3 more golfers just joined LIV (and 1 fell tragically short)
LIV made headlines with its acquisition of Jon Rahm earlier this week. It’ll continue to create headlines in the coming days and weeks as it fills out Rahm’s LIV team and adds free agents to others. But on Sunday it added three lesser-known names, too, through its first-ever Promotions event.
The event, which represents LIV’s response to PGA Tour Q-School, brought 73 players from across tours to Abu Dhabi for a three-day shootout to fill three spots for the 2024 LIV season.
Friday’s opening round pared the field down to 42 players. Scores were reset for Saturday’s 18-hole competition, which then pared the field to 20 players. On Sunday scores were reset again and the remaining contestants played 36 holes to determine the three spots.
Finland’s Kalle Samooja recorded the lowest 36-hole score, making birdie on his final two holes to post eight under (65-71) and claim medalist honors, earning his spot in the process.
“My only mission was to make it to Sunday and then give it all I have, and we’re standing here,” Samooja said.
Three players finished the day at seven under and proceeded to a sudden-death playoff for the final two spots; and that’s where things got interesting. On the par-5 18th, the first playoff hole, England’s Laurie Canter reached the green in two while Japan’s Jinichiro Kozuma found the water with his tee shot. But a three-putt from Canter combined with an up-and-down for par from Kozuma and another par from Zimbabwe’s Kieran Vincent sent them to a second playoff hole.
On the second playoff hole, Canter attempted a bold second shot from a tricky lie — but then he topped it into the water, all but eliminating himself from contention. Vincent and Kozuma cruised through to claim the final two spots.
“Credit to him, credit to Laurie,” said Vincent. “It’s obviously just a painful game, and obviously we’re lucky to be on this side of it, but obviously it’s heartbreak for Laurie.”
Samooja is a 35-year-old who has spent much of his career on the DP World Tour. At LIV promotions, he claimed the $200,000 first prize. Kieran Vincent, 26, will join his brother Scott on LIV. And Kozuma, 29, will play a full LIV season after making three starts on the startup circuit in 2022.
“I don’t think the tears are doing it justice,” said an emotional Vincent. “Obviously it’s just one of those experiences that — obviously watching my brother the whole year, seeing how life-changing it can be, I just hope that this propels my career to a whole new level.”
Canter led the next set of finishers in 4th-10th who will earn exemptions into the 2024 International Series, a set of LIV-funded events on the Asian Tour’s schedule. He earned $75,000 for fourth place all the way down to $25,000 for 10th place. Finishers in spots 11-20 earned $17,500.
LIV’s Promotions event occurs as the league chases legitimacy entering its third season. Critics have cited the league’s closed system (most of its 48 players did not qualify for LIV but were hand-selected) as a sign of its lack of competitive integrity. But a qualifying tournament seeks to remedy that criticism, opening three spots to replace three relegated players from the 2023 season.
The event also comes in the context of ongoing negotiations between the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the PGA Tour — negotiations that have only gotten more complex in recent weeks. Although the PGA Tour allowed players to compete in the Promotions event provided they file for a media rights release, most of the PGA Tour players who entered the field did not file for media releases in time. As a result, those players — which include Kevin Chappell and Martin Trainer (who finished in the top 10) as well as Jason Dufner — may be subject to suspensions.
LIV CEO Greg Norman was triumphant in his post-tournament remarks.
“My phone has been blowing up since I’ve been here,” Norman said with characteristic confidence. “People from all over the world have been watching this, because obviously it has a very powerful meaning about this pathway to the LIV league for 2024. That’s a testament to the thought and the process that we put through creating this opportunity for the three guys who made it here today.”
LIV’s 2024 season kicks off in February at Mayakoba in Mexico. You can see the top 10 finishers from the Promotions event below.
1. Kalle Samooja
2. Kieran Vincent
3. Jinichiro Kozuma
4. Laurie Canter, England
5. Jaco Ahlers, South Africa
6. Zach Bauchou, USA
7. Poom Saksansin, Thailand
8. Kevin Chappell, USA
9. Martin Trainer, France
10. Suradit Yongcharoenchai, Thailand