“Second-biggest story in golf this week is over in London,” the reporter said.
“Yeah,” said Steve Stricker.
And that’s how most of these exchanges have gone. Questions to players about the upstart, Saudi-funded, LIV Golf Invitational Series, which kicked off play this week in England. And players’ reluctance to respond. You’ve heard so much on the PGA Tour this week, when a reporter, quite politely, started his interrogation with: “Justin Thomas answered:” I knew it was coming . ”
None of this, of course, is too difficult to understand. You know where the money is coming from and why it’s being spent. You also know the decision players offered to join have to make. Then there are those who stick with the established product, only in many cases friends, bolt. Thomas discussed this, too, when, referring to Dustin Johnson, he said: “I don’t dislike DJ now. I don’t think he’s a bad dude. I’m not going to treat him any differently. ”
Stricker’s perspective – after some follow-up questions – is unique here, though. He knows the current generation, or at least has studied it, as part of Ryder Cup captain duties last fall. He’s only slightly older – Stricker is 55 – than the 45-and-older set who have bounced over to LIV for one last significant payday. He’s seen some things, too.
We mean not to drudge up the past. But for a while in the early 2000s, as a Stricker lost his Tour card and slipped deep into the world-ranking triple digits, you’d think he’d once wondered where LIV, with his guaranteed money, was in his day. To be fair, and to complete this lookback, Stricker finally found his way back, won eight times from 2007 to 2012 and played three Ryder Cup and five Presidents Cup teams.
So yeah, his point of view is at least worth a listen, maybe more so than any player. Oh, and he’s also typically articulate, which he was to reporters this week at the American Family Insurance Championship, the 50-and-over-circuit event he hosts in his home state of Wisconsin.
Stricker was asked two questions on the subject, though spoke for minutes.
“And I’m wondering what your overall thoughts are about what’s going on. Seems like there’s some kind of development almost by the hour with that LIV Golf, ”the reporter said.
“Yeah, it does. Yeah, it’s a crazy time in the world of golf, isn’t it?
“I really don’t know what to think about it. We’ve discussed about it, [wife] Nicki and I and Mario [Tiziani, his brother-in-law] and my family, we’ve seen about it a lot and if I was put in that position, what would I do kind of thing.
“Morally, I don’t think I could do it, but I’m talking right now when I’m 55, right? If I was playing well, I got a lot of money like they got it, it would be different, and that’s hard for me to answer that. Personally, morally, right now, I’m not a big fan. It seems, you know, I hate to be a member-guest, it really does. It doesn’t feel right to me. There’s no history there, shotgun starts.
“They’re playing for a lot of money and I’m not begrudging the guys that are going over there to play this tour, but for me personally, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
I’ve always – I’m not a Hall of Fame guy, I’m not a guy who won any majors or anything like that, but I played and I was able to compare myself, my time on Tour with the greats of the game and what did they do, you know? Right now, it’s not all about this LIV tour, it’s all about – it’s all about money. We all need it, right, and to some degree others need it more than others. Everybody’s different.
“Yeah, it seems like it has some momentum. There’s some more guys that have come out, so I guess we’re just going to wait and see how it all shakes out. I’m happy where I’m at, I’m still able to play here. The Tour has obviously provided a lot for me and my family over the course of my career, even this tournament here. I owe a lot to the Tour and what we did through the course of my career on Tour. I just don’t know if I could throw that away and go play somewhere else. ”
“If I could just ask a follow-up: Would your decision have been a lot tougher in ’03, ’04, ’05 when you were struggling, lost your status? Would you have been thrown into that situation then? ” asked the reporter.
“You mean I was struggling with my game and got offered a lot of money?” said Stricker.
“Yeah, like back 20 years ago,” the reporter said.
“Again, I keep trying to put myself in that different kind of position and I don’t know what the answer would be, I really don’t. We’re all here to make money, it’s a business deal, but I also look at the other end of it as the history part of the game. I’ve been part of something for close to 30 years. I’ve been fortunate and able to play this great tour. I wouldn’t change that for anything.
“I’m glad it didn’t come around during the time where I could have been offered the opportunity to go over there. I really don’t know what I would have done, I really don’t. Yeah, it’s a tough question, right? I don’t know if there’s a right and a wrong answer, but I’m with the PGA Tour. I fully support the Tour and what they are about, the charitable dollars. I mean, I don’t know if there’s any charity money going to the LIV event at all, but I know there is a weekly basis out there. That’s an important part of the puzzle, an important piece of what’s going on, especially here. I wouldn’t change it. ”
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