The continued growth of the LIV Golf Series is becoming a cause for concern for the PGA. Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka is the latest big-name player to leave the PGA Tour behind, in favor of the LIV Golf Series. The Saudi-backed breakaway tour is making waves in the sport, and the acrimony between the traditional side of the sport and the new element is continuing to grow.

Koepka’s switch is seen as something of a coup for the LIV Series. The American pulled out of the Travelers Championship in Connecticut to compete in the LIV event in Portland. CEO of LIV Golf Greg Norman said, “There’s no understating the impact that Brooks Koepka has had on the game of golf in the last five years. He carries a championship pedigree and record of success as one of the most elite players in the world. The addition of Brooks is yet another example of the incredible fields LIV Golf is assembling as we build momentum in our first season and look towards the future.”

Division Within the Sport?

More golf is great for bet exchange punters, but it’s pitting some of the sport’s most famous names against each other. Rory McIlroy labeled some of his fellow golfers “duplicitous” when discussing the schism in the sport. While some golfers, most notably Phil Mickelson, have been transparent as to their thinking, others appear to have said one thing, before doing the opposite. Dustin Johnson is a prime example. The former world number one reiterated his commitment to the PGA Tour in March, before backtracking on his comments as he joined the LIV Series.

McIlroy discussed the topic once again, after Koepka’s decision was announced. “Am I surprised? Yes, because of what he said previously,” McIlroy stated. “I think that’s why I’m surprised at a lot of these guys because they say one thing and then they do another and I don’t understand.”

“I don’t know if that’s for legal reasons or if they can’t – I have no idea – but it’s pretty duplicitous on their part to say one thing and then do another thing, in public and in private,” McIlroy continued.

The Northern Irishman isn’t the only golfer surprised by Koepka’s decision, with Scottie Scheffler also blindsided by it. “I was at a function with him last week and (this) definitely wasn’t what he had in mind,” Scheffler explained. “We were focused on building the PGA Tour and getting the guys that are staying here together and kind of just having talks and figuring out how we can help benefit the Tour. So to see Brooks leave was definitely a surprise for us.”

Serious Competition?

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Many of the most notable names that have joined the LIV Series would be considered past their best. The likes of Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, and Sergio Garcia, while massive names are no longer at the top of the game. Indeed, none of the trio are ranked within the top 50 in the world, with Mickelson and Westwood both outside the top 80. Of the big names that are lining up as part of the LIV Series, the highest-ranked is Dustin Johnson, at 16th in the world. Brooks Koepka and Abraham Ancer are the only other players in the top 20, at 19th and 20th respectively.

The question at this point is whether the LIV Series will become a serious competitor to the PGA Tour. It’s a tricky proposition for the PGA Tour, which will always be outgunned financially, given the wealth behind the LIV Series. Nevertheless, the PGA has decided to increase the prize money on offer to golfers, in the hope of enticing some to stay.

The current line-up offers little threat to the traditional tour, as far as quality of golf goes, but the concern for the PGA is that the LIV Series is allowed to persist, continuing to draw players from the PGA Tour over time until such a point, in a number of years, when the two tours are seen as equal. It’s impossible to know whether that will ever happen, or if it’s a realistic possibility but, clearly, the PGA Tour would like to see the threat off before it’s had time to grow. 

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