LIV? Masters? The state of golf? Legend Ben Crenshaw has some thoughts
Ben Crenshaw is worried about the state of golf and the Masters, where, through two victories, he may have gained his most fame.
And he has a thought, too, on LIV Golf, the cause for his concern. On Friday, on an appearance on Golf Channel’s Golf Today, the 19-time PGA Tour winner was asked where he would like the Saudi-backed series to go moving forward.
“I’d like — I don’t know,” Crenshaw began, in response to the question from co-host Damon Hack. “I wish that people could value what the game means to so many people. What it’s meant to these guys that played their whole career on tour, trying to climb the ladder, trying to get better, trying to best each other in competition.
“The focus on that hopefully is not lost because that pure competition, whether you’re talking about four majors and how you stack up against the rest of your career, or the Masters — I wish the focus was on the pure competition. I don’t know where it’s going from here because it’s been on people’s mind, and we’ll just see. I just don’t know where we’re going.”
Crenshaw’s comments come as LIV enters its second year of play, and the PGA Tour begins its season with a host of changes largely in place to keep its membership from leaving for the upstart. The Masters has also made a recent move when it announced that there would be no change in its qualifying criteria — meaning Tour and LIV golfers will play Augusta National together in April — and, on Golf Today, Crenshaw was asked by co-host Eamon Lynch whether he thought the first major of the year could turn into a circus.
“I sure hope not, Eamon,” Crenshaw said. “It’s a tournament in which the champion can change his whole life. It’s a life-giving memory, there’s no doubt about that. But I hope the focus is on the champion and the tournament. But I don’t know. I just really don’t know. I’ve been worried about it, I must be honest.”
Then there’s the Champions Dinner, and if there is a question of whether the tournament could get wild, just imagine the atmosphere from the room where the former winners — including six current LIV players — gather the Tuesday ahead of the event. Even world No. 5 Jon Rahm, who has never won a green jacket, was anticipating the meal.
“One thing I keep going back to [laughing], and it’s probably only funny to me, but I think the Masters Champions Dinner’s going to be a little tense compared to how it’s been in the past,” Rahm said this week in his pre-Tournament of Champions press conference. “So I keep thinking about it because I wish I could be there and just be able to see how things work out.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told Hack. “Our job is to honor the champion, Scottie Scheffler, not only for winning the tournament, but what an unbelievably wonderful career and year he had last year; emerged as one of the best players in the world. Our job is to honor him; it’s his night. Each of us have earned a lifetime exemption into that tournament, but our job is to honor the current champion, Scottie.”
Crenshaw’s most pointed words, though, may have come after a question about the state of golf. Here is that exchange between him and Lynch on Golf Today.
“Ben, you joined the PGA Tour back in 1973, competed out there for more than 40 years,” Lynch began. “How do you feel when you look around the landscape of golf now when you see obviously this creation of LIV Golf; you see a lot of divisiveness out there on the PGA Tour? What’s your reaction to all of that?”
“Eamon, as you imagine, you can probably imagine how I feel,” Crenshaw said. “I owe my life to golf. I don’t like what’s going on, I must be honest. I don’t like to see breakups of relationships that have been combined over a long period of time. I happen to think that there are things in golf and in life that are more important than money.
“I have a lifetime of friendships and memories that will last me, but I just don’t like it that — you know, golf so far has stayed above a lot of things that have been disruptive to the game, but I don’t like what’s going on. I wish it were different, and we’re seeing it play out in a game that I’ve loved and a lot of people have loved. I think the best competition is on the PGA Tour, no question about that. I think we’ve seen great leadership, and Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, can’t applaud them enough.
“I just hate that these relationships are torn. I don’t like that at all.”
Editor’s note: To watch the Golf Today interview with Crenshaw, please click here.