Unless you spend time with LIV Golf or PGA Tour players, it is difficult to tell if there is genuine hostility between the rival circuits’ players.
Rory McIlroy and Greg Norman have exchanged verbal comments in the past. McIlroy has even admitted he’s lost friends as a result of LIV’s emergence.
But for the most part, is the dislike genuine? Will the Masters be that awkward? And who is to blame for the alleged divisiveness?
If you ask Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson, it’s as if the Saudi-financed league doesn’t exist and all is well with their PGA Tour counterparts.
Speaking ahead of the third LIV Golf event of 2023 in Orlando, the pair of major champions played down the reported animosity and Watson identified a specific source of the awkwardness.
“I’m going to be honest – It’s only awkward in the media,” he said.
“I’ve talked to people that are going to be there (the Masters). I’m going to sign up with Jason Day and Cam Young in the par 3 (pre-tournament contest). Some guys have already asked me to play some practice rounds.
“Media is the only one that is pushing it. I have nothing against anybody. If you change jobs, I’m not mad at you. If you start reporting for somebody else, hey – it’s a better decision for you and your family.”
Watson, a two-time winner at Augusta National, then addressed McIlroy’s new leadership role with the Tour: “He’s protecting his business, which is fine.”
Koepka is a Florida resident like many of golf’s biggest stars and he revealed just the other day, he spoke to McIlroy about – you’ve guessed it – golf ball roll back.
The pair share eight major titles between them and have been two of the standout players of the last decade.
“We see each other quite a bit. I mean, there’s a lot of conversations,” Koepka said. “I was talking with Rory for probably about 30 minutes just about the ball and all the other stuff that’s going on.
“No one is angry at anybody from what I’ve seen.”
The Masters will certainly be a test of tension levels as Augusta will host players from all tours. Eighteen players on Norman’s roster will drive down Magnolia Lane in search of the Green Jacket, six of them being past champions and attendants at the Champions Dinner.
Woods, who has allegedly cut off all contact with Bryson DeChambeau, admitted he won’t know how to react when confronting LIV players at the Masters, a stance that contrasts that of Koepka and Watson.
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