It's shaping up to be a massive month for the PGA Tour, not just because we have a little more than a week until the 2023 US Open. News broke on Tuesday afternoon that sent shockwaves throughout the golfing world and will cuss, as the PGA Tour announced a merger with rival offshoot brand LIV Golf League as well as the DP World Tour across the pond in Europe.
LIV Golf has been embroiled in controversy since the league's inception in 2022 due to its ties to the Saudi Arabian government through the state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF), which sponsors LIV Golf. The Saudi government has come under fire in recent years for corruption and human rights abuses, and many look at LIV Golf's state-sponsored standing as an excuse for the borderline-pariah state to improve its public image. As such, the PGA Tour is facing deafening scrutiny for throwing the floundering league (which struggled to gain any traction despite throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at stars like Phil Mickelson in an attempt to build a brand that could compete with the PGA overnight) a lifesaver.
The conflicting sides announced that they would make sure to "cooperatively and in good faith to establish a fair and objective process for any players who desire to reapply for membership with the PGA Tour or DP World Tour following the completion of the 2023 season," allowing players who jumped ship for LIV Golf to come back into the fold, per ESPN. The world rankings aren't being shaken up because of the deal soon, then. American golfer Scottie Scheffler still leads the PGA Tour with his world No. 1 ranking, just ahead of Spaniard Jon Rahm (No. 2), Northern Ireland native Rory McIlroy (No. 3), and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who won the Memorial Tournament last weekend at Jack Nicklaus' prized creation, the Muirfield Village Golf Club just outside the Golden Bear's hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
US Open odds and McIlroy's stance
LIV Golf tried unsuccessfully to lure superstars like McIlroy and Tiger Woods to join their brand with offers upwards of $400 million and $800 million USD, respectively. McIlroy hasn't minced words in his criticism of the brand, emphasizing his loyalty to the PGA Tour and taking the moral high ground in slamming the Saudi government for the injustices they've committed.
As is customary for the world's top golfer on a given week, Scheffler is the favorite to win the second major championship of his career at the US Open, listed at or around +700 at some of the best betting sites in the UK. Odds can vary dramatically from sportsbook to sportsbook, so be sure to shop around first if you want to wager on McIlroy (and support the Union Jack), Scheffler, or anyone else in one of the most significant events in the golfing world next weekend so that you know you're locking in the best possible odds of winning big.
The current odds provided by DraftKings for the 2023 US Open are as follows:
⦁ Jon Rahm (+850)
⦁ Scottie Scheffler (+850)
⦁ Rory McIlroy (+900)
⦁ Brooks Koepka (+1200)
⦁ Patrick Cantlay (+1400)
⦁ Justin Thomas (+1600)
⦁ Viktor Hovland (+1800)
⦁ Cameron Smith (+2000)
⦁ Dustin Johnson (+2200)
⦁ Xander Schauffele (+2500)
These odds are subject to change and will be influenced by the golfers' performances leading up to the tournament. However, these players are considered the frontrunners and favorites to win the 2023 US Open.
Jon Rahm, the defending champion, is the top favorite to secure another victory after his recent triumph at the Memorial Tournament. Scottie Scheffler, currently ranked as the world's number-one golfer, is a strong contender in any competition he participates in. Rory McIlroy, a four-time major champion, is consistently a force to be reckoned with at the US Open. Brooks Koepka, a two-time US Open champion, is known for his impressive performances in this prestigious tournament.
Player Reactions and Future Implications
The move happened essentially overnight, coming together without the players receiving any warning or say in whether or not to go through with the deal, which led to some excellent candid responses as the fallout settled. It looks like PIF involvement will center more around money than spreading the LIV Golf brand (which includes 54 holes instead of the usual 72, the LIV referring to the number of holes in Roman numerals) through competition, so the PGA is getting a massive injection of cash—riches that many views as blood money.
No athlete ever wants to deal with distractions when trying to compete at the top of their game, but it's another situation entirely when the distractions come from within the sport itself. It'll be fascinating to see how McIlroy responds to the merger: whether he goes on a tear, focusing his frustration and turning it into success on the court, or if he takes time to move past the PGA Tour's betrayal and his play suffers as a result. McIlroy and Mickelson's rivalry regarding the two organizations has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks.
Rory McIlroy's performance on the final day of the Memorial Tournament slipped to a seventh-place finish after Mickelson poked fun at him for his outspoken presence and emphasis on morals in the media. McIlroy is no stranger to the press, and while he's kept his mouth shut about the merger so far, he wears his heart on his sleeve and is going to have to answer some tough questions soon—and learn to keep his cool in doing so.
As the PGA Tour continues to navigate these changes, the focus will soon shift to the US Open, where golf's finest will battle for supremacy. The coming weeks promise excitement, drama, and memorable moments as the world's top golfers compete for the coveted US Open title.