the 2008 Players Championship and spent more than 300 weeks among the top 10 in the world.

But he is most accomplished at the Ryder Cup, where he has played in the competition 10 times, with a 25-13-7 record. He holds European records with 28.5 points and 25 matches won.

The criticism of LIV players was apparently too much.

“I have given more than half of my life to the European Tour and I wanted to continue playing it, but I am not going to be where they don’t want me,’’ he said. “It is very sad to receive such treatment for a personal and professional decision. If they treat you like that, it’s not worth continuing.

“It is the first time that I made a decision thinking only of me and my family without leaving the European Tour because I didn’t want to leave it. We will enjoy what we have and we will play where they want us. I haven’t officially communicated it, but I’m going to do it.’’

Fore! Things

1. Tony Finau came from five back to win the 3M Open for his third PGA Tour victory and first since the Northern Trust last August. The comeback was the biggest since Sam Burns overcame a seven-shot deficit in May at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

2. Rickie Fowler, who is playing in this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, dropped out of the top 125 in FedEx Cup points to 129th following the 3M Classic. He’s got two events to secure his place in the playoffs after missing for the first time last year.

3. Darren Clarke, who won the Open at Royal St. George’s in 2011, became just the fourth player to add the Senior Open title when he captured the championship on Sunday at Gleneagles in Scotland. He joined Bob Charles, Gary Player and Tom Watson as the only players to accomplish that feat.

4. Tiger Woods dropped out of the top 1,000 in the world last week. At the end of 2019, he was ranked sixth. Just prior to his car crash in 2021, Woods was ranked 50th.

Joe on Tiger

Tiger Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava went on the Dan Patrick Show last week and gave some insight into what he believed went wrong at the Old Course, where Woods missed the cut after shooting scores of 78-75.

“It wasn’t like he played poorly but the putting just didn’t seem to be there, the short game wasn’t quite there,’’ LaCava said. “I think he’s working so hard to get stronger and healthier. He’s working on his long game, he’s working on his endurance. And I think he’s neglected his short game a little bit at this point. And that showed over there.’’

LaCava could only guess at a future schedule for Woods, saying he hoped he would play the Hero World Challenge in December as well as the PNC Championship with his son Charlie. And he said he’d love to spend some time with Woods in Florida prior to any and all golf to give him some motivation. “Get him ready in any aspect you need,’’ LaCava said.

Speaking of Tiger’s Schedule ...

Woods gave no indication after the Open when he would play again. He said he had no plans. He also downplayed the idea of ramping up his schedule in order to be more competitive at the majors in 2023. Then again, he wasn’t going to commit to anything now. And since he played it coy this year, it’s quite possible he does so again in 2023. Justin Thomas disclosed at St. Andrews that Woods started telling him last year that he would be at St. Andrews. “Yeah, he reminded me many times that he planned on beating me here at this tournament for quite awhile,’’ Thomas said prior to the tournament.

So what could a possible Woods’ schedule look like in 2023? Here’s a guess:

> Hero World Challenge, Dec. 1-4, Albany, The Bahamas. This is Woods’ annual tournament benefitting his foundation. He will be there regardless. Why not play? The 20-player field offers an easy event to showcase his game, and world ranking points are available, too.

> PNC Championship, Dec. 17-18, Grande Lakes, Orlando. Woods played last year, so this seems a lock. It’s a two-day exhibition in which he can ride a golf cart if he deems it necessary. And Woods has enjoyed this event the last two years playing with his son, Charlie.

> Genesis Invitational, Feb. 16-19, Riviera, Los Angeles. This would mean skipping the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where Woods posted his last top-10 finish: a tie for ninth in 2020. Torrey presents numerous issues for Woods at this point, but you can’t count it out. Genesis seems the safer bet simply because Woods hosts the tournament. He’s never won at Riviera, but it’s an easier walk than Torrey.

> Players Championship, March 9-12, TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. This would rule out the Arnold Palmer Invitational the week prior and the Honda Classic – near his home in South Florida – which follows the Genesis. Woods doesn’t seem at this point capable of playing consecutive weeks. And even two weeks off between events could be a problem – which this would be if he does play at Riviera. But it’s perfectly positioned a month prior to the Masters, and given how Woods has spoken favorably in support of the PGA Tour in the LIV Golf battle, he’d likely want to be at the flagship tournament.

> Masters, April 6-9, Augusta National. If Woods is able to play golf, he will be at the Masters, trying to improve on his 47th-place finish from 2022. The question is how much golf he gets in prior. Perhaps it is only the Players? Maybe its Torrey Pines and no Genesis or Players? It seems, however, that if Woods wants to be competitive, he needs at least some tournament golf before showing up.

> PGA Championship, May 18-21, Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, N.Y. I’m not convinced Woods will be a lock for the PGA at Oak Hill, where he’s had little success in the past and faces the prospect of cool temperatures. The good news is he’ll have time to rest and recover prior. But does he prefer to play Charlotte’s Wells Fargo event two weeks earlier? Or even wait for the Memorial Tournament two weeks later?

> Memorial Tournament, June 1-4, Muirfield Village, Dublin, Ohio. If Woods plays the PGA and the U.S. Open, this seems far less likely. There is just one off week between the events. That would mean three tournaments in five weeks. Will Woods be able to handle that much?

> U.S. Open, June 15-18, Los Angeles Country Club. After missing the U.S. Open this year, this would seem an inevitable goal for Woods, especially since it is not far from where he grew up.

> The Open, July 20-23, Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, England. The site of Woods’ last Open victory in 2006, this like the U.S. Open seems a lock provided all goes well.

The Masters Countdown

The first round of the Masters is in 255 days, which leaves plenty of time to fret for those who are yet to qualify or unsure of doing so for the 2023 event at Augusta National. For those focused on the remainder of 2022, the next four events through the BMW Championship offer an opportunity to earn an invitation with a victory. And the 30 players who qualify for the Tour Championship will also assure a spot in the Masters.

There are expected to be nine official PGA Tour fall events as part of the 2022-2023 season, and winner of those tournaments will also earn Masters invites. The top 50 in the Official World Ranking at the end of 2022 will also get an invitation. The 2023 tournaments leading up to the Masters as well as the top 50 in the world two weeks prior are the other ways to get in.

For now, there are more immediate concerns. Just two official events remain on the PGA Tour schedule before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin with the top 125 qualifying for the playoffs. Then it’s the three-tournament playoff run concluding at the Tour Championship in late August. The new season begins two weeks later. And then the Presidents Cup is a few weeks after that.

Social Matters

> Scott Piercy’s troubles which led to a Tony Finau victory.

> Colin Montgomerie apparently has the secret.

> An eagle from way out.

> The Masters is a long way off but the work at Augusta National continues.

Next Up

The Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit is the penultimate event on the PGA Tour’s regular season schedule and will feature six of the top 30 players in the world, led by No. 4 Patrick Cantlay. Also in the field are Will Zalatoris, Tony Finau, Max Homa, Kevin Kisner and Cameron Young, the runner-up at the Open.

Former major winners Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Gary Woodland, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Stewart Cink will also be joined by Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.

The tournament is being played at Detroit Golf Club. This is the fourth year of the event, which began in 2019 and replaced the Quicken Loans National on the schedule.

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