Let the Players begin… which it will do at Ponte Vedra Beach on Thursday for the 50th time since
its inception in 1974. Three years ago the Players Championship began as planned but it was
cancelled after one round because of the covid pandemic, which means there have only been 48 champions, the most recent being Cameron Smith. This week he will defend his title…er, hang on, no he won’t. He’s now a LIV golfer, as well as being the current Open champion, which means he is banned from participating this week and that the rather bombastic claim of the tournament to be the game’s ‘fifth major’ looks more unjustifiably optimistic than it has ever done. Among other similarly excluded players are Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, who took it in turns to win the tournament for the three years from 2007.
— THE PLAYERS (@THEPLAYERSChamp) March 5, 2023
This week’s staging takes place against a backdrop of the PGA Tour moving towards having a 2024 schedule containing more reduced-field tournaments with mandatory participation-status, offering $20 million purses. Remind you of anything? “I would be lying if I said that we would have gone through this without LIV,” said Jordan Spieth. He added: “At the same time, we haven’t mentioned them in any of our discussions on what we think is best for the [PGA] Tour.” So he’s asking us to believe the elephant in the room was not ignored but was not mentioned either?
Most noise, however, was reserved for the news that these events will have no cut. I mean, how
LIV is that? Patrick Cantlay tweeted: “The biggest advantage is locking the stars that play those
events into 4 days. If you’re a little kid that can only go on Sunday and Tiger Woods is in the
event, you can go watch him. Rory? You can go watch him. That’s powerful.” To some, it seemed hypocritical. Lee Westwood observed: “I’ve spent last year reading how good full fields and cuts are.”
As for McIlroy, as you might expect, he had a bit to say, too. “We have had no-cut events since I
have been on tour for the past 15 years,” he said. [The Tournament of Champions and Tour
Championship, for example.] The no-cut thing just became a big deal when LIV came around. That was what prompted the whole discussion around it, but I think it guarantees the top players
are there for four days and I am certainly not one to reward mediocrity. This is the most aspirational tour to play in the world and we have to keep it that way.”
The LIV Golf Twitter feed issued this: “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Congratulations
to the PGA Tour. Welcome to the future.” Oscar Wilde in fact said: “Imitation is the sincerest
form of flattery…” and ended the sentence with “that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” I am no
lawyer but given the way legal proceedings appear to be going in the United States, I wouldn’t
bet my house on the ongoing greatness of LIV Golf. Nor on its future either, for that matter.
You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus
you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com