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Golf News Today

For LIV Golf it was the perfect storm. Hurricane force winds swept away Sunday's final round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, clearing an unencumbered view of the climax of the breakaway tour's opening tournament of the year.

So convenient for them was the curtailment of the PGA Tour's initial Signature Event, it made one wonder whether Saudi Arabia had bought the weather as well.

Viewers seeking their usual Sunday golf fix were left with no alternative than to access LIV's season opener in Mayakoba, which was eventually won at the fourth extra hole in near darkness by Chile's Joaquin Niemann.

And, to be fair, for many fans it might have been a close run choice of what to watch, even if the $20m Pebble Beach competition been able to run its full 72-hole course.

Which would you opt for - LIV's offering of Niemann muscling in to defeat major winning Spaniards Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia or US Open winner Wyndham Clark trying to hold off Ludvig Aberg and Matthieu Pavon on the Californian coast?

The latter was being played at an iconic venue on the Californian coast, but one that had been brought to its knees by Clark's extraordinary 60 on Saturday. The former was a $25m shootout on a Greg Norman designed resort course in Mexico, where Niemann had carded a first round 59.

In both events there was some sensational golf, but nothing better illustrates the madness of the modern game than the fact that a total of 134 golfers (80 in the US, 54 on LIV) competed last week for a total of $45m, with no cut at either competition.

When tournaments of such limited stature yield an average take home pay of $336,000 per man, we can easily understand why so many people are now saying that men's professional golf has become utterly divorced from reality.

Clark was crowned the winner at Pebble Beach because the final round was rendered impossible, while the Mexico tournament provided an engaging climax for those who accessed the coverage.

Rahm sought to start repaying the hundreds of millions he pocketed for his close season switch by charging into contention. A potential showdown with his former Ryder Cup partner Garcia was enough to entice me to stream the finale. The website page suggested I was one of around 29,000 watching the action.

It was decent, welcoming coverage. The commentary sought to sell the tournament to a wider audience rather than the usual narrow-casting where traditional golf networks assume that everyone watching is already a golfer.

Caddies wore microphones, and the chat with their players was enlightening. Refreshingly, it felt as though the viewer was being put first.

At least, that was my impression. Is it being overly optimistic to suggest that the competition between tours might ultimately lead to a better overall product for the fan?

That appears the only upside from the current mess, one that appears no nearer to untangling as LIV embarks on its third season.

Neither champion from last weekend could claim to have beaten the best field in the world because both circuits are diluted by division. And the latest developments bring us no nearer to a resolution - quite the opposite, it seems.

The PGA Tour is emboldened by the $1.5bn investment with the Strategic Sport Group that was announced last week. Going forward, they might also attract cash from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) that backs LIV.

But PGA Tour Policy Board member Jordan Spieth reckons they do not need Saudi money, while the man he replaced on the board, Rory McIlroy, insists that this Middle Eastern influence is essential.

McIlroy is reported to have left a WhatsApp group of leading players. It appears he has had enough of the endless wrangling.

The Northern Irishman argues that a deal with PIF is vital for the game to reunite.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice is continuing to insist any arrangement with PIF would need to be formally scrutinised - meaning big delays even if agreement is found.

And where is the Wentworth-based DP World Tour in all of this? There are a number of players and officials who feel they are getting the raw end of their formal 'strategic alliance' with the PGA Tour.

The notion of Europe potentially pivoting to join forces with PIF and thereby providing a pathway back to the establishment fold for LIV recruits such as Rahm and co is not regarded as being as fanciful as it once was.

Having said that, the DP World Tour has just announced FedEx as new sponsors for this year's French Open, a deal that is regarded as a direct benefit resulting from their formalised arrangement with the PGA Tour.

Meanwhile in the United States, the gravy train with its thick and gloopy fare of excess rides on. LIV heads to Las Vegas for Super Bowl week while the PGA Tour sets up camp a tad further south in Arizona for the raucous WM Phoenix Open.

WM stands for waste management - which is just what is needed when overly wealthy rival tours, with substandard products and seemingly no coherent future progression, are left squabbling for our attention.

Its might be time to switch over to the Weather Channel.

