Sesquicentennial doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s a word you’ll hear often next week when the 150th Open Championship is contested at the Old Course at St. Andrews. Yep, one hundred and fiftieth. Crazy, right? (When Willie Park won the first Open, in 1860, pasteurization was still an exciting new concept and Abraham Lincoln wasn’t even in office yet.) Add into the mix the hallowed venue, glorious Auld Gray Toon setting and Tiger Woods’ first start since May, and you have a momentous event before it has even begun.
This time last year it would have been hard to imagine that another golf story could possibly distract from The Open’s banner week, but that was before an upstart golf tour called LIV Golf turned the world of professional golf on its head. Now, LIV Golf’s advances are seemingly all anyone in the game wants to talk about.
Well, maybe not quite everyone.
“I think we have many other stories we can talk about, right?” reigning Open champion Collin Morikawa said Wednesday from the Scottish Open. “There’s a handful of players that are coming from LIV that are playing this week, but I don’t think that should be our focus.”
Morikawa was responding to a question about LIV signee Ian Poulter, who on Monday won a legal stay that overturned a DP World Tour suspension and granted him entry into the event. Needless to say, it wasn’t the only LIV question Morikawa fielded — as was the case in his previous presser, and the one before that, and the one before that, and…
Morikawa is not alone, of course. Since LIV Golf became a oh-wow-this-is-actually-going-to-happen reality earlier this year, few star players — be they LIV defectors or PGA Tour loyalists — have escaped a meeting with the press without being asked to reflect on some element of the deep-pocketed, Saudi-funded league.
Indeed, four months since LIV came squarely into the picture by announcing its 2022 schedule, players might be wondering how long the LIV-related inquisitions will keep coming. By this point, most of the key players have expressed their opinion on the league – some, to be sure, with more depth and candor than others – and at least a few have expressed their frustration with having to continually address the topic.
At the US Open last month, Brooks Koepka said LIV queries were casting a “black cloud” over the US Open. “The more legs you give it, the more you keep talking about it,” he told reporters. (Less than a week later, it must be noted, Koepka himself signed with LIV Golf, sending the LIV news cycle back into overdrive.) Also at Brookline, Jon Rahm, who has stood by the PGA Tour, said he didn’t expect the LIV questions to cease anytime soon, noting, “I think the [LIV] events are spaced out just enough to where when the next one comes, we’re going on to have the same talk all over again, right?”
And then there’s Rory McIlroy, the PGA Tour’s knight in titanium armor, who has opined about LIV’s impact and the politics of professional golf more than any other player, at least in public settings.
“Honestly I’m rooting for it all to be over,” McIlroy said of the LIV drama. “I’m just so sick of talking about it.”
That was in May.
Even the media seems a little burnt out, or at the very least on autopilot. In Rahm’s Scottish Open press conference on Wednesday, a reporter began a query with, “The inevitable LIV question…”
The question related to the LIV players who had won the legal battle to play at the Renaissance Club this week, to which Rahm replied, in part, “I think what’s important is that we have a great championship at hand and not let the golf politics dictate how good the tournament is.”
Which brings us back to Morikawa, who among the players who spoke Wednesday seemed most irritated by the endless LIV chatter – so much so that he had a few words of journalism advice for the assembled scribes.
“Like I said earlier, there’s 14 of the best 15 players,” he said of the Scottish Open field. “You guys write the stories, every one of you guys here, right, and you guys can write the stories about anyone else. We hear a lot of stories about players that are here that come to these press conferences, but you guys maybe don’t write stories about other people that are interesting.
“I think it’s your guys’ job to go out and find these stories that are interesting. Obviously, we are in Scotland so you guys might write about Scottish players. But when we’re at other events, find things guys might have ties to.”
Next week, in the birthplace of golf and the site of 19 previous Open Championships, there will be no shortage of those types of ties.
Less LIV buzz, though? Don’t bet on it.