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What have the last 12 months in professional golf taught us?

What have the last 12 months in professional golf taught us?

 

With just a month to go before the 2023 Masters, the tectonic plates of world golf continue to shift in a way that few imagined ever possible. Specifically, the emergence of LIV Golf in 2022 has been the catalyst for seismic change within the PGA Tour and from 2024 onwards, golf’s oldest league will turn into something that is almost unrecognisable – only that isn’t quite true as anyone who has ever watched a LIV event would have seen this new format in practice before.

A meeting of minds

In essence, the PGA Tour has decided to adopt the key features of the rebel league’s setup in a bid to ensure that they will no longer be hemorrhaging top players to the Saudi-backed competition.

It is a move that has understandably raised a few eyebrows, and needless to say, all the focus will be on Augusta National when both the PGA Tour and LIV Tour players go head to head for the first time this year. What makes this saga even more interesting is that the chances of a LIV Tour player winning a green jacket aren’t remote as the Masters 2023 odds show Australian Cameron Smith as just 14/1 to go all the way in Georgia. 

Of course, the overall Masters’ golf odds for the week do list the PGA Tour’s own Jon Rahm as the standout favourite at 7/1 but the battle between the two sets of players is certainly a subplot that will dominate the build-up to the 87th edition of the event.

Although with that being said, by the time the players drive up Magnolia Lane, there is every chance that the narrative around the professional game would have changed yet again owing to the extraordinary backtracking currently taking place.

If you can’t beat them…

At least, at the start of March 2023, LIV Tour players were still facing a series of accusations and backlash while only a week later, people were asking if the athletes were within their rights to want to play in a fresh format following the PGA Tour’s dramatic shift from an antiquated policy.

Essentially, the heated backlash toward LIV players has largely subsided owing to the PGA Tour’s implementation of the rebel league’s format.

It has been a decision that has led to golf fans around the world having to consider how the spectacle as a whole might improve with smaller fields and no cuts now after two ruling bodies deemed it a worthwhile notion.

You can, all of a sudden, see why players, pundits, and fans are now having different conversations from the ones that were taking place only a short time ago.

However, it’s not just the governing bodies of the game that have undergone 180-degree turns when you consider that Rory Mcllroy started the year questioning LIV Golf’s idea of genuine competition due to the structure having no cuts. Only, by the time March arrived, the Northern Irishman would spend a portion of a press conference before the Players’ Championship telling the world how much golf has benefited from LIV’s emergence. 

Who to believe?

As a golf fan watching on as the PGA Tour and its best players seemingly lurch from one inconsistency to another, it’s hard to know how to feel about the new sweeping reform when only recently, it was described as a concept that would hurt the game by those now passionately preaching its benefits.

These are indeed strong and unexpected winds of change that are blowing but this is likely to be a gale that doesn’t end soon given how quickly opinions can alter as the game’s most influential figures try and figure out what the future looks like. In other words, we may not have seen the end of these astounding retractions as the game’s policymakers continue to try and find the silver bullet to the problems golf faces.

So, with this in mind, what has professional golf taught us above all in the last 12 months? The answer is that it’s probably best to wait and see before outrightly condemning one idea as good and another as bad.

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