Hey, Mr. Van Sickle, I have a question
Making sense of the latest LIV Golf news and player posturing, assessing NBC Sports' musical chair in the golf booth, and understanding Bryson DeChambeau
You didn’t ask me, but I’ll pretend you did.
WHAT’S UP WITH LIV THESE DAYS?
I don’t pretend to know where the “framework agreement” between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf is going to end up. But the PGA Tour has already lost if Rory McIlroy, the outspoken, unofficial leader of the PGA Tour players, has caved. Maybe he changed his tune in deference to his Ryder Cup buddy Jon Rahm, who just bolted to LIV after swearing for two years that he didn’t play for money. Or maybe McIlroy, who resigned from the player board last year, is simply exasperated by the tedious and unending legal proceedings. But it was still a shocker when he recently said he has accepted LIV, an organization he once said he hated.
More likely, McIlroy is looking at what’s best for him. A world tour? Big money? Small field? Easy pickings for him? Sign him up and hand over more millions, please.
On a Stick To Football podcast, McIlroy criticized the PGA Tour, saying, “LIV and the Saudis exposed that you’re asking for millions of dollars to sponsor these events and you’re not able to guarantee that the players are going to show up. I can’t believe the PGA Tour has done so well so long.”
This is the same McIlroy who applauded the PGA Tour’s new lucrative Elevated Event plan last year, an attempt to force players to play specific events. McIlroy then skipped two of them by the end of April. His second miss came at the RBC Heritage Classic and he thus potentially forfeited $3 million in bonus money.
It’s hard not to like McIlroy, a pleasant personality who is honest and open in media interviews. It is also hard not to see him now as a PGA Tour turncoat.
WOULDN’T A WORLD TOUR BE GREAT?
Be careful what you wish for. Do you really want a world tour for professional golf?
For starters, it would turn the PGA Tour, minus its top stars, into the new Korn Ferry Tour. The PGA Tour wouldn’t just lose star players, it would possibly lose sponsors and viewers and tournament stops.
The fallout includes one less obvious item. It’s just reality that out of sight equals out of mind. When the world tour is playing in Saudi Arabia or South Korea or Australia, how many fans in America are going to watch it live in the middle of the night. And even when it is shown on delay, how many will watch when they already know the outcome thanks to the Internet?
A world tour might be good for the top players, who will win more money that they already don’t need, but it won’t be good for American fans or the current makeup of the PGA Tour.
So there’s a big-money world tour golf tournament that has no history or tradition or meaning other than the size of its purse (gee, it sounds a lot like LIV Golf) on the other side of the planet? Who cares?
CAN RICH PEOPLE GET RICHER?
It doesn’t matter how rich you are or that you already have hundreds of millions you’ll never be able to spend, all rich people (including pro golfers or maybe especially pro golfers) have one word in common — more.
WHO FITS BEST IN NBC SPORTS’ GOLF ANALYST CHAIR?
So far, NBC has replaced golf analyst Paul Azinger in the TV tower with Kevin Kisner, a current tour player, and Curt Byrum, a former tour player. It was a first for Kisner, who put his relationships and inside information about other players to good use. Byrum is already a staple on tour broadcasts and is polished.
My vote for a long-term replacement is former tour caddie John Wood, who works the course as a roving reporter on the ground. He’s got insight, information and personality. He’s not a big name, though, and networks typically prefer a major champion type as the top analyst in the big seat. Jim (Bones) Mackay was another caddie who did a turn on TV and, like Wood, was exceptional. Mackay went back to caddying — he got caught in the middle of McIlroy’s parking lot screaming session at the Ryder Cup, you may recall — but he’d be a great option, too.
WEREN’T THERE SUPPOSED TO BE JUST 12 LIV GOLF TEAMS?
LIV Golf has added a 13th team to its field this year. So it will have 52 players competing in each event, up from 48.
The extra team was needed because of the addition of Spain’s Jon Rahm. He is calling his team Legion XIII (that’s Legion 13 if you forgot your Roman numerals from fourth-grade math class.)
What’s this mean? Traffic is going to be worse when all the players are driven in carts from the staging area to their starting hole for the shotgun start. Also, maybe going from 48 to 52 players is what LIV officials meant when they said they were trying to grow the game.
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MORE FROM GARY VAN SICKLE
> And the winners are ... not who you think
> Curiosity about the state of Tiger Woods is high
> Tiger, Tiger, Tiger ... it's Tiger time
> LIV Golf players want rankings? Well, here you go
> Won't you be my sim neighbor?
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DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT BRYSON DECHAMBEAU IS SAYING?
It’s not available yet as an app but here’s your Bryson DeChambeau translator in action.
DeChambeau: “I’d love to support any tournament that would allow me to play.” (Translation: Please let me come back to the PGA Tour.)
DeChambeau: “You’ve got to remember we were pushed out.” (Translation: We were pushed out after we left. But we were pushed out.)
DeChambeau: “Totally understand the whole situation and understand the PGA Tour’s position to do what it did. I made a decision to play somewhere else.” (Translation: We were assured the PGA Tour couldn’t legally ban us. I guess that was wrong.)
DeChambeau: “I’ve said from Day One, I want the game to come back together. We need the game to come back together. Not just for ourselves to play against the best players. But for the fans to see us play against each other again.” (Translation: But mostly for ourselves. And those big endorsements we’re not getting anymore.)
Sony Hawaiian Open winner Grayson Murray after winning a playoff against Keegan Bradley and Ben An: “I knew today was not going to change my life. My fiancée changed my life, Jesus Christ changed my life. Today wasn't going to change my life. But it did change my career a little bit, and I'm excited.”