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Masters Horror Lands Jon Rahm & Co in Deep Trouble as Stubborn Greg Norman Refuses to Compromise

Published 04/15/2024, 2:15 PM EDT

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The quest for OWGR legitimacy. The chance to score official ranking points by playing in LIV Golf tournaments. That’s something that could solve quite a few problems for players in the PIF-backed league. But after Greg Norman’s letter to them in March and the fact that their performance – unlike the 2023 Masters – wasn’t anything to write home about, things may not be looking too good for a few of them.

At the Augusta National in 2023, of the 18 LIV Golf players who teed it up, 12 made the cut. Moreover, Brooks Koepka (T2), Phil Mickelson (T2), and Patrick Reed (T4) finished in the top 10! This year, though, 13 players entered the first major, and only 8 teed off in round 3. Despite Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed’s memorable performances, concerns about LIV players’ further participation in majors persist. And it has a lot to do with the Saudi league’s non-traditional format.

Coming into the week, questions about Tiger Woods being able to finish all 72 holes were running amuck. But by the end of it, the capability of golfers like Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, and Phil Mickelson to play well for four straight days was under scrutiny. The inability to play consistently well for 72 holes might be a result of Greg Norman’s reluctance to change the league’s format. But one golfer who navigated the traditional format fairly well was Patrick Reed.

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The PGA Championship – set for May – sent out its first round of invites. However, Reed’s name wasn’t in it. And for someone who hasn’t missed a major since his debut at Augusta in 2014, this could put that streak in jeopardy. But when asked about not getting an invitation after Saturday’s round at the Masters, he said, “That’s out of my hands.” That said, he knew the Masters would be one of his final chances to get a potential PGA Championship invite.

With his T12 in Augusta, he entered the top 100. While he may not have won on LIV Golf yet, his Masters outing would sure help his PGA Championship chances. However, it’s undeniable that LIV Golf players are in a Catch-22 situation: Playing in the Saudi league doesn’t contribute to OWGR points, which decreases their chances of getting invites to PGA Tour events. And not competing in them doesn’t help their OWGR ranking. Because of this, a majority of LIV Golf players participating in majors are recent major champions.

Owing to the five-year eligibility criteria for LIV Golf players to compete in majors, only a handful of them are guaranteed a spot in the upcoming ones: –

  • Bryson DeChambeau: 2020 US Open champion, eligible till 2025
  • Brooks Koepka: 2023 PGA Championship winner, eligible till 2028
  • Jon Rahm: 2023 Masters champion, eligible till 2028
  • Phil Mickelson: 2021 PGA Championship title, eligible till 2026
  • Cameron Smith: 150th Open champion (2022), eligible till 2027
  • Dustin Johnson: 2020 Masters winner, eligible till 2025

Considering Masters champions get a lifetime invite to Augusta, Reed, Rahm, Mickelson, Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, and Bubba Watson will always be eligible to play the first major. As for the other six players, only Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau, and Tyrrell Hatton qualified for the 2025 Masters owing to their top-12 finish.

If Greg Norman had changed LIV Golf’s format instead of retracting the application, things could’ve been simpler for his players. Many have voiced their opinion on the 72-hole format. Before the Masters, Jon Rahm discussed the merger and what could help: “If there ever was a way where LIV could go to 72 holes, I think it would help all of this argument a lot. I definitely wouldn’t mind going back to 72 holes.”

via Reuters

Even Lefty spoke in favor of the 72-hole format. The six-time major champion revealed the shortcomings of the three-day game compared to the traditional way: “You have to play well the first day, or you’re so far behind that it’s hard to catch up. In 72, you can work your way into the tournament and fight if you don’t have it the first day, fight to keep it around par.”

Despite the likeness toward the 72-hole format, the CEO seems adamant about sticking to LIV Golf’s original format.

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Greg Norman wishes to stick to the 54-hole format

In October 2023, LIV Golf faced rejection from the OWGR for the request they had applied for in July 2022. Subsequently, Norman opted to retract the request and conveyed this decision to LIV Golf players in a letter. Norman stated, “After spending the last 18 months in almost constant dialogue with various members of the OWGR Technical Committee and board, it is now clear that the best way forward for LIV as a league and you as LIV golfers is not through the current ranking system.” 

via Reuters

It was pointed out that OWGR rejected LIV’s plea because of the non-traditional 54-hole format and no cuts. With Norman retracting the bid, he asserted he would not be tweaking the league’s format. The merger between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour seemed like a good opportunity for the Saudi league players to compete in major tournaments, but with negotiations dragging, the future is quite unpredictable.

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As the deal’s confirmation remains pending, the prospects for the LIV Golf players appear to be fading with each passing day. Do you think the merger will succeed and give LIV Golf players the opportunities they so desperately want?

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Written by:

Dakshinesh Kumar Naman

164Articles

One take at a time

Naman Kumar is a Golf Writer at EssentiallySports. An expert in analytical pieces, he never fails to awe his readers with his niche coverage of big names—like his idol, Phil Mickelson—in the sport. Naman is also adept at predictability pieces, where he explores the immediate future of players, be it through where they’ll play next or whether injuries will cause them to withdraw from an event.
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Edited by:

Riya Singhal

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