Which LIV golfer does the PGA Tour miss most? 4 experts weigh in
We at the Drop Zone podcast wrangled up a couple of golf’s brightest minds to join us in recapping the 2022 professional golf season. First our co-hosts Dylan Dethier and Sean Zak broke down the first half of the year — including plenty of things you’d already forgotten about — with golf broadcaster (and children’s book author!) Shane Bacon. Then CBS’s Kyle Porter (also an author!) broke down the second half of the year, going deep on St. Andrews and everything after.
There was a lot of ground covered in the two discussions. But one question stuck in our ears post-chat that we wanted you to ponder, too: Of all the pros who left the PGA Tour for LIV, which one does the Tour miss the most? Here’s where the fellas took that conversation:
Sean Zak: “I think you could make the argument for Dustin [Johnson] only because he was the lynchpin. He came out with his statement saying ‘I’m staying on the PGA Tour.’ And then, three months later, ‘I’m leaving, and I’m the kingpin here. I’m the one that changed everybody’s arithmetic. That changed what Brooks Koepka was thinking about when it came to LIV and changed what everybody else was thinking.’
“Imagine the field coming out and the best player in it was Sergio? … [Johnson] is one of the winningest golfers in PGA Tour history. Twenty wins and truly one of the greatest talents the game has ever seen. So I think the Tour, if they had him and didn’t lose him, keeps things together in a little bit different way.”
Shane Bacon: “I think it’s Phil. I think if you eliminate the idea of LIV and you eliminate the comments that Phil made early in the season and beyond, Phil Mickelson is one of the two faces of the PGA Tour in this era. I mean, Phil’s coming off winning the PGA Championship, one of the great wins we’ve ever seen. He was going to play as the defending champion. … But if there’s no LIV, at some point Phil’s going full-time to the Champions Tour. And y’know who else is going to turn 50 relatively soon? It’s Tiger. And if you’re the Champions Tour and you’re trying to boost your product and there’s an actual opportunity that you might get Tiger and Phil playing against each other on that Tour? It’d be like the early 90s when you had Trevino and Jack and that crew and at times it would out-rate the PGA Tour. So I think there’s probably an argument to be made that the PGA Tour misses the idea of Phil Mickelson the most…when you look ahead at the trajectory of their golf and their tours and what they’re trying to sell, I mean, Phil sells stuff!”
Dylan Dethier: I think those are both good answers, DJ and Phil. I think you have a really good case for Cameron Smith, because he was really the only top guy at the peak of his game not battling injury or advanced age to go. But one guy I think the Tour sneaky misses who would be a real asset in this back-and-forth? It’s Brooks Koepka.
“I think we tend to almost forget about him, in the last few months at least. But you could imagine Brooks Koepka spitting fire on behalf of the PGA Tour. To be the guy that says ‘Look, I play the tournaments that matter and those [LIV] guys have effectively retired, and if they wanted to keep playing important golf they’d be on the PGA Tour.’ Nobody has really nailed that message, I think the criticisms of LIV have evolved over time and a lot of them haven’t necessarily stuck. But I think Brooks was probably more injured than he or we were wiling to admit and at a certain point that money and that schedule became more enticing. But I think he is a sneaky big-time loss for the PGA Tour because of his resume and because of the big game he has always talked…in terms of modern major champions, it’s Brooks and then it’s everybody else.”
Then, one podcast episode later, with time winding down on the clock, we got Porter to weigh in, too.
Kyle Porter: “I think it’s probably Cam Smith. Just in the short term he’s the Players champion, and you’ve got all this awkwardness of well, we’re gonna run the 2021 commercials for the 2023 Players, so there’s that in the short term.
“I think the real answer, not from a PGA Tour organization standpoint but from golf as a whole — is Bryson. In the book I called him the ‘High King of Content’ because he cannot stop generating content. Unintentional, intentional, everything he does. And part of it is because … Bryson is potentially generationally good and so what he does matters. And it’s this circular thing of he can’t stop creating it, and people feed it to him, and it’s just incredible. I’m probably going to miss covering him more than anybody else who left.”
There’s no simple answer, of course. There’s a domino effect at play, too; some players were catalysts while others followed. But there’s no question the Tour looks different entering 2023 than it did 2022. You can listen to the full episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your podcasts. And if you’re feeling the holiday spirit, consider leaving a glowing review! We’ll be back in 2023.