How did the PGA and LIV golfers fare at the British Open?
With the focus going into the 150th Open Championship shifting toward the LIV, it was inevitable that comparisons between the two groups would emerge
Just a year ago, there were golfers. That is it. Just golfers. Now there are PGA golfers and there are LIV golfers. The lines have been drawn and what a sorry state of affairs that is. So when the R&A announced that LIV golfers would be welcome to compete at the British Open, there was an outpouring of media grief, with some of the biggest names objecting publicly to the decision. Then there was a hint that future British Opens may have a rule change designed to keep the LIV players out, and that brought about a response on the other side that was every bit as outraged.
And so the stage was set, not for a battle to see who would play well, or who might have good luck, but instead for an idealogical showdown. With every LIV player who fell by the wayside, the PGA’s vocal support network cheered.
“See?” they would say, “the rebel players are an irrelevance!” Oh how they laughed when the R&A decided to tell Greg Norman to stay home.
As play began, there were only 24 LIV players among the 156-player field at St Andrews, and when the weekend play got underway, only 11 of these made the cut.
As the PGA crowd heckled Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter for being “old” and “irrelevant”, they were perhaps a little too quiet when Tiger Woods, one of the loudest voices denouncing the LIV, also exited the tournament.
But the dogma of the fans was out of step with the boots on the ground, as many previously harsh critics softened their tone, such as Rory McIlroy who was indignant just a month ago concerning the LIV, now playing down some of his own rhetoric.
All of this is simply uncouth, and not befitting golf. Golf is, after all, meant to be a fine, gentlemanly game, played on the staid, manicured lawns of hoary, old world estates, or at least a ground approximating that image.
And as golf returned to its roots, the Royal & Ancient seemed to exercise a form of salve on the wounds that the hyperbole has lain bare.
After some early unease regarding the pairings, the British Open settled in to a familiar rhythm, and the antagonism between “us” and “them” faded away.
In the end, the golf became the only important factor, and rightly so. That is, in fact, the prime objection that the PGA have to the LIV, the fact that they believe that for the LIV, the driving force is not golf, but money.
In the end, the eleven LIV golfers who made the cut at St Andrews, finished respectably, but outside the top five. Dustin Johnson led the charge and, at 13 under par, he tied for sixth place alongside fellow LIV alum Bryson DeChambeau. One stroke behind him was Abraham Ancer, another of the players who accepted the LIV invitation. And that was probably the best result for all concerned.
They showed that they were competitive, but they didn’t actually upset the apple cart. Respectably high in the leaderboard, but with five PGA players ahead of them, allowed the conversation to die down, and for the focus to go to where it should by rights be, on the play rather than the player.
Cameron Smith had the round of his life on Sunday, finishing the day at 64 to tie that persona non-grata Greg Norman’s 1993 score for the second-lowest ever at the Open. Rory did everything right, and still watched the lead slip through his fingers, as if he were clutching at water. The golf was fantastic, especially the back nine of the fourth round, and the LIV issue slipped quietly beneath the keel, disappearing over the horizon.