If you came to the Masters expecting drama between the rival tours, think again. Matt Chivers explains
We’ve all imagined what the the first encounter between PGA Tour and LIV Golf players at the Masters would be like.
The reality, though, is somewhat anticlimactic. nt
Indeed, Cameron Smith told the press he was greeted with hugs and handshakes on the driving range after not knowing what reception to expect.
Masters hopeful Jon Rahm went one better than his fellow major champion and revealed he’d forgotten Dustin Johnson now played on the break-away tour.
“I don’t think they feel any different. I don’t feel any differently with having them,” Rahm said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I saw Dustin first yesterday and Sergio, I forgot, honestly.
“It didn’t even dawn on me until I looked out and I saw Dustin wearing FootJoys, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, things are different, I forgot.’ I had not seen him since the Open Championship.
“But it didn’t really register in my mind. With Dustin, I feel like I’ve spent more time playing with him and against him than in this new dynamic we have.”
Before securing his second LIV Golf title in Orlando last week, Koepka said he’d recently chatted with McIlroy and played down any tension with his ex-PGA Tour competitors.
The Northern Irishman corroborated this in his session with the media at Augusta as he prepares to make his latest stab at the Grand Slam this week, and he was as thoughtful in his answer as ever.
“I see Brooks a lot, I see DJ a lot, we practice at the same place,” McIlroy said. “The more face time you get with some people, the more comfortable you become in some way. I’m going to go play nine holes here with Brooks in a little bit.
“Look, it’s a very nuanced situation and there are different dynamics. It’s OK to get on with Brooks and DJ and maybe not get on with some other guys that went to LIV. It’s interpersonal relationships, that’s just how it goes.
“But this week and this tournament are way bigger than any of that and it’s just great that all of the best players in the world are together again for the first time in what seems to be quite a while.”
Justin Thomas, meanwhile, couldn’t shed much light on the interactions with LIV players he’d had down Magnolia Lane on Tuesday, simply because he hadn’t had any.
LIV CEO Greg Norman floated the idea of the 18-strong LIV squad swarming the 18th green if one of their own were to slip on the Green Jacket, and two-time PGA Championship winner Thomas would rather just focus on the tournament where his best finish to date is fourth in 2021.
“I haven’t really talked to any of them,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just been a coincidence or I’ve just kind of had the blinkers on.
“I’ve just been business. I’m not too worried about what they are doing and just trying to take care of myself.”
Sergio Garcia played his Tuesday practice round with Rahm and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and also met and greeted old faces he’d not seen for a while.
Garcia, who won his maiden major at this event in 2017, will attend the Champions Dinner along with five other LIV players.
The Spaniard’s lost relationship with McIlroy is one of the most public signs of hostility between the two new rival tours, but he maintained the atmosphere in Georgia has been as though nothing’s happened.
“I had great conversations with many of them. And a lot of guys that I haven’t seen. So I could tell you 10, 15, 20 easily, but we’re not going to spend that much time here. But everyone has been great.
“I usually sit next to Jose, so I’ll probably be sitting next to him again.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone gathering and having a nice dinner, enjoying and celebrating Scottie obviously for the great win he had last year. I’m sure it will be amazing.”
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