PGA Tour golfers trying to refocus on RBC Canadian Open after surprise LIV Golf merger announcement

The RBC Canadian Open kicks off Thursday, though that has felt secondary to the surprise PGA Tour-LIV Golf announcement

A massive shadow was cast over Oakdale Golf and Country Club this week in Toronto, and it’s making it difficult to focus on the RBC Canadian Open.

The vibe, after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s surprise announcement of a merger with LIV Golf, is incredibly strange.

“I wish I knew more synonyms, but I would say, 'somber,'” Harry Higgs said, via Golfweek. “Not in, like, a death in the family somber, but it’s a little difficult to go about business as usual. … Part of me doesn’t feel like I should really be here right now. Not that I should leave the tournament. This just feels kind of weird.”

Monahan shocked the golf world Tuesday morning by announcing that the PGA Tour and LIV Golf were planning to merge. Players, including Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, didn’t learn of the plans until Tuesday.

Monahan then flew to Toronto to hold what was an “intense” and “heated” players meeting, where at least one person called him a hypocrite to his face. He has since tried repeatedly — and struggled significantly — to defend his hypocrisy when it comes to LIV Golf, especially regarding how he invoked the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the past when criticizing the Saudi Arabian-backed venture.

Despite all of that, the PGA Tour is moving forward this week. The RBC Canadian Open, the final tournament before next week’s U.S. Open in Los Angeles, will kick off Thursday.

After the RBC Canadian Open was disrupted last year by the formation of LIV Golf, the déjà vu is real.

“There's no doubt that the timing of it was less than ideal, back-to-back years,” Canadian Mackenzie Hughes said Wednesday. “That was discussed yesterday. From the sounds of it, it was something that Jay [Monahan] thought about and couldn't avoid. So it does distract you. I mean, I'm answering a question now about something that's not really pertaining to this week or this championship.

“But again, I think that there is a lot to be unpacked still, and it's, everything is very fresh. So I think everyone's coming to terms with a bit more what's going on. The word ‘merger’ has been tossed around a lot. Which, this isn't a merger, it's much different than that. So it is a bit of a distraction. But once we get through today and we get going tomorrow, I think that the focus will be on the RBC Canadian Open, and that's where it should be.”

Mackenzie Hughes is in an all-Canadian group to start the RBC Canadian Open this week on the PGA Tour in Toronto.
Mackenzie Hughes is in an all-Canadian group to start the PGA Tour's RBC Canadian Open this week in Toronto. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) (Minas Panagiotakis via Getty Images)

McIlroy will attempt to defend his title this week in Canada, at a place where a Canadian hasn’t won since 1954. He’ll tee off alongside Justin Rose and Webb Simpson on Thursday.

Hughes, who is in an all-Canadian group with Adam Hadwin and Adam Svensson, has won twice on the Tour — most recently at the Sanderson Farms Championship earlier this season.

While winning in Canada would be huge for the Hamilton, Ontario, native, Hughes is just trying to get Tuesday's news behind him so he can focus on the task at hand.

“Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind, and I was just trying to collect as much information as possible,” Hughes said. “Then I really have tried to shift my focus today into this tournament. I've been looking forward to it for months now, and my focus is there, and I want to have a great week and be focused on what I'm trying to do here. So that stuff will work itself out in time, but for me right now, the focus is tomorrow's first tee shot.”