Competing tours converge on Augusta National chasing the same prize


By Doug Ferguson

Associated Press

Jon Rahm went from wearing a Masters green jacket in April to a LIV Golf black letterman’s jacket in December.

Those two images — one in Butler Cabin with Scottie Scheffler, the other in a New York studio with Greg Norman — illustrate the great divide in golf that has scattered the sport’s biggest stars across two tours. The rival circuits are not pitted against each other, and therein lies the problem facing golf: They’re never together.

That’s what makes the Masters feel bigger than ever.

It already is the most anticipated tournament of any year because of Augusta National and all the history and memories it has created over 90 years. One year after the PGA Tour and LIV first mixed at the Masters, it now feels like a reunion long overdue.

“The first time there was that split, this war between the tours,” Xander Schauffele said. “It brought a lot of eyeballs because of that — sort of LIV versus the PGA Tour kind of thing. … I think the tone might be different from a fan’s perspective.

“But I think it will still be great viewing,” he said. “One, it’s the Masters. And two, I think everybody is just probably excited to see everyone compete again.”

When the first tee shot in the 88th Masters Tournament is struck on April 11, it will be the first time in 263 days that all the world’s best players will be chasing the same prize.

Rahm and Scheffler. Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy. Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. Even aging stars Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Savor these moments, because there doesn’t seem to be peace in the immediate future.

The PGA Tour invited the Saudi backers of LIV Golf to the table in a stunning agreement last June to become commercial partners.

But then Congress got involved. The Justice Department had antitrust concerns. The tour began receiving offers from U.S. private equity groups. As the tour narrowed its list of suitors, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia flexed its financial muscle by luring away Rahm with an offer believed to be in the neighborhood of the tour’s entire prize fund for the year.

The PGA Tour tour now has a $3 billion investment from a consortium of billionaire sports owners in the U.S., all while still negotiating with the Saudis. A month before the Masters, Woods, Spieth and the rest of the player-directors on the PGA Tour board met for the first time with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor who refers to LIV as his “baby.”

LIV doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, and there is no consensus on how to bring LIV players back into the fold, if they even want to come back.

“We can’t keep going this direction,” Bryson DeChambeau said. “It’s great to have the majors where we all come together, but we want to be competing — at least I want to be competing — every week with all of the best players in the world.”

The closest the two tours have been to each other was early February — about 300 miles (480 kilometers) separated the Phoenix Open from LIV Golf Las Vegas. Otherwise, they feel galaxies apart.

For now, the boundaries only vanish at the four majors. That starts with the Masters.

“That’s what is making this Masters and many other majors so much fun — not only for me and for players, but for spectators — is for all of us to be able to play together again and showcase what we’re capable of,” Rahm said.

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