LIV Golf’s First Field Announcement Sparks More Question Marks
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Dustin Johnson
We all have a childhood story like this: A summer vacation road trip. You’re roughhousing with your siblings in the backseat and the noise gets loud — too loud. Finally, your parents turn around and exclaim something to the effect of, “If you don’t knock it off, we’ll turn this car around right now…”
Welcome to professional golf’s summer vacation, where some of the game’s bigger names are making noise on their impending road trip. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left wondering whether the traditional powers-that-be will offer a true punishment or just idle threats for the time being.
The field list for the first official LIV Golf event was finally announced Tuesday evening. Dustin Johnson headlines a handful of big names that doesn’t include Phil Mickelson and leaves plenty of lingering questions for those wanting to know what it all means.
The quick and easy answer for those weightiest queries can be summed up by a simple shrug emoji as we wait for the dust to settle.
What we do know is that of the 42 players announced to be competing at Centurion Club in London next week (six more will presumably be named later), none will have to make a long-term commitment to becoming a member of the LIV league anytime soon.
We also know that those who haven’t signed up for the initial tournament can still join full-time.
Similarly, there’s been no final declaration on potential major championship appearances for LIV Golf members. As of now, there is no provision for any of the four which states they can’t play — if qualified — but we live in a fast-paced world where the rules are constantly changing.
It all adds up to plenty of speculation as to the end game of these players, but for now, the main takeaway is essentially: If there’s smoke, there might be a fire.
Executives from the PGA TOUR and its DP World (formerly European) counterpart have sternly proclaimed that any member who neglects their recent refusals to grant players a release to compete on the LIV circuit will be subject to disciplinary measures.
However, they’ve yet to publicly announce what those disciplinary measures might be — and the common belief is that the lawyers are currently trying to figure out the extent of their reach.
Of those three-and-a-half dozen players who have already committed to next week’s field, Johnson is the most significant — and perhaps surprising — name on the list.
An ambassador for RBC — which also happens to be the title sponsor for next week’s RBC Canadian Open — his likeness had already appeared in promotional campaigns for the tournament, meaning this announcement wasn’t only a surprise to the public.
“Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years,” his agent David Winkle told me via text message Tuesday evening.
“Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it. Dustin has never had any issue with the PGA TOUR and is grateful for all it has given him, but in the end, felt this was too compelling to pass up.”
Other names on the entry list for Centurion include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford.
Among those not listed is Mickelson, who hasn’t competed in a PGA TOUR event since February — skipping both the Masters and his title defense at the PGA Championship — amid speculation that he was bound for an impending LIV Golf schedule instead.
It’s believed that he will be one of the final six names added to the field before next week, though.
All of which serves to thicken a plot, which has grabbed hold of the underlying theme in professional golf this year.
In this rapidly moving news cycle, chances are there will be another additional to the story by the time you finish reading this one. But the main point will preserve: For perhaps the first time ever, professional golfers are being given an option to ply their craft elsewhere — for better or worse.
“Free agency has finally come to golf,” Greg Norman, the CEO and commissioner for LIV Golf said in a statement, which accompanied the field announcement.
“This is an opportunity to start a movement that will change the course of history by bringing new and open competition to the sport we all love. The desire shown by the players to participate in LIV Golf demonstrates their emphatic belief in our model and confidence in what we’re building for the future.”
With every revelation in this story, there are presumably more head-scratchers as to what it all means.
Will these players jump ship from the traditional tour full-time? Or will they be made to walk the plank? What will be the exact penalty? Which other players will join them? What will it all do to the eventual balance of power in the world of professional golf?
Even with this latest announcement, so many of these questions continue to linger.
One question about LIV Golf has already been answered: Yes, you will be able to bet on it.
“We will offer outrights and some tournament matchups,” Jeff Sherman, VP of Risk Management for SuperBook Sports, said. “Outside of the PGA TOUR, the other tours don’t do too much [handle] with us. Just not close to the interest of the PGA TOUR.”
If there’s an analogy to be found here, it won’t be much different than betting on any other non-traditional league.
“It’s the like NFL [PGA TOUR] vs. USFL [any other tour],” Sherman continued.
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