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LIV Golf Benefits From Shortened PGA Tour Event

Golf News Today

For LIV Golf it was the perfect storm. Hurricane force winds swept away Sunday's final round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, clearing an unencumbered view of the climax of the breakaway tour's opening tournament of the year.

So convenient for them was the curtailment of the PGA Tour's initial Signature Event, it made one wonder whether Saudi Arabia had bought the weather as well.

Viewers seeking their usual Sunday golf fix were left with no alternative than to access LIV's season opener in Mayakoba, which was eventually won at the fourth extra hole in near darkness by Chile's Joaquin Niemann.

And, to be fair, for many fans it might have been a close run choice of what to watch, even if the $20m Pebble Beach competition been able to run its full 72-hole course.

Which would you opt for - LIV's offering of Niemann muscling in to defeat major winning Spaniards Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia or US Open winner Wyndham Clark trying to hold off Ludvig Aberg and Matthieu Pavon on the Californian coast?

The latter was being played at an iconic venue on the Californian coast, but one that had been brought to its knees by Clark's extraordinary 60 on Saturday. The former was a $25m shootout on a Greg Norman designed resort course in Mexico, where Niemann had carded a first round 59.

In both events there was some sensational golf, but nothing better illustrates the madness of the modern game than the fact that a total of 134 golfers (80 in the US, 54 on LIV) competed last week for a total of $45m, with no cut at either competition.

When tournaments of such limited stature yield an average take home pay of $336,000 per man, we can easily understand why so many people are now saying that men's professional golf has become utterly divorced from reality.

Clark was crowned the winner at Pebble Beach because the final round was rendered impossible, while the Mexico tournament provided an engaging climax for those who accessed the coverage.

Rahm sought to start repaying the hundreds of millions he pocketed for his close season switch by charging into contention. A potential showdown with his former Ryder Cup partner Garcia was enough to entice me to stream the finale. The website page suggested I was one of around 29,000 watching the action.

It was decent, welcoming coverage. The commentary sought to sell the tournament to a wider audience rather than the usual narrow-casting where traditional golf networks assume that everyone watching is already a golfer.

Caddies wore microphones, and the chat with their players was enlightening. Refreshingly, it felt as though the viewer was being put first.

At least, that was my impression. Is it being overly optimistic to suggest that the competition between tours might ultimately lead to a better overall product for the fan?

That appears the only upside from the current mess, one that appears no nearer to untangling as LIV embarks on its third season.

Neither champion from last weekend could claim to have beaten the best field in the world because both circuits are diluted by division. And the latest developments bring us no nearer to a resolution - quite the opposite, it seems.

The PGA Tour is emboldened by the $1.5bn investment with the Strategic Sport Group that was announced last week. Going forward, they might also attract cash from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) that backs LIV.

But PGA Tour Policy Board member Jordan Spieth reckons they do not need Saudi money, while the man he replaced on the board, Rory McIlroy, insists that this Middle Eastern influence is essential.

McIlroy is reported to have left a WhatsApp group of leading players. It appears he has had enough of the endless wrangling.

The Northern Irishman argues that a deal with PIF is vital for the game to reunite.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice is continuing to insist any arrangement with PIF would need to be formally scrutinised - meaning big delays even if agreement is found.

And where is the Wentworth-based DP World Tour in all of this? There are a number of players and officials who feel they are getting the raw end of their formal 'strategic alliance' with the PGA Tour.

The notion of Europe potentially pivoting to join forces with PIF and thereby providing a pathway back to the establishment fold for LIV recruits such as Rahm and co is not regarded as being as fanciful as it once was.

Having said that, the DP World Tour has just announced FedEx as new sponsors for this year's French Open, a deal that is regarded as a direct benefit resulting from their formalised arrangement with the PGA Tour.

Meanwhile in the United States, the gravy train with its thick and gloopy fare of excess rides on. LIV heads to Las Vegas for Super Bowl week while the PGA Tour sets up camp a tad further south in Arizona for the raucous WM Phoenix Open.

