Greg Norman wanted to share some “interesting facts” with you. His tournament this week in Portland, the LIV Golf CEO wrote on Twitter earlier this week, had 21 players from the world’s top 100. And 17 of the past 50 major winners. And 10 of the past 24 major winners. And the competition had less. It’s here where we’ll note that he probably didn’t scrape through the data on his field, the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic field and the DP World Tour’s Irish Open himself, but you never know. Let’s continue.
Anyways, one of Norman’s newest employees summed it all up rather quickly.
“And how many major winners do you have here compared to John Deere?” Pat Perez said. “It’s not even close. The Tour wants to keep talking about strength of field and all that kind of stuff; the strength of field is here. So whether everybody wants to talk about it or not, that’s what it is.
“Facts are facts.”
Facts are facts. Scoreboard. You can’t argue the truth, and we can handle the truth. But facts, you see, can be selective. They can shape a story. And Norman and friends have conveniently forgotten to tell you all of it.
This was the week, wasn’t it, in this PGA Tour-Euro Tour v. LIV battle royale? Not only was the establishment going straight up against the upstart on American soil for the first time, it was doing so with one of its statistically ranked weaker fields in the JDC, as Norman wrote about and Perez boasted. If your golf news felt heightened over the past couple of days, more urgent, here’s your reason. Golf fireworks, on, yes, Fourth of July weekend.
And my friend texted me.
He does so often on the weekends when the golf is on. He enjoys a cup in the morning with the play across the pond, it’s on in the background in the afternoon. But this wasn’t about who I liked this week in Illinois, Ireland or Oregon. (Those texts were earlier.)
“A big reason I like to watch these guys play the John Deere this week is because a win for them is career-changing! Two-year exemption, huge amount of cash, get in Masters, etc.
“To watch a guy have to hold (or take) the lead in final round is lots of drama.”
I texted back that he had formed quite the take. Really, the John Deere?
“It’s true! To make a birdie or par on 18 or whatever to win is HUGE. Difference between exhibition and real competition.”
Facts are facts.
And here they are. Yes, the winner of the Deere gets the two-year Tour exemption. And the money; $1.28 mil. And the Masters berth. A spot in the PGA Championship, and one in the Open Championship in two weeks, too. And as the weaker field implies, every player could use every one of those perks. For a few, there’s a very real chance they won’t be playing golf on yours or my friend’s TV this time next year without them; only leader J.T. Poston has won over the past three years. Drama? Only if you like the life-changing kind.
Which brings us to the scene in Oregon. I’ve written in this space before that I see potential in LIV’s team aspect, and you could see that playing out on Saturday. Players who normally would be out of it weren’t, fighting for their Fireballs or Stingers or Fire Stingers or whatever. Money, big money, was on the line, and Branden Grace, the winner, won the most. And you may like that, and the TV cameras were doing a nice job of showing that a lot of folks were in Portland.
But the fact is — there’s that word again — all 48 will still get paid, and in most cases, paid well; remember, there is no cut, and the purses are ridiculous. Or, more accurately, they’ll be paid more. Remember, the stars signed for big sums for hitting any shot. Dan Rapaport captured this theme well in an excellent piece for Golf Digest, where he wrote that he complimented a player on a shot on the range, only for the player to snap, “Yep, it will.
“But, who the f**k cares if it doesn’t?”
Funny, yes, but not exactly something you’d use in a commercial. Though this might be. Zach Johnson’s view below is heavily tainted. He’s pro-Tour, pro-John Deere, pro-started from the bottom now he’s here. (Sorry, Drake.) He, too, was once a no-name. And parlayed the Deere into becoming a household one. But if you’re looking for someone to tell you that even one of the Tour’s lesser-known events can hang with LIV, he’s your man.
“These kids are really, really good,” Johnson said Saturday. “I don’t know how else to explain it. I know we don’t have the top whatever in the whatever index or world ranking or whatever, but the guys here are really, really good and they’re hungry.
“So the quality of golf is going to be spectacular. Again, I can’t stress it enough, the guys you see here that win are going to be — they’re going to become the next whomever. That’s what we have here.
“I think that’s — we have that every week. That’s the difficulty. It’s impressive. That’s why the PGA Tour is the best.”
We’ll wrap this up truthfully. And on a good note. Back to the facts one last time.
You or my friend don’t have to choose on Sunday.
John Deere plays 72 holes and has one more round. LIV, as the Roman numerals tell you, plays 54 and is done for the week.