The 2024 golf season is almost upon us. On the DP World Tour, the action tees off in Dubai next week. Before that, the PGA Tour gets underway on Thursday with The Sentry tournament at Kapalua in Hawaii. It has a very strong field but it does not have a defending champion: Jon Rahm’s defection to LIV Golf has put paid to that.
Among Rahm’s other victories in 2023 was the Masters Tournament. Unlike with Hawaii, it is safe to say that (barring injury) Rahm will be at Augusta to defend that title. And that is one of the things that LIV Golf has done and will continue to do until and unless some sort of accord is reached between it and the established tours. Under previous circumstances, the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass a month ahead of the Masters would be the first really eagerly anticipated tournament of the year. No longer, not now the likes of Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith and a cast of tens are no longer eligible to play in PGA Tour events. But those three will be joining Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland in Augusta in the second week of April. As has been remarked on more than one occasion – including I think multiple times by myself - LIV has had the effect of elevating the importance of the major championships considerably above where they had been before. And I suspect that will remain the case whatever the outcome of the apparently ongoing negotiations.
As the first major on the calendar the Masters enjoys a bigger build-up than any of the others, and doubtless previews this year will, as ever, address the perennial issue (that is, perennial since his Sunday blow-up of 2011) of whether McIlroy can at last win it this coming spring. But I think for many golf fans the most intriguing competition of the year may be provided by the women in the autumn, after the majors and the Olympic golf competition have been and gone. In the Solheim Cup at Gainesville, Virginia, in September, Suzann Pettersen’s European team will be attempting yet again to retain the trophy. The USA have not won it since 2017.
Finally, back to the men. We can expect to see Rahm and his equally eminent LIV colleagues in successive weeks in the UK this summer. They will be at Royal Troon for the Open Championship for four days from July 18 and then at the JCB Golf & Country Club in Staffordshire for three days from July 26 to compete in LIV Golf UK, the 11th event on that circuit’s 2024 roster. JCB is one of the world’s biggest companies in the field of agricultural and construction machinery. The company chairman is Anthony Bamford, a significant benefactor both to the Conservative Party and to Boris Johnson. Given the extensive commercial connections between LIV Golf and the last president of the United States (who might also become the next one), this might all have an element of Trumpism about it were it not for one thing. So far as one is aware, Boris Johnson does not play golf. Well, at least not yet.
You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com