Hey Saudi Arabia, if you want to know what a real golf tournament looks like, just rewatch this past weekend’s U.S. Open. After a thrilling Sunday round at The Country Club at Brookline, Massachusetts, the people of Earth were once again reminded why the PGA Tour is home to not only the world’s greatest golfers, but also home to the world’s greatest golf format.
As you may be aware, the PGA Tour is, uh…sort of having a rough go of it right now. The new Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour has siphoned off the PGA of some of its premier golfing talent and has created a firestorm of media coverage. The world’s oldest and most storied golf tour is facing its most precarious moment since its inception. This past weekend, however, reminded us of why the PGA Tour still has so much appeal.
A chain of events, starting with two knee-dropping misses, occurred on the 18th hole. First, world #1 Scottie Scheffler hit a beautiful approach shot into #18, giving himself an opportunity for a tying birdie. It just missed. Then, when Zalatrois' attempted birdie putt stay just left of the hole, the magnitute of the moment came crashing down on one person - but not the person you'd think. At that moment, the moment Zalatoris' ball trickled hopelessly left,Matt Fitzpatrick, the 27-year-old from Sheffield, England, had just secured the U.S. Open. But it wasn’t Fitzpatrick who looked overwhelmed, oh no. That would be his caddy, Billy Foster.
After 35 years of caddying for some of golf’s greats, like Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn, Foster had finally caddied for a major winner. Fitzpatrick was a U.S. Open champion. Foster had broken through, too.
The absolute joy on Fitzpatrick’s face as he lifted the U.S. Open Championship trophy…the agony of defeat as Zalatoris watched his birdie putt refuse to fall…the atmosphere…the pride…the respect…the stakes…these are all the things the LIV Golf Tour lacks.
There was a lot of debate before the U.S. Open as to whether or not the major championships may decide to stand with the PGA Tour and deny entry to the LIV Golf defectors. It turns out that the majors wanted no part of this fight.
It’s hard to blame them. The charm and appeal of the majors is the chance to see the world’s best golfers compete on some of the most unique and challenging courses anywhere. Was the Master’s really going to tell three-time champion Phil Mickelson to take a hike? Would the British Open deny entry to one of its countrymen and former world #1 golfer in Lee Westwood? Were major winners Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau going to be banned from the PGA Championship and U.S. Open? Of course not.
With all of that said, this weekend’s U.S. Open sent a powerful message to LIV Golf and its supporters: you aren’t going to be able to take over golf that easily.
With all of its history and tradition, the PGA Tour still remains the premier professional golf league in the world. It has the best courses, the best golfers, and the best legacy. The classic, four-round, stroke-play format still manufactures some truly incredible moments. Fitzpatrick’s bunker shot on #18 will be replayed on golf highlights from now until the end of golfing time.
In a karmic turn of events, nearly every golfer associated with the LIV Golf Tour performed miserably over the weekend. Mickelson? He finished with a +11 and missed the cut. Garcia? Finished his round on Friday at +4 and was cut. Kevin Na, Talor Gooch, Brandon Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, James Piot, Shaun Norris and Sam Horsfield? Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut and cut.
Of the former PGA Tour members who participated in last weekend’s LIV Golf Tour event in London, only Johnson, DeChambeau and Reed managed to survive until the last round. Johnson scored the best of the three, but even he struggled his way to a +4 to tie for 24th place.
Mickelson, in particular, seemed to imply that the Saudi-backed tour had not prepared him appropriately for the challenge he faced at Brookline.
“I thought I was more prepared than I was,” said Mickelson in a press conference after his round on Friday, “The U.S. Open is the ultimate test. And you don’t really know where your game is until you get tested, and I thought I was a little bit closer than I was.”
Bingo! Phil just spelled out the fundamental issue (besides the fact that Saudi Arabia executes homosexuals and dissidents) of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour - it’s not a real test of golf!
There’s no history with the LIV Tour, no tradition. They play just three rounds. There are teams and team captains and draft picks. Everyone gets a paycheck, no matter how poorly they perform. The format is like a horrible, mutated mashup of golf and fantasy football.
Real golf is what we saw in the U.S. Open. Real golf is watching a young man like Matt Fitzpatrick overcome the massive challenge of Brookline to not only win his first major, but also join Jack Nicklaus as the only players to ever win the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open at the same course. Real golf is watching the pain of Zalatoris as he finishes in 2nd in his 2nd consecutive major. Real golf is the joy of knowing you’ll get to see those two, and so many other great golfers, go at it again next year.
Unfortunately for the PGA Tour, the LIV Golf Tour isn’t going anywhere. They’re too flush with oil money to be outspent and they’re too covetous to care about the damage they’re doing. At some point in the future, we will probably see the LIV Golf Tour and the PGA Tour form a strategic partnership. But until then, golf fans can relax knowing the best courses, the best golfers and the best golf are securely in the hands of the PGA Tour.