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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: Scottie Scheffler’s win at Sawgrass continues a defining season for the PGA Tour

Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler regained World No 1 status with his win at The Players.

You can almost set your watch by it. Every Friday night, one of the strangely fresh Twitter accounts launched when LIV Golf got underway makes a point of noting the state of the PGA Tour leaderboard.

“THE PLAYERS Championship Leaderboard is lacking the star power you routinely see on LIV Golf Leaderboards,” opined LIV Golf Nation (launched March 2022) on Friday.

(I have to repeatedly check the tweets from this account to make sure it isn’t a parody. It was insisting Pat Perez was a World Top 10 player recently.)

Even once respected names who’ve pinned their colours unashamedly to the reeling ship LIV chimed in.

Hank Haney, former coach of Tiger Woods, is an enthusiastic fan of the new tour. He highlighted the high world rankings of the Friday leaders – while simultaneously saying that the rankings have no meaning. Make your mind up, Hank.

Sure, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Adam Svensson and Ben Griffin didn’t leap out at you. But as usual, LIV enthusiasts, whether tweeting from Riyadh or South Carolina, tend to forget that proper golf tournaments are played over 72 holes.

Scheffler’s win a perfect result for the Tour

Sunday’s final leaderboard saw Scottie Scheffler win and regain World No 1 status. He won by a handsome five strokes over Tyrrell Hatton.

Viktor Hovland was in third, and Hideki Matsuyama, Max Homa, Justin Rose and Collin Morikawa just a touch down the leaderboard. Pretty decent, considering Jon Rahm was a WD with illness and Rory McIlroy missed the cut.

It unquestionably continued a run for the PGA Tour of first class tournaments with first class winners. The Tour’s reigning Player of the Year – and of course the current Masters champion – won its flagship event.

It seems Jay Monahan and the blazers at Ponte Verde Beach aren’t doing too badly for a group under such siege.

This is not to say that the PGAT is in perfect shape or the way they’re pivoting the tour right now to more no-cut events to ensure the future of the present enclave of top players is right.

That seems to me an entirely unnecessary over-reaction to a handful of top players who flirted with LIV but have stayed in the PGAT, but are using the leverage.

It also shuts out – so far – the non-American part of golf’s ‘ecosystem’ (ugh).

Min Woo Lee’s transference to the PGAT is now all but complete. It seems only sentiment will keep one of the DP World Tour’s young stars playing regularly there, and he’s not going to be alone as we go forward.

But you can’t deny that the PGAT so far in 2023 has massively strengthened its hand this year.

Meanwhile, having opted to hold their roster for the entirety of the year, unless its members sweep the majors it’s hard to see where the next impact of any sort comes from LIV.

Ground Zero is not fair, nor an option

I’m going to treat the chatter at Sawgrass about various LIV players having ‘buyers remorse’ and seeking a way back to the PGAT like all driving range/putting green gossip.

I’ll believe it when I see it for sure.

But just as it’s likely someone will switch to LIV again, it’s inevitable someone will try to reverse course – especially since the legal case has shown the nature of LIV contracts.

As Judge Beth Labson Freeman pointed out in her initial ruling, they’re miles more onerous and restrictive than anything the Tour makes players do.

It’ll be interesting to see how any returnees are treated. I don’t think it’s really feasible – or fair – for them to start at Ground Zero.

Major champions at Tour School or the Korn Ferry? More than a bit spiteful, and not happening.

Perhaps a suspension for a period. Or maybe a requirement to make a certain standard of points in their returning season, like the standard injury exemption. Seems fair.

Golf simply doesn’t work for the BBC

The BBC took a bit of a hammering this weekend, and quite rightly. But I don’t share the disgust and horror among golf’s media huddle for the news from Sawgrass that they turned down free rights to a weekly PGA Tour highlight package.

The Beeb has long decided that golf has no ratings impact for them. To the tune of even – reportedly – letting their Masters and Open highlights rights slip this year as well.

When The BBC gave up live rights to The Open in 2016 – a year early on their contract, to boot – it was a clear admission that golf didn’t float their boat.

We who are devoted the game absolutely loved the 12-hour live broadcast of the first two days on BBC2. I still get it in the media centre every year, through the world feed, and it’s still the best golf broadcast there is.

But the general public didn’t love it much. I was told ratings figures for rugby’s Six Nations were always far higher – even compared to Open and Masters Sunday broadcasts.

The public service remit has long been disregarded. The Beeb have even stepped back from the 6N in a big way in recent seasons.

They continue to plough Wimbledon, but the viewing figures (currently) justify it. They didn’t for golf.

And again, many in our sport’s bubble tend to forget that we’re actually something of a niche sport.