For years I’ve knocked watching golf on TV. The many-hour commitment
to watch people whisper into the mic about an upcoming putt doesn’t
have the same… say gusto… as someone losing their mind after a March
Madness buzzer beater.
But Sunday’s Tour Championship was must-see TV and if couldn’t have
come at a better time as it shows the fatal flaw with the PGA Tour's
adversary - the Saudi-backed LIV Tour.
The winner of the Tour Championship pockets $18 million dollars,
adding a whole degree of pressure and encouragement to go out there
and shoot the lights out. Can you imagine the hustle if every player
in the Super Bowl was playing for $18 million? No result-based reward
is bigger in the world of sports.
Since it's a culmination of the PGA Tour season, it takes the FedEx
Cup Standings and gives the leaders a corresponding stroke lead before
the tournament start. This particular format caused a lot of
consternation as Fed Ex Cup leader Scott Scheffler earned a six stroke
lead before the tournament started. Somehow people thought six strokes
would be an insurmountable lead and nobody in golf has ever choked
away a big lead in the history of the game.
Naturally, Scheffler struggled on the last day and Northern Ireland’s
Rory McIlroy won his third Fed Ex Cup championship because his putter
was red hot in the final round. McIlroy began the tournament as the
No. 7 seeded golfer and notched a triple bogey on his first hole,
putting him miles behind the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world,
On the final day, the pressure got to Scheffler, who didn’t fall
apart, per say, but was tight, defensive and very obviously not his
usual self. But can you blame him with $18 million on the line? It
goes above and beyond the normal jitters you get when teeing off on
the first hole of the clubhouse with people around.
The kind of golf that was played on Sunday was scrappy, tense and
dramatic. When everyone predicted a boring finale to the 2022 PGA Tour
season, this is exactly what the doctor ordered.
And it’s something the LIV Tour couldn’t dream of pulling off. The
Saudis have poached some of golf’s bigger names with gigantic
contracts, but all this is paid up front and the LIV Tour is lacking
in two big things: any sense of competition or importance.
The PGA Tour has the prestige of the … well PGA Tour, where Jack
Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead and Tiger Woods made
The LIV Tour on the other hand, has Phil Mickelson and other slightly
over-the-hill golfers mixed in with some real solid talent. Since no
TV network took the plunge with the Saudi-backed golf tour, they
streamed the events on YouTube. Yep YouTube.
And oh boy, it was a real treat to pull that up and watch Phil
Mickelson spend more time in the woods than the greens. Phil is
essentially the LIV’s mascot who shows up for a few in between inning
promotions of pies getting thrown as his face.
Naturally Mickelson’s part in the LIV Tour has drawn some hilarious
ire, including people yelling “do it for the Saudi Royal Family!”
during tee shots. At this point, Shooter McGavin is more likeable than
I don’t necessarily blame players for wanting a bigger paycheck. If
you get more money for you and your family, by all means go after it.
But the LIV Tour’s setup appears to be a loose collection of golf
tournaments with impressive purses, but if you’re already making $200
million up front, what’s the point?
Along with this, strip away the prestige of other PGA events and any
sort of playoff system like the FedEx Cup system and you have
essentially the NFL Pro Bowl of golf.
Sure there are stars out there, but they're in a glorified exhibition.
This greatly changes the mindset if you’re playing to protect your
score for money and competitive reasons. The cat and mouse between the
leader and golfers within striking range is one of those games within
a game that the LIV Tour can’t really offer since their guys are
already ordering off the fancy menu at Red Robin and not just the kids
I will say I do enjoy that it is shaking up the sport and maybe the
PGA will make some key changes and more entertainment-based moves for
the fans. But I also contend that the PGA already has the more
entertaining product. Golf majors are not run by the PGA but rather
four separate organizations but with three being based in the U.S. and
one being based in the U.K. I don’t see them bending over backwards to
help the LIV Tour gain ground.
And besides, Phil Mickelson will just be swimming in bunkers when he
plays at those majors.
Still, I do enjoy that LIV is seemingly forcing some change in golf.
The PGA Tour already seems to be bumping up purse prizes, while
McIlroy and Tiger Woods have unveiled a “stadium series” where we can
see some sort of skills competition in an accessible sports arena.
My hope is golf does more things like the Waste Management Phoenix
Open, which has always been on par with the Southwest Washington Fair
because of the 16,000 seat “Coliseum” that they set up on the 16th
hole Par 3. About half-a-million people attend the Waste Management
Phoenix Open and it generally has a party-like atmosphere as the crowd
is rowdier and seemingly younger. Some have called this bad for the
sport because it doesn’t have the same decorum and classiness as say,
The Masters, but when beer cans erupt and are thrown onto the 16th
hole as someone sinks a birdie… I mean come on, that’s way better than
“A Tradition Unlike Any Other.”
The LIV Tour could have monkeyed with their format a lot to make it
more like a party, and other than Donald Trump being an amusing
presence for one event, I cannot remember anything about LIV golf this
year except for Phil Mickelson running from a bear in the woods.
Here is hoping that this tour turmoil will result in what happened
with the AFL and NFL merging: the creation of modern pro football.
Now bring back John Daly to the main PGA tour.