Cut Line: LIV's strategy with AK is a headscratcher

Cut Line: LIV's strategy with AK is a headscratcher

In this week’s edition, we celebrate the PGA Tour’s newest Mr. 500, question a softer, kinder PGA National and dismiss the flawed logic behind Talor Gooch’s “asterisk” take.

Made Cut

Leadership. Normally, the Tour announces who will be chairman of the Player Advisory Council with little fanfare, but these are far from normal times.

Camilo Villegas was voted chairman of this year’s PAC by the membership and will become a player director on the circuit’s policy board beginning next year when he replaces Jordan Spieth.

The 42-year-old will join Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson and Tiger Woods as the board wrestles with a mountain of Tour-altering issues, from the ongoing negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to how the circuit doles out at least $1.5 billion in equity to players.

Villegas’ election was particularly telling as it came just days after the policy board met for a marathon session that lasted nearly seven hours. Serving on the policy board has never been more time consuming or important and a player’s decision to embrace that work shouldn’t be overlooked.

Mr. 500. When Ryan Palmer played in his first Tour event, Woods had won just a single major, Spieth hadn’t started school (grade school, that is) and the circuit was nearly a decade away from creating the FedExCup.

Palmer, who is playing his 500th Tour event this week at PGA National, has enjoyed a front-row seat as the circuit and the game has evolved since his first start at the 1998 U.S. Open, and while his four victories are impressive, it’s the 47-year-old’s longevity that should be celebrated.

“The one thing I'm most proud of is, for 20 straight years I've never really changed the way I've played the game. I've always done it my way. Never chased swings, equipment deals. Always kind of played the game the way I felt I wanted to play,” Palmer said. “Twenty years of playing professional golf, I'm proud of that for sure. Still waiting to wake up from that dream.”

There are plenty of ways to measure success in professional golf but after victories there’s nothing more impressive than longevity in a sport that offers few guarantees and relentlessly demands results.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Anthony Kim. No, this isn’t a shot at the recluse’s opening 6-over 76 at the LIV Golf event in Saudi Arabia after 12 years adrift in the wild. But, instead, the curious decision to underplay what should have been, thus far, the year’s biggest story.

LIV Golf Invitational - Jeddah - Day One
LIV Golf Invitational - Jeddah - Day One

A. Kim begins LIV career, pro golf return with 76, shank

Kim sits last on the 54-player leaderboard by two shots at LIV Jeddah.

For starters, why LIV Golf made the Saudi stop Kim’s first event is surprising given the amount of attention he would have generated at one of the league’s events in the United States, like in a few weeks in Miami.

There’s also a baffling lack of promotion for Kim’s first professional start since 2012. LIV Golf released a short video of Kim playing a practice round with no context to where he’s been for the last 12 years or why he decided now was the time to return to pro golf.

Perhaps a more in-depth feature is in the works, but AK’s return felt like a missed opportunity.

The softer side of PGA National. Last year, PGA National ranked as the 14th toughest course on Tour (out of 58) with a 70.359 scoring average (only 17 courses last year had an over-par scoring average) and the South Florida stop has become one of the circuit’s most demanding tests – until this year.

The Day 1 scoring average at the Cognizant Classic was 69.554, thanks to rough that’s being kept to “a modest 2.25 inches,” according to the Greensheet that was sent to players. Officials also converted the 10th hole at PGA National to a 530-yard par 5 that played almost a full shot under par (4.132) on Thursday, compared to a 4.164 scoring average last year as a par 4.

In the hyper-competitive marketplace that is now dominated by signature events, tournaments like the Cognizant Classic are doing whatever they can to woo players. Maybe the Champion Course was becoming too difficult, but the push for better fields shouldn’t be easier golf courses.

Missed Cut

Asterisk. Talor Gooch is no stranger to the curious take – this is, after all, the same player who said he originally intended to play just a single LIV Golf event despite a monsoon of clarity from the Tour that “testing the waters” wouldn’t be tolerated – but this week’s misstep is next level.

“If Rory McIlroy goes and completes his [career] Grand Slam without some of the best players in the world, there’s just going to be an asterisk. It’s just the reality,” Gooch told the Australian Golf Digest. “I think everybody wins whenever the majors figure out a way to get the best players in the world there.”

LIV Golf Invitational - Mayakoba - Day One
LIV Golf Invitational - Mayakoba - Day One

Gooch: Majors should come with ‘asterisk’ without LIV

Gooch has plummeted to 449th in the world ranking since joining LIV Golf and is currently not in the field for the Masters.

Gooch has emerged as a regular critic of both the world golf ranking, which doesn’t award ranking points to LIV events, as well as the major championships, and the second half of his argument that the Grand Slam events need to find a way to bridge the divide in professional golf is shared by many in the game.

Where Gooch’s twisted logic runs aground is claiming that McIlroy’s career Grand Slam would need an “asterisk” if the LIV players aren’t granted access en masse. It’s not likely Gooch feels the same way about his fellow LIV Golf member Jon Rahm’s victory last year at Augusta National and, to expand the theory, every professional event that’s currently played under the fractured landscape.

There’s a dollop of validity to Gooch’s theory and the pressure is on the major championships for the foreseeable future to assure they have the best fields regardless of player affiliation, but the outspoken 32-year-old isn’t an ally anyone wants.