Tour Confidential: Players Championship week and LIV Golf’s world-ranking fight 

GOLF’s editors and writers discuss the Players Championship, PGA Tour cards, Full Swing, LIV Golf’s world-ranking fight and more.

The post Tour Confidential: Players Championship week and LIV Golf’s world-ranking fight  appeared first on Golf.

GOLF’s editors and writers discuss the Players Championship, PGA Tour cards, Full Swing, LIV Golf’s world-ranking fight and more.

The post Tour Confidential: Players Championship week and LIV Golf’s world-ranking fight  appeared first on Golf.

Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us at @golf_com. This week we discuss the Players Championship, PGA Tour cards, Full Swing, LIV Golf’s world-ranking fight and more.  

1. The PGA Tour’s marquee event, the Players Championship, kicks off Thursday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., although it will be without a couple of big names, among them Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, who were the latest batch of PGA Tour players who jumped to LIV over the past year. Long thought of as “the fifth major” with its stacked field and iconic golf course, is there any tournament that’s been hurt more over the past few years due to golf’s PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf battle than the Players?

Sean Zak, senior writer (@sean_zak): Yes. I’d argue that a number of the Signature Events have been hurt more, in part because they’ve been forced into smaller fields with the promise of the best players in the world competing. And while that has largely been the case, a number of them have still pivoted to LIV Golf. The Genesis Invitational’s defending champion the past two years has been missing. The RBC Heritage made more headlines last year for Rory McIlroy missing it than for those who showed up. I’ve believed the Signature Events have been a good and important step for the Tour’s structure, but the Players still has a 144-person field. Scottie Scheffler is the defending champ. Justin Thomas is going to win this year. It’s still a damn good tournament, even with Tyrrell Hatton’s departure. 

Nick Piastowski, senior editor (@nickpia): Yes, I’d say it’s the Players. It had hung its hat on having “the best in field in golf” — where now, it’s essentially a Signature Event with a bigger field. It’s not as distinguishable as it once was when compared to events like the Travelers, the Wells Fargo and RBC Heritage, all elevated in the PGA Tour’s new world order. That being said, with more players than those events, the Players will have more storylines and the chance for an unknown champion — but that thought takes us further down the rabbit hole (golf hole?) and it’s probably a whole other Tour Confidential question. And I guess we could talk about whether this all kills the idea of the Players becoming the fifth major. Clearly a lot going on here. 

James Colgan, news and features editor (@jamescolgan26): Man, what about all the Non-Signature Events that lost their star power when the Tour shifted to this model? The Players has been hurt by its marketing strategy, but it remains relevant on the golf calendar. Not sure you can say that about some of the other Tour events.

2. Rory McIlroy said he has no problem with the PGA Tour’s Signature Events being limited to smaller fields (69 players competed at Bay Hill) and added he’s all for “less players and less Tour cards.” Asked to expand on how many Tour cards the PGA Tour should award, McIlroy said, “I just feel like there’s a lot of categories on Tour that people are sort of still benefiting off what they did like five or 10 years ago. I feel like the most competitive professional golf tour in the world, you should have to come out and prove yourself year after year after year.” Do you agree with McIlroy?

Rory McIlroy

What Rory McIlroy REALLY means by a ‘cutthroat’ PGA Tour

By: Sean Zak

Zak: Yes, I do. McIlroy really isn’t trying to chop down the total number of PGA Tour players by a lot. He’s just trying to thin the herd slightly (maybe 10-15 percent) and ultimately create an elite Tour that rests above the 40-week schedule that needs to cater to hundreds. He’s dreamed up a Champions League-style access to a Tour that covers the globe. That goes hand-in-hand with highlighting the best up-and-coming talent much more than players holding on to status from a victory they nabbed in 2019. 

Piastowski: I do too. The most in-form players, and the guy above me here in the responses wonderfully broke down what that means, and you can read that here. Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch also tackled the subject, with this thought: If you’re going to be cutthroat, what exactly do you do with that Tiger guy, who hasn’t won in a while? That’s a helluva question, and you can read that story here

Colgan: I think you let Tiger do whatever he wants, because he’s Tiger freaking Woods, and you cut the fields elsewhere. Golf’s pursuit of a meritocracy died the day they took $3 billion from the SSG — now it’s about finding where the big $$$ is hiding.

3. Season two of Netflix’s “Full Swing” PGA Tour docuseries launched Wednesday with eight episodes that covered the PGA Tour-Saudi PIF merger, the Ryder Cup and lots more. What was your favorite or most memorable moment from season two, and what forgotten or little-covered topic do you think deserved more air time?

Pro golfer Joel Dahmen sits on private jet during Netflix's Full Swing

Why Joel Dahmen and his caddie stole the show on Full Swing once again

By: Sean Zak

Zak: My favorite moment was Rory McIlroy telling Jon Rahm that Rahm made him want to be better. It’s one of the biggest compliments a top pro could give — that the existence of a specific talent made an all-time great want to be greater. Rory said this in the immediate moments following the Ryder Cup, when all felt right in the golf world. Precisely two months before Rahm jumped to LIV Golf. The level of respect Rory has for Rahm, and vice versa, is what is gonna make Europe great again at the 2025 Ryder Cup. 

Piastowski: Damn it, Zak, I’m only halfway through, and now you’re spoiling it. I mean, my favorite moment so far is seeing my pretty face for a quick second on episode two. Kidding, kidding. (Maybe.) My real top moment, though, is the Wyndham Clark/Joel Dahmen episode, and the journey they take with the mental side of the game. There are takeaways there for us all. As for an undercovered topic? Easy. The LPGA. 

