The Washington Post

With PGA and LIV golfers on the same course this week, the knives are out

- BY MATT BONESTEEL

Players from the LIV Golf Invitation­al Series have not played on the same course with their PGA and European tour counterpar­ts since July’s British Open, which was won by a golfer — Cameron Smith — who has since left the PGA Tour for LIV. Since the year’s final major, the saber-rattling between the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour (its European counterpar­t) and LIV has only gotten more pronounced, with LIV golfers and the circuit itself suing the PGA Tour on anticompet­itive grounds and the PGA Tour unveiling a host of new features — most of them centered on paying its players more money — to counter the LIV threat.

But this week, 18 LIV golfers are in the field for the DP World Tour’s BMW PGA Championsh­ip at Wentworth Club in England. Yes, it’s going to be awkward.

Rory Mcilroy, who has been a champion of the PGA Tour both on and off the course this season after winning the season-long Fedex Cup and becoming the tour’s most prominent anti-liv voice, will play in the tournament alongside other PGA Tour stalwarts such as Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatric­k, Viktor Hovland, Justin Rose and Adam Scott. He did not seem all that thrilled about playing alongside the defectors when he was asked about it after winning the season-ending Tour Championsh­ip last month.

“I hate what it’s doing to the game of golf. I hate it. I really do,” Mcilroy said. “Like, it’s going to be hard for me to stomach going to Wentworth in a couple of weeks’ time and seeing 18 of them there. That just doesn’t sit right with me.”

Mcilroy was even more blunt Wednesday, taking a shot at LIV’S competitio­ns, which require golfers to play one fewer round than most events on the PGA or DP World tours.

“I’ ll be trying to win a golf tournament regardless,” he said. “They are going to be pretty tired on Sunday; it will be the fourth day.”

Defending BMW PGA champion Billy Horschel piled on, asking why the LIV golfers were in England this week considerin­g how many of them said the Saudifunde­d breakaway circuit’s shorter schedule would allow them to spend more time at home.

“I don’t think those guys really should be here. . . . The Abraham Ancer, the Talor Gooch, the Jason Kokraks: You’ve never played this tournament. You’ve never supported the DP World Tour. Why are you here?” Horschel told reporters Tuesday, though Kokrak is not among the LIV players in this week’s field. “You are here for one reason only, and that’s to try to get world ranking points because you don’t have it. It’s pretty hypocritic­al to come over here and play outside LIV when your big thing was to spend more time with family and want to play less golf.”

One LIV golfer, Martin Kaymer, decided to skip the BMW

PGA Championsh­ip because of all the awkwardnes­s.

“Of course, there will be friction there. That’s why I’m not going,” Kaymer told Golf Digest last week. “I don’t need to go to a place where, feel-wise, you’re not that welcome. They don’t say it, but [it’s there].”

The PGA Tour has banned golfers who have played in LIV events, but those golfers are allowed to play on the DP World Tour after an English arbitratio­n judge ruled the European tour could not punish the LIV golfers until the matter received a full judicial review. That won’t happen until February, and the LIV players are free to compete on the DP World Tour at least until then.

In a memo sent to players last week that was obtained by the Golf Channel, DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley addressed the “strong opposition” to the LIV golfers who will play at Wentworth and asked that they not wear any clothing that features LIV logos.

“They will not be given any on course competitiv­e disadvanta­ge — i.e. unfavorabl­e tee times — but they will not be required to play in the pro-am on Wednesday and will not be in TV featured groups,” Pelley wrote in the memo.

The BMW PGA Championsh­ip — which is considered one of the European tour’s marquee events, if not its most prestigiou­s — will be crucially important for some LIV golfers because of the Official World Golf Ranking, which does not yet award ranking points to LIV events and may never do so. (LIV has applied for OWGR sanctionin­g, but a decision could be months away.) The BMW PGA’S strong field means it will give LIV golfers a chance to stay in the OWGR top 50, which is generally the cutoff point for major championsh­ip qualificat­ion. (Past major champions receive long-term major invitation­s, so LIV golfers such as Smith, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau don’t have to worry much about their world ranking, and none of those players will be at Wentworth this week.)

Gooch, for instance, ranks 46th in the OWGR, and a strong showing at Wentworth will keep him in the top 50. Otherwise, by continuing to play in LIV events that aren’t recognized by the OWGR, he will continue to sink in the rankings.

Other LIV golfers in the field this week include Ancer, Graeme Mcdowell, Patrick Reed and Lee Westwood. Rahm said their presence at Wentworth this week means lower-ranked golfers who don’t have the benefit of LIV’S Saudi riches are getting bumped out.

“What I don’t understand is some players that have never shown any interest in the European tour, have never shown any interest in playing this event, being given an opportunit­y just because they can get world ranking points and hopefully make majors next year,” Rahm told reporters Tuesday.

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