Golf

When will we see LIV and PGA Tour players outside of majors? Not for a year, at least

When will we see LIV and PGA Tour players outside of majors? Not for a year, at least

Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm are two of the world’s best golfers, but other than the majors, they won’t be playing against each other for at least a year. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — LIV Golf players didn’t quite have the same impact on this year’s Masters as in 2023, when they claimed three of the top six spots, and also claimed champion Jon Rahm later in the year. But their performance this year — three top-10 finishes — was strong enough to add heft to golf’s perpetual question:

When are we going to see all these guys playing more than four times a year?

The answer: Probably not for a year, minimum.

Thirteen LIV players competed at this year’s Masters via exemption, world ranking and — in Joaquin Niemann’s case — special invitation. Many are also already qualified for next month’s PGA Championship, including past winners Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson, and recent winners of other majors, like Rahm and Cam Smith. Beyond the majors, though, loom another 48 weeks of non-unified golf.

To re-set the stage: men’s professional golf is as fractured as it’s ever been. Dozens of players have left the PGA Tour for the rival breakaway LIV Golf tour, funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. While the PGA Tour and the PIF have reached a “framework agreement” to develop a new structure for professional golf, all that has done so far is halt the lawsuits between the two. (Not an insignificant matter, true, but also not enough to bridge the gap between the two organizations.)

The two entities blew right through a self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline, and also a rumored “get-it-done-by-Augusta” one. Both sides have taken steps that would seem to undercut the collaborative nature of a “framework agreement” — LIV poaching Rahm, the PGA Tour seeking alternative outside investment.

There was no talk of the status of the negotiations at the Masters. Tiger Woods, one of the player representatives on the PGA Tour, helped organize a meeting with PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan last month, and only got one question about whether that meeting had led to anything productive.

“I don't know if we're closer, but certainly we're headed in the right direction,” Woods said on Sunday. “That was a very positive meeting, and I think both sides came away from the meeting feeling positive.”

Aside from the obvious ongoing negotiations — as well as some palpable bad feelings between certain LIV and PGA Tour players — there’s another potential obstacle to an easy reunion: the PGA Tour’s own rules governing suspensions.

While the PGA Tour does not discuss disciplinary matters, the Tour does have some specific regulations governing the status of players who opt to play in unauthorized events — such as, for example, LIV Golf tournaments.

“Regardless of membership status,” the Tour said to Yahoo Sports in a statement, “any player who participates in an unauthorized event is prohibited from participating in PGA Tour-affiliated events for a period of one year from the conclusion of the unauthorized event.”

That means every time a player tees it up in a LIV event, his one-year suspension starts again from zero. Given that LIV’s last event ended last Sunday, the earliest that LIV Golf players could rejoin the PGA Tour would be April 8, 2025. LIV Golf players who compete on the entire season’s slate would not be eligible for PGA Tour reinstatement until at least August 19, 2025, the date of the last currently scheduled LIV tournament — which would be after next year’s entire major slate.

Granted, the PGA Tour could revise its suspension rules if it desired; they are the Tour’s own rules, of course. But there’s so much to do before then — starting, perhaps, with informing everyone of what their exact status is with the Tour.

Asked by Yahoo Sports if he was suspended from the Tour, Bryson DeChambeau shrugged. “I don't know,” he said. “They haven't told me. Communications have not been there.”

DeChambeau does have a few ideas for how the sport could come back together, though. Asked to describe his vision of golf in five years, he offered up two scenarios.

“One, you can look at it like the NFL, and you could have NFC/AFC sort of working in their own fields and at the end they come together, put on a huge event at the end of the year,” he said. “That could be really cool.”

The other option would be integrating LIV’s team aspect on top of the individual aspect of the game. “The Signature Series or some elevated events,” he said, “we elevate those events. We don’t just try to say, it’s an individual event or this is a team event. No, combine it, make it one, and you can up the value by quite a bit.”

The desire for a reunified golf world is widespread, from players to legends. “The best players playing against each other,” Jack Nicklaus said on Thursday. “The bottom line: That's what we want in professional golf, and right now, we don't have it.”

And we might not have it for at least a year, either.

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