The PGA Tour-LIV Golf company line at the U.S. Open? Well …
LOS ANGELES — Rory McIlroy told us how this could go. When he did, it spoke volumes.
His plan for this week? Say nothing. One of golf’s better speakers had been on the list to opine on any and all matters ahead of this week’s U.S. Open, at 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday at Los Angeles Country Club. Now he’s not.
There’s more where that came from. Or less. On Monday, Matt Fitzpatrick was first up to bat in the media center. The defending champ here can be sneaky good with the takes. He surely would have something — something! — to say on this proposed deal among the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund that dropped a crater-sized divot mark on the golf world. And here the sides are, together — in Hollywood, of all places.
Noooope. Try as the media folks may. In all, Fitzpatrick took five questions on the matter. He answered four. We’ll go in order.
“Could you talk about your thoughts on the LIV/PGA merger and whether or not you’re keeping your options open legally as far as that goes?”
“I’ll be completely honest, I literally know as much as you. I’m sure everyone has gotten questions about it. I found out when everyone else found out. Yeah, honestly, I know literally nothing.”
“Do you feel less or more confused about that whole situation this year than this time last year at this tournament? Or less uncertainty?”
“I guess, yeah, the whole thing is confusing, I guess. It was confusing last year. I seem to remember just last year just thinking about the tournament, just the U.S. Open. It was obviously different because I had the tie to the golf course and the history there, so probably was easier for me to mentally focus on that and be in a better place than obviously all this confusion that’s going on this week. Yeah, I guess the whole thing is confusing, yeah.”
“You used the word ‘confusing’ a couple times. What about the current situation in golf is most confusing to you?”
“Well, I think I just don’t know what’s going on. I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on. Are we signing with the PIF, are we not signing with the PIF? I have no idea. Even though I guess it is confusing, it’s pretty clear that nobody knows what’s going on apart from about four people in the world.”
“Do you feel like you should be compensated for not going to LIV?”
“Talking to your peers over the last week or since this started, is it the same? Does everybody have the same kind of questions? Is everybody in the same position you’re in, being confused and so uncertain and wondering what’s going on with everybody on the Tour?
At this point, a USGA moderator jumped in.
“I think it’s been asked and answered so we’re going to move on to U.S. Open topics.”
Not much, right? Or maybe there is is. But let’s check in first with Cam Smith, your Open Championship winner from 2022. Surely he would give the masses something — something! — to nibble on. He was one of the pros who left the PGA Tour for Saudi-backed LIV Golf, and now those same Saudis were teaming up with his former mates. Granted, Smith can be relatively short in his words, but he’s hardly thoughtless.
More of the same. Or is it less of the same? We digress. Here’s a sampling:
“Obviously so much chat going on about where the world of golf is at the moment and so many unanswered questions. Are you able to tell us whether you’ve had assurances that LIV will continue into 2024?”
“Yeah, I really know as much as you guys know, to be honest. I haven’t been told much at all. I’m just taking it as it goes along. I guess if anything comes up, I’ll let you guys know, but for the moment, it’s just trying to play the best golf I can and trying to win a U.S. Open.”
“We’re dealing in hypotheticals here, but if LIV were to finish this year, would you want to return to the PGA Tour next year?”
“Yeah, I mean, that’s another pretty hypothetical question. I’m unable to answer that one.”
“What was the reaction like with the other LIV players after the news broke, and talking with your teammates, what was your reaction when you first saw the news?”
“I guess the first reaction was I thought it was kind of a joke that had come out, and then H.E. gave me a call and kind of explained what was going on. He didn’t really explain too much. I think there’s still a lot of stuff to be worked out, and as time goes on, we’ll get to know more and more. But there’s definitely a lot of curious players, I think, on both sides as to what the future is going to look like.”
Well, that first sentence there, with the mention of “H.E.,” was at least notable. The governor of the Saudi PIF fund is Yasir Al-Rumayyan. His circle calls him ‘His Excellency,’ or sometimes ‘H.E.’ And that’s something Smith calls him, too. Interesting.
There were expectations coming into this week, right? The proposed deal had dropped last Tuesday. Those affected absorbed it. Now let’s hear where they stand! On everything. On the whos. Is Tour commissioner Jay Monahan running this, or “H.E.?” On the whats. What’s this arrangement going to look like? On the whens. When’s this going to start? On the whys. Why now? On the hows. How will we get there? And how do you feel about it all? And that’s just the basic stuff.
To paraphrase Fitzpatrick: Yeah, they’ll pass. Yeah, probably not now. Is it disappointing? Maybe. Folks love drama. Should you be surprised? Probably not. Would you want to be the one who takes the leap and goes scorched earth on everything? To give the quote? McIlroy somewhat did last week at the Canadian Open — and now he’s not talking. In separate interviews, Martin Kaymer and Xander Schauffele also had some thoughts, and the stories went viral. In short, there’ll be side talk, and stories might come out, but it won’t be on the big stage. Speaking of …
It’s also the U.S. Open.
And to that end, Fitzpatrick did answer another question that was related to the Tour-LIV-PIF upheaval.
“With all the stuff going on in golf, can that be a distraction when you play a major, or is that stuff overrated?”
“No, I think it’s overrated. I think you’re not going to be stood on the first tee thinking, oh what’s going on in the golf world. You’re thinking, it’s a par-4, where do I need to hit it, where is the wind.
“That’s all you’re thinking about.”
Though a lot of other folks aren’t.