why golf star abandoned peers for rebel tour

Four months ago, Brooks Koepka suggested any players who defected from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf were sellouts.

This week, he will tee up on the rebel tour’s first American event in Oregon, having clearly changed his mind.

In February, he said: “They’ll get their guys. Somebody will sell out and go to it.”

ULTIMATE GUIDE: Everything you need to know for Wimbledon 2022

READ MORE: Kyrgios spits at fans in Wimbledon uproar

READ MORE: Serena stunned by rookie in ‘crazy’ boilover

And this week: “Opinions change. I feel very comfortable with the decision I made. I’m happy, and did what’s best for me.”

Koepka cited a knee injury that has taken a toll on his body and the desire to spend more time with his family as factors in his decision. He did not mention the multimillion-dollar signing bonuses LIV Golf — which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund — has handed to players. Koepka is one of the biggest names, along with Dustin Johnson and six-time major champion Phil Mickelson.

LIV Golf’s American debut comes at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in the tiny Oregon town of North Plains, home to just 3400 people, where members are boycotting the club in response to a plot to smuggle a Saudi teen facing a murder charge out of the country .

Earlier this month, former world No.1 and fellow four-time major winner Rory McIlroy suggested Koepka and others were duplicitous “to say one thing and then do another thing.”

Koepka said he can “think whatever he wants”.

“He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family, I’m going to do what’s best for me and my family. Can’t hate on anybody for that, and like I said, opinions change, man.”

Players who spoke to reporters on Wednesday (AEST) skirted questions about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Bryson DeChambeau suggested critics should just ignore the Saudis’ past sins, and focus on “the good that they are doing and what they are trying to accomplish rather than looking at the bad that’s happened before”.

“I think moving on from that is important, and going and continuing to move forward in a positive light is something that could be a force for good for the future of the game.”

Pat Perez, a three-time PGA Tour winner who also spoke against LIV Golf before changing his mind, said he was “just here to play golf”.

“I’ve got an opportunity to play golf, and that’s it. I understand the topics you’re trying to bring up, and they’re horrible events, but I’m here to play golf. That’s my deal.”

There’s clearly more money to be made in LIV Golf than there is the PGA Tour. The 48-man field will compete for a $29 million purse, with an additional $7.2 million prize fund for a team competition. Charl Schwartzel won the inaugural event and took home $6.9 million.

PGA Tour events are played over 72 holes with a cut after the second round. You miss the cut, you go home empty handed. LIV tournaments are played over 54 holes with no cut, and even the last-place finisher gets paid.

The relatively short duration of the LIV Golf events has other implications. The Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) governing board will meet at St. Andrews during the week of the British Open, where it’s expected to discuss whether to award LIV Golf events world ranking points.

The OWGR guidelines indicate a standard format of 72 holes, with 54 holes acceptable basically for developmental tours or offseason series.

Guidelines also state tournaments must average a 75-man field over the course of the season. This could be a problem for a circuit that promotes 48-man fields. LIV Golf has invested $435 million into the Asian Tour and has four “International Series” tournaments this year. It could claim those fields as part of its league and reach the minimum.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is a requirement that a new tour comply with the guidelines for at least one year before it gets admitted. LIV Golf has altered or delayed plans for a full schedule and set teams, and providing stability could be key in gaining approval.

But while LIV Golf meet none of this criteria, the OWGR handbook also says the board can admit or reject any new tour regardless of compliance and change criteria at its discretion.

Even if LIV Golf does get accepted and is awarded ranking points, a change to the OWGR ranking formula due to start in August, before LIV’s fourth event, could minimize just how many points are on offer.

The new system will determine the strength of the field using a calculation based on a statistical evaluation of every player in the field, not just those among the current 200 in the world. Gone will be the minimum points awarded to various tours.

The Portland field has 13 players outside the top 200, which may indicate the field is very weak, and so if ranking points were awarded, they would not be big.

In an attempt to strengthen itself, rather than discipline players, the PGA Tour has announced changes to qualification guidelines to hopefully introduce their next stars sooner.

The PGA Tour is awarding 10 cards to European tour players, and is bringing back a direct path to the big leagues from Q-school, in a 13-year deal that goes through 2035. The PGA Tour will also increase its stake in European Tour Productions, the tour’s media and commercial branch, from 15 per cent to 40 per cent.

It will also allow the top European pros more access to PGA Tour events, and grant the top-10 from each year full access.

To date, the PGA Tour has sought to fight off the LIV Golf threat purely through discipline. The tour suspended every active member who competed in the first LIV event, and those who play in Oregon will face the same fate unless they resign their tour memberships.

For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!

#golf #star #abandoned #peers #rebel #tour

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.