It’s the obvious joke, so let’s get it out of the way. The LIV Golf representatives at The Masters aren’t used to playing 72 holes! That’s why Brooks Koepka crapped the bed on Sunday and blew his lead, only to be passed by Jon Rahm, who won his first green jacket by four strokes! If only the Saudi-backed new golf promotion played longer tournaments! Letting the victory of the sport’s signature event slip away is a huge deal, and that’s no joke. What was supposed to be the planting-the-flag moment for LIV Golf just made the PGA Tour look stronger. The depth of LIV can be seen by Koepka tying Phil Mickelson for second place, both LIVers and Patrick Reed finishing in a tie for fourth also representing the non-PGA affiliated.
The if-you’re-not-first-you’re-last mentality here matters though. It’s truly all that matters in individual sports. One green jacket gets given out each year. And after this weekend, the same amount that won The Masters under the LIV banner is still zero. And the strength of one golfer, in this case, Rahm drop-kicking (or putting) everyone else into oblivion, matters. If Katie Ledecky wins the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle, and Australia takes the rest of the podium, we’re still hearing one national anthem and it’s not whatever those down under play before rugby matches. It’s the damn Star-Spangled Banner. Despite the lack of competitive tournaments or high-pressure events the LIV golfers had participated in prior to last week at Augusta National, they held their own. That’s absolutely not the victory lap the second-year league was hoping to take. Understanding that difference is critical.
The Masters is the litmus test, the measuring stick, the biggest group of bragging rights. Winning the U.S. Open or the British Open, or having a group present for a Ryder Cup victory, will be nice but it’s not golf’s most important event. If Novak Djokovic were to have broken off from the ATP and started the DTE (Djokovic Tennis Extravaganza), he or one of the turncoats would’ve brought the most legitimacy to that organization by winning Wimbledon. The Australian Open, French Open, and U.S. Open are all great, and probably closer in importance to Wimbledon than any non-Masters major golf tournament. But the Djokovic crew would’ve skyrocketed in prestige with the Wimbledon title in their camp. The LIVers now have to wait nearly 360 days for their next chance at that promotion-defining moment with The Masters being on an island of importance.
Anyone spouting the narrative that the LIV golfers can’t compete because their tournaments are 54 holes isn’t being fair. At non-major men’s professional tournaments, it’s best two-out-of-three sets, with three-out-of-five sets being the calling card for the grand slam events. Playing a full fourth round with all the stoppages and moving of tee times that took place last weekend in Augusta, the PGAers had legitimate competition. Yet, Rahm will be touting the victory as a PGA-branded one at next year’s Masters Champions Dinner with no LIV-affiliated triumphs to speak of. And that hurts the LIV brand.