Have we witnessed the day LIV Golf arrived? | Golf News and Tour Information
LIV Golf had its first YouTube moment on Sunday. The fourth LIV event was decided in a sudden-death playoff. Dustin Johnson and two other guys not named Cam Smith.
A playoff is a giveaway for LIV Golf’s unique shotgun starting format, as it brings all spectators to a single hole for the first time, in this case, the 18th at The International near Boston. Johnson made an unlikely 35ft – his eagle putt was flying– and the curtain fell.
It was a gift for YouTube. As of noon on Labor Day, the show (or parts of it) had been viewed 792,155 times. Live sport as theatre. We are waiting for the surprise. People like to be entertained.
I saw it on my MacBook. (Full disclosure and I can’t be alone: I watched a fraction of the six-hour broadcast.) The ball disappeared, thousands of arms went up and a roar too. It looked like a golf tournament and looked like one too – a golf tournament that ended on its 55th hole.
We all know the deal: three rounds of 18 holes, 48 players, 12 teams of four. DJ plays for the Four Aces, who also won the tag team competition for the third time in a row. As Warren Buffett once told shareholders after investing in a cement company, “Try to contain your enthusiasm.”
Warren Buffett is a member of Augusta National. I saw him once at a Ryder Cup. He was there to play bridge. There are many roads leading to golf and golf events.
Mark King, the former CEO of TaylorMade who now sells tacos (he’s the CEO of Taco Bell), is one of the most insightful golfers I’ve ever met. About a month ago he told me that in five years LIV Golf will be another circuit among the existing circuits and everyone will learn to get along. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t doubt King on anything in golf. He was way ahead of the golf hoodie thing.
Every professional golfer is an opportunist. It’s the way of the world, really. But opportunism has degrees, like everything else. Tiger Woods, as a rookie, played Milwaukee and Disney and the former Southern Open. A year or two later, he no longer needed those events, but his golf home was still the PGA Tour. It remains the PGA Tour, although it will never play anything resembling a full schedule again. As for the Disney tournament and the Southern Open, they are dead and gone. Life goes on.
Johnson and Smith (one shot out of the playoffs) and Phil Mickelson (T-40 in Boston) walked away from the PGA Tour to LIV. For some of us, it didn’t (and didn’t) go well. But 792,155 clicks is 792,155 clicks. The number of clicks will only increase. The passion for LIV Golf is harder to say. It will never have greatness. But greatness is not part of his business plan.
The unspoken element of any business plan is luck. The LIVsters were lucky that Smith won the British Open at the Old Course in July, on a quiet Sunday when Rory McIlroy hit a long string of conservative second shots. Greg Norman and Co. were lucky Johnson made that eagle putt. Drip, drip, drip and a sports league was born, like it or not.
Ten weeks ago, the US Open was played outside of Boston, at the Country Club. It is unusual for a city to have two golf events in one year. In 1981, the US Open was played at Merion, outside of Philadelphia. The former leg of the Philadelphia tour, played in Whitemarsh Valley, sat on the sidelines for the year and never regained its footing. Golf planning is a tough business.
It’s weird to say, but one of the things I remember best from this year’s US Open was Phil’s press conference on Monday afternoon. I was under the awning of the tent with 100 other journalists. We were all crammed in there because Mickelson was returning to public life, in the United States anyway. The US Open is the stern grandfather of golf tournaments, the one in which he has finished second half a dozen times, the title he needs to complete the Grand Slam of his career. You can watch the press conference on YouTube, if you like. I’m not. Too painful, all around.
Phil’s baffling Open record will be in his obituary. Tiger has three US Open wins, which seems unlikely given the way he drives it. The US Open has greatness. It may be boring, but it’s great. Weird, right?
There was an undercurrent of resentment in that half hour under that tent, next to the yellow flag of the Country Club. We in the sports writing business lean towards tradition. Because when the score is 9-1 in the seventh, you start making history and you’re chasing the club record for most runners blocked in a game. (That’s 27, in a 20 inning game.) I mean, you have to write something, don’t you? Now might be a good time to note that baseball was once called the American pastime. When was the last time someone said that with a straight face?
This is the strangest year in golf history, at least in my years in golf. I believe Tiger thought that after skipping the US Open he could prepare to enter the Old Course. He did not do it. I can’t imagine him playing all four majors again in one season. The Presidents Cup is approaching and he has no public role, certainly not as a player, but not even as an assistant captain. But you can be sure that Davis Love III, the American captain, will pass all the alignments in front of him. It’s a statement about Tiger’s position in the game.
Phil’s position in the game has been hit hard. Only a year ago, as assistant captain, he was the darling of the Ryder Cup. Him and Amy, really. Most lovely couple. At present, it seems unlikely that he will wear a Ryder Cup uniform again.
The LIV event – a September golf event in greater Boston – was reminiscent of other September golf events in greater Boston.
Some of you will remember Mickelson’s Labor Day 2007 win at the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. FedEx II, from IV, back in the day. Yes, it’s a quote from Tiger. Mickelson was paired with Woods for the fourth and final round and won by two.
Mickelson did not play FedEx III that year. It was a kind of protest. In the win, on live television, he said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem did not respond to various suggestions he made. Everyone on tour knew that Mickelson thought four FedEx events was one too many. Eventually, of course, the number was reduced to three.
You may not remember this, but Mickelson was working with Butch Harmon at the time, Tiger’s former swing coach. Woods was the defending champion in Boston. Woods won seven times in 2007. But if Phil ever got Tiger’s number, it was then and there, for that brief shining moment. Woods wore red and black, of course, for the Labor Day finale. Phil wore black and blue. Source: YouTube.
While we’re at it (Boston, golf, September song), let’s remember the 1999 Ryder Cup at the Country Club. On Sunday, third at bat, Mickelson won a game when his team, the United States of America, needed all the runs possible.
That day, Mickelson and his 11 teammates all wore what is surely the most memorable jersey ever awarded to members of an American golf team, a maroon tribute to the great moments of the Country Club. Yes, Tiger also won that day, in fifth place.
Do you know what British writers remember most about this Sunday? The way American players and their wives and assistant captains and various others ran all over the 17th green after Justin Leonard drilled a bomb, even though Jose Maria Olazabal still had a 22-footer to cut it in half. Chima has drilled hundreds of putts longer than that.
We are all corrupted by our own attachments.
This is the Chicago LIV event. This is the Presidents Cup. Here is soccer. This is playoff baseball, for those of you who know more about how playoff baseball works.