Colgan: The Ryder Cup episodes were fantastic and gave the show the kind of propulsive element it has been missing otherwise. I understand the character-driven format, but if it’s still around when the RC comes to Bethpage in ‘25, TOSS out the format and make the whole season around the Ryder Cup.

4. LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman told LIV players that the league has withdrawn its application for accreditation from the Official World Golf Ranking, meaning LIV players will no longer have that avenue to qualify for major championships if they aren’t already exempt. “It is now clear that the best way forward for LIV as a league and you as LIV golfers is not through the current ranking system,” Norman said. “A resolution which protects the accuracy, credibility, and integrity of the OWGR rankings no longer exists.” Are you surprised Norman ended this battle? And with LIV Golf adding more talent (like Rahm), shouldn’t there be more pressure on the OWGR board to find a way to incorporate LIV? Or on the organizations that host majors?

Greg Norman in Hong Kong for this week's LIV event.

Why LIV Golf suddenly abandoned its chase for OWGR points

By: Dylan Dethier

Zak: Norman and his LIV golfers were incessantly whining about this and weren’t being taken seriously, so I’m not super surprised that he gave up. It wasn’t a good look! As for the pressure the OWGR should face, they’ve been pretty transparent about the formatting issues that LIV Golf has for its events and its seasonal turnover, so I think there should always have been more pressure on LIV to come to the table with a stronger presentation than a largely closed shop of 54-hole tournaments. I think the organizations that host majors could probably kick a few more invites LIV’s way, but it’s completely subjective and up to them. If, say, the PGA of America doesn’t love that Talor Gooch started his LIV career by openly mocking the Ryder Cup, they might feel right to consider that when assessing his ranking by an independent-analysis group such as DataGolf. LIV Golf was unprecedented, and I think the organizations were OK to treat it accordingly. (Keep in mind the lingering fact that all governing bodies were being brought into a frivolous lawsuit or investigations via LIV Golf less than a year ago.) 

Piastowski: Whew. A lot here. First, I encourage you to read here what our Dylan Dethier wrote about the subject, and I very much agree with the points there. Am I surprised LIV punted? Can I say yes and no? They need the points for major invites, and there’s only one group that hands out points — and now you’re not applying anymore? Odd. Then again, would they have to change their format? Yeah, probably. Would the points they eventually get be small, simply because their players have tumbled down the rankings as this process has unfolded? Yeah, probably. So they moved on. Drew a line in the bunker sand. I now have a feeling there’s going to be a campaign on the majors. A lot more pitches like Talor Gooch’s, where he thought future Masters winners should get asterisks because not all of the best pros were included. Who knows where this goes. Can all the majors agree on an independent ranking and/or a somewhat unified way on how to treat LIV? Or do they believe their events are fine without? Stay tuned. 

Colgan: I’m surprised he ended the battle because major championship eligibility still matters deeply to LIV. That said, it seems remarkably stupid to me that something called the Official World Golf Ranking could be leaving out the dudes playing in LIV. I understand the nuance and logistics required, and I do not think that LIV should be just “allowed in” on merit. But there has to be a solution to properly weight everything to allow LIV to be included. Feels like we’re losing the forest for the trees here.

5. Anthony Kim made five back-nine birdies and shot 65 on Sunday at LIV Hong Kong, recording by far the best round of his six since he returned to pro golf. He now heads to Macau to compete in the International Series on the Asian Tour. Does this Sunday surge change your thoughts regarding his prospects going forward?

anthony kim liv golf

Anthony Kim cards his best round yet, and it wasn’t close

By: Sean Zak

Zak: I think so? It wasn’t the best round of the day, nor the second best. But it was fifth best out of 54! Which is really good, and inspires some hope that this won’t be a sad state of affairs by, say, LIV Houston. But there are truly thousands of pros who could shoot that score in one out of six LIV events. It’s about doing it more than once and doing it with more than a hot putter. Kim made just about everything he looked at Sunday, which is good. His stroke looks great! But his ball-striking has been pretty horrible since his return started, and that’s where the majority of your successes lie in pro golf. He’ll need to straighten it out if he wants to shoot more rounds in the 60s. 

Piastowski: I’m kinda thinking we shouldn’t have drawn conclusions after his tournament last week — and I’m kinda thinking we shouldn’t draw conclusions after one good round. But since you asked, yeah, let’s be encouraged. I like the idea of someone on the comeback trail tapping into what previously made them great. That’s why we like sports, right?

Colgan: Awesome story, and I’m pumped for AK personally, but I’ll reserve judgment until he does it on a course longer than 6,700 yards. 

6. Golfers who want a tee time on St. Andrews’ Old Course will no longer be allowed to earn a time by camping out overnight (but instead try their luck in a drawing). What’s your favorite classic golf tradition that still exists?

St. Andrews old Course

One of golf’s greatest traditions is now history (and that’s just fine)

By: Sean Zak

Zak: I really like when municipal courses (particularly famous ones, like Bethpage Black or Torrey Pines) maintain discounted rates for local residents. Or, put another way, aren’t afraid to jack up the prices for out-of-town visitors. It’s lovely that San Diego residents can regularly play the same course as Max Homa does during Farmers Insurance Open week, but not get gauged for it simply because the Tour goes there every year. 

Piastowski: Hmm, let’s be topical and say … today! Turn-the-clocks-forward day, where we feel that annual feeling of joy of knowing we get one hour extra of sunshine to hit golf balls. 

Colgan: My favorite golf experience in the world is teeing off on the first tee at Bethpage Black behind the famed warning sign. Nothing better or more essential than that.

The post Tour Confidential: Players Championship week and LIV Golf’s world-ranking fight  appeared first on Golf.