American events will determine whether golf LIVs or dies

Ronan MacNamara

Louis Oosthuizen (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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LIV is here, it’s happening and honestly, I am intrigued by it all. Amidst all the anger and outrage at Dustin Johnson for taking a U-turn and jumping ship from the PGA Tour to headline the first LIV series event next week in England, I find the whole thing fascinating, and I feel we are about to reach the tipping point over whether Greg Norman’s golfing army will gather more high profile troops over the coming months.

Until now I have been very dismissive of the LIV Tour. Maybe it’s my Meath stubbornness “ah it’ll be grand” but now my ears have pricked up and my eyebrow has raised in Carlo Ancelotti fashion.

The field for the first event next week isn’t anything eye-catching with just four of the world’s top-50 teeing it up. The obvious name is Johnson and quite frankly his U-turn doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. It’s a shocking field and it certainly wouldn’t entice me to go and watch if I was living near the Centurion Golf Club.

The absences of Phil Mickelson and Jason Kokrak are notable, Phil for obvious reasons and Kokrak has Saudi golf logos emblazoned on his shirts and golf bags so to not see him in the field is strange. The first event is a who’s who of players who are past their best and can no longer compete at the top of the PGA Tour and journeyman pros who will never earn the big bucks at the upper echelons of golf (and the second-rate Brooks Koepka).

I was disappointed to see Talor Gooch, Sam Horsfield, Bernd Wiesberger and Laurie Canter commit to next week. Wiesberger has been a stalwart of European golf and a model of consistency over the course of his career, while Gooch has been in great form over the last 18 months and for me, wasn’t far from the next level. In Horsfield and Canter LIV have signed two promising young players.

However, with a schedule dominated by events in America, whether or not this new breakaway tour is a success will be determined over the course of the summer. Will more high-profile US golfers enter the next few events Stateside or will another mediocre field arrive at Pumpkin Ridge, Trump National, the International and Rich Harvest Farms?

Other than the links swing in July, the top PGA Tour players haven’t been great travellers to the UK, so it will be interesting to see how many are waiting to pencil themselves in for some Stateside events.

Matthew Fitzpatrick’s comments were interesting, should the LIV series become the main tour where all the best golfers in the world are playing, some players might feel they have no choice but to turn to the dark side. I feel there are numerous golfers waiting in the wings, not willing to take a true stance on the matter and are biding their time to see what happens before eventually siding with the majority.

Norman’s tour has been teetering on the brink of collapse for months and that will (hopefully) continue if the quality of field doesn’t improve. How long can they keep pumping in the money if that doesn’t change?

The first event clashes with the Canadian Open and main sponsors RBC have rightly binned DJ and Graeme McDowell. I find GMac’s decision to play and his comments defending his decision ironic indeed.

The future of golf as a sport will be totally unaffected by whether Graeme McDowell is allowed to play in regular PGA Tour events and having to birdie the last two holes to make the cut. There goes the dream of an Adare Ryder Cup captaincy gig…

Without meaning to sound disrespectful, GMac is no longer competitive on the PGA Tour and the fact he lives off a lot of sponsors exemptions shows his lack of loyalty to said sponsors. His comments were self-aggrandising, while it would be foolish to suggest the future of golf hinges on the likes of McDowell, Westwood, Garcia, Poulter, Kaymer and Bland. If that’s the clientele Norman and LIV are attracting, that’s fine by me. Golf at the top level is a young person’s game now.

The oldest player inside the current top-20 of the OWGR is Louis Oosthuizen at 39. Of the non-LIV players, Billy Horschel is 35.

Only Rory McIlroy is over the age of 31 in the current top-10 while Patrick Cantlay (30) Tony Finau (32), Hideki Matsuyama (30) and Brooks Koepka (32) make up the other grizzly 30 and overs who have not committed to LIV.

With four successive events scheduled for the United States, the acid test for golf will be how many, if any, of the younger cohort of players enter these tournaments. Will the Masters and US PGA Championship take a stand and ban anyone who jumps ship? Surely for these younger players who are in their 20s, chasing major championship glory should be at the forefront of their minds.

Let the McDowell’s go, they have had their day, the future of golf doesn’t evolve around them. Whether we see more players of the calibre of Dustin Johnson tee it up in some of the events Stateside will give an indication if LIV will be a success or not.

LIV won’t go away but in this battle, it hasn’t exactly hit the PGA and DP World Tours with both barrels just yet.

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