But this week, 18 LIV golfers are on the course for the DP World Tour BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in England. Yes, it will be awkward.
‘I hate to be hated’: LIV Golf’s new recruits face a harsh reality
Rory McIlroy, who has been a PGA Tour champion both on and off the course this season after winning the FedEx Cup throughout the season and becoming the tour’s most prominent anti-LIV voice, will star in the tournament alongside other PGA Tour stalwarts such as Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Justin Rose and Adam Scott. He didn’t seem too keen on playing alongside the defectors when asked about it after winning the season-ending Tour championship last month.
“I hate how it does to the game of golf. I hate that. I really do,” McIlroy said. “For example, it’s going to be difficult for me to go to Wentworth in a couple of weeks and see 18 there. It just doesn’t sit well with me.
McIlroy was even more direct on Wednesday, attempting to enter LIV’s tournaments, which require golfers to play one less round than most PGA or DP World Tour events.
Q. If on Sunday you find yourself in contention and the man next to you is a LIV player, would there be more incentive to win?
RM: I mean, I’ll try to win a golf tournament regardless. They will be quite tired on Sunday; it will be the fourth day.
— Rex Hoggard (@RexHoggardGC) September 7, 2022
Reigning BMW PGA Champion Billy Horschel also questioned why LIV golfers were in England this week, given how many said the shorter schedule of the World Bank-funded breakaway tour Saudi Arabia would allow them to spend more time at home.
“I don’t think these guys should really be here. … Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Jason Kokraks: You’ve never played this tournament. You have never supported the DP World Tour. Why are you here?” Horschel told reporters Tuesday, though Kokrak isn’t among the LIV players in the field this week. “You’re here for one reason and that’s to try and get some world ranking points because you don’t have any.
“It’s pretty hypocritical to come here and play outside of LIV when your big thing was spending more time with your family and wanting to play less golf.”
But Gooch took to Twitter on Tuesday night to remind Horschel that Horschel hasn’t really been to too many DP World Tour events that weren’t major tournaments or golf world championships either:
Billy’s professional DP career from 2013 to present.
64 events. 58 major/WGC/2022
Scottish (pga tour event). 6 pure DP
events in total (I wonder how many
got $ to play) and his first non maior/
Appearance WGC P 2019 BMW (won
Fedex in 2014). He upholds what is
better for his career. Like all of us 😁 https://t.co/vJlrZi9y9u
— Talor Gooch (@TalorGooch) September 6, 2022
LIV golfer Sergio Garcia said he doesn’t really care if his presence and that of his LIV contemporaries bothers anyone.
“I’m sure some guys will be uptight about this. [because] let’s go out there and play; what i’m going to do is support the european tour and that’s all i can do. Those who don’t like it, too bad for them,” Garcia told Golf Digest at last weekend’s LIV event outside of Boston.
A LIV golfer, Martin Kaymer, decided to skip the BMW PGA Championship because of all the awkwardness.
“Of course there will be friction there. That’s why I’m not going,” Kaymer told Golf Digest last week. “I don’t need to go somewhere feel-wise you’re not welcome. They don’t say that, but [it’s there].”
The PGA Tour has banned golfers who have played in LIV tournaments, but those golfers are allowed to play on the DP World Tour after an English arbitration judge ruled the European Tour cannot punish LIV golfers until until the case receives a full judicial review. That won’t happen until February, and LIV players are free to play on the DP World Tour at least until then.
In a note sent to players last week and obtained by Golf Channel, DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley addressed the “strong opposition” to LIV golfers who will be playing at Wentworth and asked them not to wear any clothing bearing the LIV logos.
“They will not receive any competitive disadvantage on the course – i.e. unfavorable tee times – but they will not be required to play in the Wednesday pro-am and will not be in the TV groups,” wrote Pelley in the memo.
The BMW PGA Championship – which is considered one of, if not the most prestigious, European Tour’s flagship event – will be of critical importance to some LIV golfers due to the official World Golf Ranking, which does not yet award ranking points at LIV events and may never do (LIV has sought OWGR sanction, but a decision could take months). The strong BMW PGA field means it will give LIV golfers a chance to stay in the top 50 of the OWGR, which is usually the cut-off point for major championship qualification. (Former Major Champions receive long-term Major invites, so LIV golfers such as Smith, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau don’t have to worry about their world rankings, and none of those players will be at Wentworth this week) .
Gooch, for example, ranks 46th in the OWGR, and a strong performance at Wentworth will keep him in the top 50. Otherwise, by continuing to play LIV events that are not recognized by the OWGR, he will continue to sink. in the rankings.
Other LIV golfers on the course this week include Ancer, Graeme McDowell, Patrick Reed and Lee Westwood. Rahm said their presence at Wentworth this week means lower-ranking golfers who don’t benefit from LIV’s Saudi riches are being squeezed out.
“What I don’t understand is that some players who have never expressed an interest in the European tour, have never expressed an interest in playing this event, are being offered an opportunity just because ‘they can get world ranking points and hopefully make majors next year,’ Rahm told reporters on Tuesday.
“A perfect example – a good friend of mine [Spain’s Alfredo Garcia-Heredia] is the first on the list of registrants at this time. It doesn’t hurt me, but it bothers me that someone who has played more than 20 [European tour] events this year cannot have the opportunity to play a highlight event because some people who have deserved it, to some degree, are being offered an opportunity when they don’t care less about the event.