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Will Golf's Civil War EVER End

By: | Mon 25 Mar 2024

For this week's View From The Fairway, Golfshake's Derek Clements looks at the latest events and stories around the ongoing division in men's professional golf - and just where things might be going.

I am sorry but I am back on my LIV Golf soap box this week. I couldn’t believe it when I read Jon Rahm’s entirely disingenuous comments about the PGA Tour events he is missing.

Are we seriously expected to feel sorry for a man who picked up somewhere in the region of $500m for signing on the dotted line for LIV, thus ruling out his defence of various PGA Tour titles. But not his bid to win back to back Masters. He will be the first LIV golfer to defend a major when he arrives at Augusta National and he has used that as an opportunity to have a moan about his lot. 

I am sorry senor but you knew exactly what you were signing up for and I cannot believe that anybody feels an iota of sympathy for you.

It has been a strange week. The day after the conclusion of the Players Championship, there were further talks aimed at finding an agreement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the PIF, effectively LIV’s paymasters. And still we wait for the white smoke.

Jon Rahm

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Peter Malnati is what you would describe as a PGA Tour journeyman. He won the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2015 but in his 258 starts he has made just 125 cuts with just 12 top-10 finishes to his name until finding some terrific form at the Valspar Championship.

As a 36-year-old golfer, the chances of him ever achieving greatness on the course are pretty slim. He could not be further removed from Rahm if he tried.

But he may hold the Spaniard’s fate in his hands. As a member of the PGA Tour’s player policy board he has some influence as one of an elite group who have a say on what is happening in the world of golf when it comes to a potential merger.

It has to be said that he is not the leading voice on the policy board - Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay are also members and are likely to have somewhat different priorities than Malnati.

I remain cynical about the chances of a deal being struck and so, it would seem, does Malnati. 

Are the parties involved any closer? And what would the terms of any deal be? Unsurprisingly, at the centre of it all will be money. Of course it will, because that seems to be the way of things these days.

There is no doubt in my mind that at some point there will be a way back for the likes of Rahm, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith. But there is a problem that needs to be addressed before any of that can happen. 

The PGA Tour only issues a certain number of Tour cards and everybody who has one knows the tournaments in which they would be allowed to play. Fields vary in size, with regular events having anything between 144 and 156 golfers in the field.

So here is the hot potato. If Jay Monahan allows Rahm, Koepka, Smith, Dustin Johnson, Joaquin Niemann, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Talor Gooch, Sergio Garcia et al to return to the fold, something will have to give. 

And I can guarantee you one thing - any and all players who would be excluded from fields to accommodate the LIV rebels would be on the phone to their lawyers in an instant. And they would be quite right to do so.

As it turns out, Malnati, like so many others, is not a fan of LIV. And he could well be one of the players who would be directly affected if the rebels are reinstated. 

We will return to Mr Malanati shortly. In the meantime, I have a solution…before any of the above-named players can return to the PGA Tour, they have to go to qualifying school and earn their Tour cards, just like anybody else. If they are good enough, they will sail through the process. If they are not, they can always head to the Korn Ferry Tour. 

I know that this is going to go down like a lead balloon but to me it is the only fair and equitable solution. 

What does Malnati think? Should the LIV rebels be allowed to walk straight back?

"The easiest, most likely route we go when we do find a way for guys to come back, is just guys aren’t coming back to the PGA Tour with membership on the PGA Tour. There are certain methods we’ve been able to establish and put in place that will be really, really good for the PGA Tour and its membership, and our fans too. This player equity plan, I don’t understand it, it’s a little bit above my head, but I certainly know enough to say that I really do support it…

"It’s going to make players owners of the Tour, and guys who violated our policies aren’t ever going to be eligible for that. That’s a big deal. Like, that’s a big, big deal."

Anyone who joined LIV Golf violated the PGA Tour’s policies and, therefore, will not be included in the Tour’s $930m equity plan. The top 36 players will receive $750 million in equity shares, while the remaining $180 million will be distributed to 121 more players and other legends of the game. Once again, it grows the gulf between the haves and have-nots in our sport and that surely cannot be the way to go, can it?

"We have to work through all that," Malnati continued. "I’m definitely of the mind that, in some way, shape, or form, we need to give our fans a product where, when we have events like the Players Championship, at the best venues, with the best everything, we have the best players in the world playing. We need to find a way to give that to our fans. Because that’s what they deserve for being loyal to us."

I could be wrong but I am firmly of the belief that nobody who watched the thrilling final round unfold at TPC Sawgrass was thinking: "Oh, if only Jon Rahm was here." It may have briefly crossed the mind of winner Scottie Scheffler but Rahm’s presence would have made no difference to the atmosphere at what was a wonderful tournament, played in wonderful weather on a tough and testing golf course.

Malnati also confirmed something that I have been saying for months - that nobody cares about LIV’s team format.

He said: "I don’t know LIV, what they’re doing, but it seems like a forced team model to me. Are there any fans who care which team won the tournament? I don’t know what fans of LIV want or care about, but are there any fans that care about who won it?

"We could also create some contrived team golf something, somewhere outside of the FedExCup season, but, like, what does he [PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan] want is a question that I want to understand better," he said.

"I don’t think it’s some contrived, fake, add up random guys’ scores and call them a team. I don’t think that’s it. What he means is more stuff like the Ryder Cup, I would guess, but I have no clue because I haven’t talked to him.

"Obviously, the greatest team event in golf right now is the Ryder Cup, and it’s incredible," Malnati said. 

"But I don't see a way that we incorporate team golf into the FedExCup schedule," he said. "I personally don't want that, but I can have my mind changed if I see a great idea. I don't see a way that we integrate team golf within the FedExCup schedule. We're going to have some time to play with in the fall - we're going to have some options, but I don't know."

Al-Rumayyan is seen by many as a man who genuinely wants to find a way forward. Rory McIlroy says that he is keen for Al-Rumayyan to show that he "fundamentally wants to do the right thing", adding those who have represented LIV, such as commissioner Greg Norman, have done the PIF governor "a disservice".

"There's a big disconnect between PIF and LIV," added McIlroy. "The closer that we can get to Yasir, PIF and hopefully finalise that investment, that will be a really good thing. They're a sovereign wealth fund. They want to park money for decades and not worry about it.

"They want to invest in smart and secure businesses, and the PGA Tour is definitely one of those, especially if they're looking to invest in sport in some way."

McIlroy believes that LIV will still exist in its current form "for the next couple of years".

He said: "They're big on team golf and they want to see team golf survive in some way in the calendar. I don't think it has to necessarily look like LIV. In my mind you should leave the individual golf and then you play your team golf on the sort of periphery of that.

"I don't think this is an overnight solution. But if we can get the investment in, then at least we can start working towards a compromise where we're not going to make everyone happy, but at least make everyone understand why we're doing what we're doing."

And there it is again - it is all about the money.

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Tags: PGA Tour LIV Golf dp world tour

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