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Ranking the Golfers the PGA TOUR Can’t Afford to Lose to LIV Golf, Including Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm & Will Zalatoris

Ranking the Golfers the PGA TOUR Can’t Afford to Lose to LIV Golf, Including Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm & Will Zalatoris article feature image
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Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Morikawa

If the PGA TOUR thought players leaving for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series was going to stop at Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, it’s already several steps behind.

On Monday, Brooks Koepka became the latest star to reportedly leave for the newest golf competitor throwing millions (and more millions) of dollars at the game’s biggest stars.

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While the list of players to join LIV Golf range from major champions to journeymen looking for an automatic paycheck, one thing is clear: They’re not done yet.

More players will leave. Big names will leave. The PGA TOUR’s reactionary attempt at adding more events with big prize pools won’t be enough. None of this is a surprise. We’ve been over it in this space before.

The TOUR must act fast to keep more stars from leaving, starting at the top.

Brooks, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil and DJ are gone. More are on the way. Here is our ranking of players the PGA TOUR cannot afford to lose as LIV Golf just gets started.

1. Tiger’s Tier

Tiger Woods

Who knows what Tiger can do on the golf course at this point, but his impact off of it is undeniable. If the sport’s most famous — and wealthiest — athlete gives the sign that it’s OK, the TOUR is done.

2. Roaring Rory

Rory McIlroy

With Mickelson at LIV and Tiger limited, Rory is now the most famous ‘Best Player Available.’ McIlroy isn’t Woods, but he’s so professed his hatred for LIV and his love for the PGA TOUR that if he leaves, you know it’s over.

3. Code Red

Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris

All the players listed here are young enough and have proven they can win majors.

Koepka has one win since 2019, but he’s opinionated and marketable. Bryson can also be considered a major loss for the TOUR because he’s quirky, non-traditional and hits the ball a long way.

Scheffler is the No. 1 player in the world and reigning Masters champion. Zalatoris is climbing in popularity with runner-ups in three of the four majors.

JT has clearly moved ahead of Spieth, but the general public knows Jordan well. Rahm has spoken out so strong against LIV that if he changed his mind it would be a code red.

With Brooks and Bryson already gone, one of the others leaving would be a massive blow.

4. Proceed With Caution

Viktor Hovland, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Smith, Max Homa, Phil Mickelson

These golfers aren’t dangerous on their own, but if a group of them leave, the TOUR has an issue.

DJ gets a demotion here because of his “blah” personality and age. Hovland was often paired in conversations about the game’s next best talent with Morikawa. Schauffele is an Olympic champion and perennial contender. Matsuyama is an international star with a Green Jacket. Smith is a top-10 player with wins at this year’s PLAYERS Championship and Tournament of Champions.

Homa isn’t as accomplished as the others in this group, but his performance is catching up with his social media popularity.

Mickelson is in the twilight of his career and has burned many bridges, but his move to LIV still carried a lot of weight.

5. Overlook at your Peril

Patrick Cantlay, Sam Burns, Matt Fitzpatrick, Patrick Reed, Joaquin Niemann, Tony Finau

They might not be household names to the casual audience, but they are to those tuning in each week.

Fitzpatrick just won the U.S. Open, Reed is a major champion and Cantlay won the FedExCup last season.

Burns, Niemann and Finau are knocking on the door of major success.

6. International Favorites

Paul Casey, Adam Scott, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton

Most know Sergio, of course, but the rest split time between Europe and the United States and may not catch the attention of casuals at first glance.

7. Troubling En Masse

Billy Horschel, Sungjae Im, Abraham Ancer, Daniel Berger, Corey Conners, Jason Kokrak, Seamus Power, Harold Varner III, Marc Leishman, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland, Harris English, Lucas Herbert

None of these golfers get much attention, except with a loud outfit here or there — Jordan shoes from Varner III and pastels from Watson, who is way past his prime.

Others will pop on leaderboards from time to time, but none carry significant weight or reaction if they bolt.

8. No-Threat Has-Beens

Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Stewart Cink, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter

Poulter and Westwood are already gone, finishing 5-over and 8-over, respectively, in LIV’s first event. Fowler hasn’t been close to a win for years but has some commercial appeal. Day’s nagging back cost him chances during his prime.

However, because of their names and past, people will still tune in at times.

9. Still Too Early To Call

Cameron Young, Talor Gooch, Aaron Wise, Mito Pereira, Davis Riley, Maverick McNealy, Robert MacIntyre, Cameron Davis, Matthew Wolff, KH Lee, Sahith Theegala

Cameron Young, Mito Pereira and Davis Riley have put themselves in contention in recent weeks, but it’s too early to tell what anyone on this tier will make of their careers.

10. The Replaceables

Erik Van Rooyen, Adam Hadwin, Hudson Swafford, Mackenzie Hughes, Keith Mitchell, Luke List, Alex Noren, Sepp Straka, Chris Kirk, Si Woo Kim, Cameron Tringale, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Sebastian Munoz, Keegan Bradley, Tom Hoge, Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner

Nice players. Not moving the needle. Sorry.

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