WM stands for waste management - which is just what is needed when overly wealthy rival tours, with substandard products and seemingly no coherent future progression, are left squabbling for our attention.

Its might be time to switch over to the Weather Channel.


Tyrrell Hatton Heads to LIV

Just days before the start of its third season, LIV Golf has signed another big-name European competitor as Tyrrell Hatton is the latest to join the upstart league, according to The Telegraph. The Englishman will join his fellow European, Jon Rahm, on the team circuit with a deal reportedly hovering around $65 million. Rahm's official team name and roster have yet to be announced.

Hatton's reported move follows reports that DP World Tour Player of the Year, Adrian Meronk, will also sign with LIV Golf ahead of the new season. Both Hatton and Meronk are expected to keep their membership with the DP World Tour, but if current punishments persist, then both will be fined each time they participate in a LIV Golf event. This is notable because, as of now, membership on the European circuit is a requirement for Ryder Cup eligibility.

The world No. 16 player is still listed in the field for this week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA Tour but is expected to withdraw ahead of teeing it up at LIV Golf Mayakoba. LIV Golf has a busy beginning to its 2024 schedule as it travels from Mexico to Las Vegas the week of the Super Bowl for its second event in as many weeks.

Despite not collecting a trophy in three years, Hatton is amid some of the best golf of his career. The 32-year-old clocked 16 top-20 finishes in 26 worldwide starts in 2023 with six of those doubling as top-five performances. He finished on the podium at the Wells Fargo Championship and Canadian Open and connected on runner-up efforts at the Players Championship and the BMW PGA Championship on the DP World Tour.

Hatton's departure from the PGA Tour comes at a time when professional golf world remains in flux. Sportico reported the Strategic Sports Group's $3 billion investment into the PGA Tour Enterprises could come as early as this week. The SSG is spearheaded by Fenway Sports Group and features investors like Atlanta Falcons' Arthur Blank and New York Mets' Steven Cohen.

Sports Illustrated followed up this report with news of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (LIV Golf's financial backers) and the PGA Tour making significant strides of their own. Both parties were in New York this past week, and an updated framework agreement could be the product of conversations. 

Optimism surrounding the three parties coming together and unifying professional golf is growing, but many questions remain. What does the future look like? How does additional signings by LIV Golf affect all this? Outside the major championships, when will all the best players in the world play against one another again?


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Amateur Nick Dunlap Victorious on PGA Tour

Golf News Today

Nick Dunlap, a University of Alabama sophomore, won The American Express tour Sunday but won't be able to collect any prize money because of his amateur status. 

A 20-year-old amateur golfer became a PGA Tour champion Sunday.

Nick Dunlap, a University of Alabama sophomore, won The American Express tour, beating out Christiaan Bezuidenhout by one stroke and finishing the 72-hole tournament at 29-under-par 259.

But the champion won’t be able to collect any prize money despite becoming the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event since Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open, per the rules of amateur status.

The $1,512,000 prize will be given to Bezuidenhout, the only runner-up in the tour, as if Dunlap had not been in the field, a spokesperson for PGA Tour confirmed to NBC News.

A tearful Dunlap was seen hugging his family and friends following his historic win.

"I went over a scenario for today probably a million times and it's never going to go how you planned, and it didn't," Dunlap said. "I'm so happy to be standing here."

Comparisons have been drawn between the 20-year-old champion and Tiger Woods.

Dunlap is the second golfer in history to win both the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur titles after Woods. He's also the first reigning U.S. Amateur champ to win on the PGA Tour since Woods in 1996.

At 20 years and 29 days, Dunlap is now the youngest amateur to win on the PGA Tour since Chick Evans at the 1910 Western Open.

"It is so cool to be out here and experience this as an amateur," Dunlap said following his win.

"If you would have told me that, you know, come Wednesday night I'd have the putts to win this golf tournament, I wouldn't believe you," he said.