This week’s Saudi International got the bum’s rush from the DP World Tour and is now proud stop on the all-powerful Asian Tour and LIV Golf’s Defector-In-Chief (aka Phil Mickelson) is back and a lot of eyes will be on him at Royal Greens Country Club this week after his abysmal showing in the first LIV season.
The old Defector-In-Chief showed up and he’s slimmed down to start 2023.
“I’m down to my college weight. I’m stronger than I’ve probably been in my career. I lost 20-plus pounds. I’m flexible, recovering faster, ready to go. Now I probably wanted to start in Mexico. I probably wanted like three more weeks (off). I’m actually going to play a lot of events. I’m playing 19 events and I only decided to go to Saudi recently. Mickelson said he was not contractually obligated to play this week in Saudi, as many LIV golfers are. ” I really want to be ready by Mexico (start of LIV season on Feb. 24). I’m close to where I want to be.”
There are a LOT of defectors in this field including LIV’s most successful player last year — Dustin Johnson. In all, it’s a LIV “who’s who” — when you add world No. 4 Cam Smith, Brooks Koepka, seldom-seen Bryson DeChambeau and of course, LIV’s official “arborist” — Patrick Reed.
For rounds one and two, mumbling D.J., rules-questioning DeChambeau and mullet-sporting Smith are grouped together.
Harold Varner III won this event last year and got his first taste of Saudi money, which may have helped his decision to leave the PGA Tour without ever recording a victory. Varner is now a proud LIVer.
PGA Tour Rookie Of The Year for 2022, Cam Young, was granted a waiver to play this week as were Cameron Champ and Lucas Herbert. Could one or all of them be considering a move to LIV? Remains to be seen.
What the LIVers will have to do this week is get out of that 54-hole mode and actually play in a real 72-hole event.
Cam Smith Given Cold Shoulder By Jacksonville Clubs?:
When Cameron Smith became LIV’s highest-profile defector, he found himself without a place to play or practice near his American home in Ponte Vedra.
He look to some of the other clubs in the area but apparently none were thrilled at the prospect of having him as a member.
His management team made a few calls on Smith’s behalf. They called Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, Atlantic Beach Country Club and Sawgrass Country Club.
Word is Smith’s people were politely told that all of the above private clubs have waiting lists and that their client would have to go to the back of the wait line.
One thing Smith’s people failed to consider is that all the neighborhood clubs have working relationships with the PGA Tour and its headquarters in Ponte Vedra.
Bubba Watson Makes First Post-Surgery Appearance:
While Phil Mickelson may be the Defector-In-Chief, Bubba Watson has long been golf’s Whiner-In-Chief and forever-complaining Bubba is in the Saudi International field, making his first playing appearance since undergoing knee surgery last year.
Watson will be making his LIV debut when its season starts Feb. 24 in Mexico.
Another Court Ruling Goes Against LIV:
In its lawsuit against the PGA Tour, LIV was trying to go after some prominent members of the Augusta National Golf Club.
A federal judge denied a request by LIV Golf to expand discovery in its antitrust lawsuit to include communication with 10 Augusta National members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
LIV Golf had issued subpoenas to five PGA Tour board members and Tim Finchem, the retired PGA Tour commissioner. It wanted all communications between them and “any member of Augusta National” relating to a new tour, but not limited to LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded rival league that launched last year.
In a redacted filing last week, LIV alleged Rice and Arkansas banking executive Warren Stephens “apparently attempted to influence” the Justice Department not to investigate the PGA Tour.
LIV also alleged Stephens was “apparently asked by tour employees” to push Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, to lobby against LIV.
In her ruling Monday, U.S. Magistrate Susan van Keulen said LIV’s request for 10 additional Augusta National members and the Masters Committee “is overly burdensome on the Subpoenaed Parties and not in proportion to the needs of the litigation.”
Tour attorneys previously had argued that LIV accusations of the tour leaning on Augusta National to block LIV Golf players from competing in the Masters was baseless because the Masters announced in December that everyone eligible would be able to play.