BOCA RATON — LIV Golf is as divisive with the PGA Tour Champions crowd as it is with other professional golfers.
Most of the veterans do not follow LIV and have no interest in the golf or the format, but they understand that the money is difficult for some to turn down.
Then there is Hall of Famer Bernhard Langer, who believes the series, which is financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is damaging the sport.
“I think it’s hurting golf, I don’t think it’s good,” Langer said. “I don’t see that they have a business plan but I can understand for some people it’s difficult to turn down that kind of money.”
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Langer’s impression of the league is tame compared with that of legendary caddie Mike Cowan, the man known as “Fluff” who gained notoriety for being Tiger Woods’ first caddie. Now 74, Cowan has been on Jim Furyk’s bag for 23 years.
I asked Cowan for a caddie’s perspective on LIV.
“It doesn’t exist in my world,” he said. “I don’t give a (expletive) about it.”
Cowan then warned he’d have to be bleeped a lot more if he continued.
Tour Champions payouts chump change compared with LIV
The Tour Champions is holding its penultimate event at Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club this weekend. Golfers are playing for the $350,000 first-place prize and the top 36 will advance to Phoenix where the Charles Schwab Cup champion will be crowned and earn a $1 million bonus.
Chump change compared with the money being thrown around by LIV.
LIV concluded its inaugural season Sunday at Doral with a $25 million purse. LIV awarded $255 million in prize money and bonuses for eight events this year. That number will climb to $405 million for 14 events in 2023.
This is why those on the Champions tour, some of whom earned a solid living on the PGA Tour, understand those who could not turn away from generational money.
“These guys are making a bunch of money,” Scott McCarron said. “I don’t blame any of the guys for going. If I was a young guy, I probably wouldn’t go. I’d want to win majors and I’d want to be on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. The older guys, I don’t blame them for going.”
McCarron won about $12.65 million in two decades on the PGA Tour. That’s about what Jupiter’s Peter Uihlein made this year in eight events on the LIV series. But Furyk took home more than $71.5 million in prize money on the PGA Tour, so he has a greater understanding of what it’s like to be ultra-successful.
Furyk wonders how some of those more successful golfers could turn their backs on the tour.
“For the guys that are 40 to 45, 48, I think they saw a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and they decided to go and do it,” Furyk said. “The young guys are the ones that are very interesting and kind of made me scratch my head.
“The tour’s playing for so much money, their retirement packages, the ability to make a great living out there exists.”
Still, Furyk’s comments were measured. He wonders how long the LIV model is sustainable, especially without a television contract.
“The tour’s got a sustainable model,” he said.
He does not believe the sport will be damaged but he also does not believe there is any chance of a merger. “What I see is two tours competing against each other,” he said.
But, like Langer, he is not sure how LIV is growing the game.
“They said they’re growing the game,” Langer said. “How are they growing the game? I think it’s bad for the game because we’re not all playing in the same tournaments.
“I don’t see a real positive in any of it. And this team thing, I don’t know if people are buying into it.”
The Tour Champions has been Langer’s LIV. Langer, who lives in Boca Raton, has amassed $33.33 million during his 15 years on the 50-and-older circuit. He won $10.76 million in three decades on the PGA Tour.
Darren Clarke turned down chance to be in LIV broadcast booth
Darren Clarke was offered a three-year deal by LIV to be a color commentator for its broadcasts, which are shown only on YouTube and LIV’s website. When told his involvement in the broadcast would be a breach of regulations and would be subject to disciplinary actions, he rejected the offer.
Clarke, 54, would have been banned from the Tour Champions and put at risk for playing in the British Open and Senior British Open.
Clarke declined to comment on LIV Friday but spoke about the offer to SI.com/Morning Read this summer.
“I really enjoy my time on the Champions tour and didn’t want to jeopardize it,” said Clarke, who would not disclose the amount of the offer.
Langer, 65, was asked what he would have done if LIV existed back in his heyday and he received an offer.
“I really don’t know and I can’t answer that,” he said. “I wasn’t in that situation and I don’t know what I would have said if they’d thrown $100 million at me, or whatever the amount may have been. It’s a tough one. Can’t answer that one.”
Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club, Boca Raton