Never one to keep his opinions to himself, 83-year-old Jack Nicklaus teed off on LIV Golf while speaking ahead of this week’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio.
Nicklaus, who built Muirfield and has hosted a yearly PGA Tour event there since 1976, will welcome seven of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking this weekend to his annual tournament, but reigning British Open winner Cameron Smith (No. 9) won’t be among them. Neither will recent PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka (No. 14) as both players are members of LIV Golf and are therefore ineligible to compete at PGA Tour events such as the Memorial.
According to Nicklaus, who has the most Major wins (18) in history and is third in all-time PGA Tour wins behind Tigers Woods and Sam Snead with 73, the absence of Smith, Koepka and other former Tour members like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia doesn’t hurt the Memorial much and the tournament has “probably as good a field as we’ve ever had.”
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“I don’t even consider those guys part of the game anymore. I don’t mean that in a nasty way,” he said, per Golfweek. “This is a PGA Tour event and we have the best field we can possibly have for a PGA Tour event for those who are eligible to be here. The other guys made a choice of what they did and where they’ve gone and we don’t even talk about it…For all intents and purposes, all the top players in the world are here.”
Clearly, it won’t be happening this weekend or anytime in the foreseeable future outside of majors and other non-PGA events, but one LIV Golf executive does see a possible future where his spinoff circuit could cross over with the Tour. Speaking to Sports Illustrated at the latest LIV Golf event in Washington, the unnamed executive described a scenario that would allow the top four players from each tour to also play on the rival circuit.
“We’re not going anywhere,” according to the exec. “There’s an opportunity for more teams, the opportunity to cross-pollinate from an all-star PGA Tour team that might have the top four FedEx players coming to compete in every event or our top four players playing in the Players Championship, whatever it might be.”
Approximately one year into LIV Golf’s existence, it seems highly unlikely that the PGA Tour would allow its players to compete on the Saudi-backed circuit or vice-versa. However, the executive is probably correct in his first assertion. Despite a lack of recognition, ratings or relevance, it certainly looks like LIV Golf is here to stay.