[BBC.com]

Golf News Today

Just days before the start of its third season, LIV Golf has signed another big-name European competitor as Tyrrell Hatton is the latest to join the upstart league, according to The Telegraph. The Englishman will join his fellow European, Jon Rahm, on the team circuit with a deal reportedly hovering around $65 million. Rahm's official team name and roster have yet to be announced.

Hatton's reported move follows reports that DP World Tour Player of the Year, Adrian Meronk, will also sign with LIV Golf ahead of the new season. Both Hatton and Meronk are expected to keep their membership with the DP World Tour, but if current punishments persist, then both will be fined each time they participate in a LIV Golf event. This is notable because, as of now, membership on the European circuit is a requirement for Ryder Cup eligibility.

The world No. 16 player is still listed in the field for this week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA Tour but is expected to withdraw ahead of teeing it up at LIV Golf Mayakoba. LIV Golf has a busy beginning to its 2024 schedule as it travels from Mexico to Las Vegas the week of the Super Bowl for its second event in as many weeks.

Despite not collecting a trophy in three years, Hatton is amid some of the best golf of his career. The 32-year-old clocked 16 top-20 finishes in 26 worldwide starts in 2023 with six of those doubling as top-five performances. He finished on the podium at the Wells Fargo Championship and Canadian Open and connected on runner-up efforts at the Players Championship and the BMW PGA Championship on the DP World Tour.

Hatton's departure from the PGA Tour comes at a time when professional golf world remains in flux. Sportico reported the Strategic Sports Group's $3 billion investment into the PGA Tour Enterprises could come as early as this week. The SSG is spearheaded by Fenway Sports Group and features investors like Atlanta Falcons' Arthur Blank and New York Mets' Steven Cohen.

Sports Illustrated followed up this report with news of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (LIV Golf's financial backers) and the PGA Tour making significant strides of their own. Both parties were in New York this past week, and an updated framework agreement could be the product of conversations. 

Optimism surrounding the three parties coming together and unifying professional golf is growing, but many questions remain. What does the future look like? How does additional signings by LIV Golf affect all this? Outside the major championships, when will all the best players in the world play against one another again?

[cbssports.com]

Golf News Today

Nick Dunlap, a University of Alabama sophomore, won The American Express tour Sunday but won't be able to collect any prize money because of his amateur status. 

A 20-year-old amateur golfer became a PGA Tour champion Sunday.

Nick Dunlap, a University of Alabama sophomore, won The American Express tour, beating out Christiaan Bezuidenhout by one stroke and finishing the 72-hole tournament at 29-under-par 259.

But the champion won’t be able to collect any prize money despite becoming the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event since Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open, per the rules of amateur status.

The $1,512,000 prize will be given to Bezuidenhout, the only runner-up in the tour, as if Dunlap had not been in the field, a spokesperson for PGA Tour confirmed to NBC News.

A tearful Dunlap was seen hugging his family and friends following his historic win.

"I went over a scenario for today probably a million times and it's never going to go how you planned, and it didn't," Dunlap said. "I'm so happy to be standing here."

Comparisons have been drawn between the 20-year-old champion and Tiger Woods.

Dunlap is the second golfer in history to win both the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur titles after Woods. He's also the first reigning U.S. Amateur champ to win on the PGA Tour since Woods in 1996.

At 20 years and 29 days, Dunlap is now the youngest amateur to win on the PGA Tour since Chick Evans at the 1910 Western Open.

"It is so cool to be out here and experience this as an amateur," Dunlap said following his win.

"If you would have told me that, you know, come Wednesday night I'd have the putts to win this golf tournament, I wouldn't believe you," he said.

[nbcnews.com]

Golf News Today

HONOLULU — Grayson Murray stuffed a wedge to 3 feet for birdie on the 18th hole for a 3-under 67 to join a three-way playoff and then won the Sony Open with a 40-foot birdie putt to set himself up for a potentially lucrative year.

Murray felt like a renewed person even before starting the season in Hawaii. He says he has been sober for eight months and was in a better frame of mine.

But the win — his first in more than six years — came at an ideal time.

The victory not only gets him in the Masters for the first time, Murray now has a spot in the $20 million signature events the rest of the season.

