BOCA RATON – LIV Golf is as divisive with the PGA Tour champion crowd as it is with other professional golfers.
Most veterans don’t follow LIV and have no interest in golf or the format, but understand that money is hard to turn down for some.
Then there’s Hall of Famer Bernhard Langer, who believes the series, funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is damaging the sport.
“I think it hurts golf, I don’t think it’s good,” Langer said. “I don’t see that they have a business plan, but I can understand that for some people it’s hard to turn down that kind of money.”
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Langer’s impression on the league pales in comparison to that of legendary caddy Mike Cowan, the man known as “Fluff” who gained notoriety as Tiger Woods’ first caddy. Now 74, Cowan has been on Jim Furyk’s bag for 23 years.
I asked Cowan for a caddy’s perspective on LIV.
“It doesn’t exist in my world,” he said. “I don’t give a damn (expletive) about it.”
Cowan then warned that he would have to be a lot more beep if he continued.
Tour champion payouts change drastically from LIV
The Tour Champions is holding its penultimate event at the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club this weekend. Golfers play for the top prize of $350,000 and the top 36 will advance to Phoenix where Charles Schwab Cup champion will be crowned and earn a $1 million bonus.
Chump change from the money thrown by LIV.
LIV wrapped up its inaugural season Sunday at Doral with a $25 million purse. LIV awarded $255 million in prizes and bonuses for eight events this year. That number will jump to $405 million for 14 events in 2023.
That’s why those on the Champions Tour, some of whom made a solid living on the PGA Tour, include those who couldn’t turn away from generational money.
“These guys are making a lot of money,” Scott McCarron said. “I don’t blame any of the guys for going there. If I was a young man I probably wouldn’t go. I would like to win major tournaments and I would like to be in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. The most old guys, I don’t blame them for going.”
McCarron has earned approximately $12.65 million over two decades on the PGA Tour. That’s pretty much what Jupiter’s Peter Uihlein did this year in eight LIV-series proofs. But Furyk has won more than $71.5 million in prize money on the PGA Tour, so he has a better understanding of what it’s like to be ultra-successful.
Furyk wonders how some of these most successful golfers could turn their backs on the tour.
“For the guys who are between 40 and 45, 48, I think they saw a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and they decided to go for it” , Furyk said. “The youngsters are the ones who are very interesting and kind of made me scratch my head.
“The tour plays for so much money, their retirement packages, the opportunity to earn a living there exists.”
Still, Furyk’s comments were measured. He wonders how long the LIV model is sustainable, especially without a TV contract.
“The tour has an enduring pattern,” he said.
He doesn’t believe the sport will be damaged, but he also doesn’t believe there is a chance of a merger. “What I see are two circuits competing against each other,” he said.
But, like Langer, he doesn’t know how LIV develops the game.
“They said they were developing the game,” Langer said. “How do they develop the game? I think it’s bad for the game because we don’t all play in the same tournaments.
“I don’t see anything really positive in any of this. And this team thing, I don’t know if people buy into it.”
The Tour Champions was Langer’s LIV. Langer, who lives in Boca Raton, has raised $33.33 million over his 15 years on the 50-plus circuit. He has earned $10.76 million over three decades on the PGA Tour.
Darren Clarke refused to be in the LIV broadcast booth
Darren Clarke was offered a three-year contract by LIV to be a color commentator for his shows, which only air on YouTube and LIV’s website. When told that his participation on the show would be a violation of regulations and subject to disciplinary action, he rejected the offer.
Clarke, 54, has reportedly been banned from the Champions Tour and put at risk for playing at the British Open and Senior British Open.
Clarke declined to comment on LIV on Friday but spoke about the offer at SI.com/Morning Read this summer.
“I’m really enjoying my time on the Champions Tour and I didn’t want to jeopardize it,” said Clarke, who did not reveal the amount of the offer.
Langer, 65, was asked what he would have done if LIV had existed in his prime and he received an offer.
“I really don’t know and I can’t answer that,” he said. “I wasn’t in that situation and I don’t know what I would have said if they had thrown $100 million at me, or whatever it was. That’s a tough question. I can’t answer that one.”
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Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club, Boca Raton