As big as the win was for Murray, it was a tough loss for Byeong Hun An and Keegan Bradley.

An was short of the par-5 18th green in the playoff in thick rough and pitched on to 4 feet, giving him the best chance at winning. But after Murray made his 40-footer, and Bradley missed his 18-foot birdie putt, An missed the short putt.

An had birdied the 18th in regulation for a 64.

Bradley broke out of a five-way tie with a 20-foot birdie putt on 15th hole. But he had pars the rest of the way for a 67, missing the fairway on the 18th in regulation and hitting a sand wedge some 20 feet short of the pin that took away a good birdie chance.

In the playoff, he was in the best position off the tee. His 5-wood sailed into the hospitality area left of the green, and his pitch came up well short.

Murray ran into trouble with PGA Tour discipline three years ago in Honolulu. He later took to social media to criticize the Tour for not helping him with his drinking. There also was a social media spat with Kevin Na when Murray poked fun at Na’s pace of play.

He was angry and his career was going nowhere since winning an opposite-field event at the Barbasol Championship in 2017.

But he’s in a better place now. Murray attributed so much of his calm to becoming a Christian, being engaged and dedicating himself last year to the Korn Ferry Tour with hopes of getting back to the big leagues.

“It’s not easy, you know?” he said. “I wanted to give up a lot of times — give up on myself, give up on the game of golf, give up on life at times. When you get tired of fighting, let someone fight for you.”

They finished at 17-under 263. Murray earned just under $1.5 million. There are seven signature events left this season, and Murray has a spot in all of them.

“I knew today was not going to change my life,” he said. “But it did change my career.”

Carl Yuan and Russell Henley each closed with a 63 and had their chances.

Henley was at 17 under until he pulled his tee shot left on the 16th, made a strong recovery but ultimately missed a 4-foot par putt. On the closing par 5, his drive went into such a deep lie in the rough he had no chance to get near the green and missed a 10-foot birdie chance.

Yuan made his mistake on the par-3 17th, missing the green left and missing a 4-foot par putt to fall out of the lead. And he appeared to get a break on the 18th when his second shot sailed into the hospitality area. The ball was never found, but rules officials talking to a few spectators decided it was somewhere in the hospitality area. He was given free relief and escaped with par.

But it didn’t help them. An hit the best approach of the day on the 18th to just inside 15 feet, and two-putt birdie made him the first to reach 17 under. Murray followed with a wedge to 3 feet for birdie, and Bradley missed his potential winner from just inside 25 feet.

J.T. Poston finished alone in sixth with the round of the week. He closed with a 61 and was among seven players who had a share of the lead at one point.

There was a five-way tie for the lead when the final group was on the 14th hole.

[NBCSPORTS.COM]

Golf News Today

Harris English, after Saturday’s low round at the Sentry, was asked about a little bit of everything. Sixty-fours that shoot you up the leaderboard can sometimes lead to that. 

Amongst the back-and-forth, reporters wondered:

Did it help that English started on the back nine on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, where scoring is often lower? Sort of, he said. His putter won the day, though.  

What was the difference in that putter? Harris said he was simply marrying his speeds and his lines better. During the first two rounds, they were off. (Golf, right?)

What did he do after the RSM Classic, the last PGA Tour tournament? He played in an event, the Grant Thornton Invitational, the PGA Tour-LPGA tournament. He duck-hunted in Missouri. He practiced. 

What was he working on? Same stuff, he said. It’s monotonous, he admitted. But the repetition gets him to be repetitive come game time. 

Would it help him during the final round that he won the 2021 Sentry? No doubt.

Did he want to add anything else? 

“It’s playing how it should out there,” he said. “It’s windy, it’s tricky, got some good pins, it’s a lot of fun. I know everybody’s having a lot of fun this week and it’s probably the best shape I’ve ever seen it.”

“And you’re getting money at the end of the week.”

“Yeah, and we’re getting a lot of money. Pretty good place to start out for the year.”

Which is a nice segue to this:

Here is a complete list of the 2024 Sentry payouts for all 59 players. The total purse is $20 million.

How much every player made at the 2024 Sentry...

[Source: Golf.com]

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