Column: Youth movement can make LIV Golf look appealing

Jun 21, 2022, 3:34 AM | Updated: 3:37 pm

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after missing a putt on the third hole during the final r...

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after missing a putt on the third hole during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at The Country Club, Sunday, June 19, 2022, in Brookline, Mass. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

              Bryson DeChambeau hits on the 17th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at The Country Club, Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Brookline, Mass. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
              Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after missing a putt on the third hole during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at The Country Club, Sunday, June 19, 2022, in Brookline, Mass. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
              Matthew Fitzpatrick, of England, poses with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open golf tournament at The Country Club, Sunday, June 19, 2022, in Brookline, Mass. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
              Matthew Fitzpatrick, right, of England, celebrates with Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland,after Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Open golf tournament at The Country Club, Sunday, June 19, 2022, in Brookline, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
              Jordan Spieth prepares to hit on the driving range during a practice round ahead of the U.S. Open golf tournament, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Players willing to leave the PGA Tour for riches only Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund can provide is a movement Rory McIlroy refers to as the “easy way out.”

Maybe that’s too easy of an explanation.

Even so, it’s hard to dispute the choice might be easier for some players if they consider a trend that has been going on for the last decade, and was illuminated even more when Matt Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Open.

The last five Grand Slam events now have been won by five different players in their 20s, the first time golf has seen a stretch like that in the 162-year history of the majors.

Fitzpatrick (27) won his first major a month after Justin Thomas (29) won the PGA Championship for the second time. That was preceded by Scottie Scheffler (29) winning the Masters. Last year’s majors ended with Jon Rahm (26) winning the U.S. Open and Collin Morikawa (24) winning the British Open for his second major.

There have been two other cases in the last decade of five majors in a row going to players in their 20s, but that involved multiple winners. Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018 with Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed winning in between. Martin Kaymer won the 2014 U.S. Open, and McIlroy and Jordan Spieth combined to win the next four.

Still unknown about LIV Golf is how the guaranteed riches and 54-hole events will affect the level of play in the long run, how motivated players will be to grind and to practice.

Koepka joining the Saudi-backed group, along with Bryson DeChambeau and his fanatical search for revolutionary ways to play the game, cast the lineup of LIV lads in a new light. Both are still in their prime years, even if their world rankings have plunged amid injuries. Ditto for Reed and Abraham Ancer, who has only one PGA Tour win.

All of four of them are between 28 and 32. This is no longer the “pre-Champions Tour” that McIlroy called it back in February.

McIlroy says he can understand some of the older players going, from Mickelson at 51 and Louis Oosthuizen, who at 39 is coming off a debilitating year of consecutive runner-up finishes in majors. Oosthuizen has the career Grand Slam of silver medals to go with his silver claret jug from St. Andrews in 2010.

“A lot of these guys are in their late 40s — in Phil’s case, early 50s,” he said. “They would say to you themselves that their best days are behind them. That’s why I don’t understand for the guys that are a similar age to me going. Because I would like to believe that my best days are still ahead of me, and I think theirs are, too.

“So that’s where it feels like you’re taking the easy way out.”

Spieth, who went three years through a nasty slump and is slowly coming out the other side with wins in each of the last two years, would seem to agree.

“I think saying it’s the easy way out is probably not how they’re thinking of it,” Spieth said Tuesday. “But it’s kind of how it looks to me.”

The lure of money is powerful, especially if some of the absurd amounts of money being mentioned in various reports are true. The Daily Telegraph has put Johnson’s signing fee at $150 million, which even over four years likely could be matched only with a dominant year on the PGA Tour, on and off the course.

“They’re not going over there for a change in format,” Spieth said.

Everyone has a price, and everyone has a reason. Oosthuizen might be this generation’s version of Byron Nelson, who played golf to make enough money to retire to his ranch. Oosthuizen has moved to an 86-acre ranch in Florida’s horse country near Ocala.

DeChambeau is never easy to figure except he’s all about being different. Name another player who can prepare for the Ryder Cup and a World Long Drive competition (and do well in both).

Easy money? Yes. The easy way out?

“Hmmm, that notion hadn’t entered my head,” Patrick Cantlay said Tuesday in a manner suggesting he didn’t see it that way. “I think the reasons for different guys going or not going could vary widely. So to kind of blanket them all into the same decision-making process I think would be a mistake.

“I don’t necessarily think that all the guys going over there are saying they have conceded trying to be the best player in the world or the best they possibly can be.”

Golf has never been more difficult than it is now. A big part of that is Tiger Woods and the generation of players he inspired to train and to work. Technology — not just equipment — has allowed young players to develop great swings at an early age.

The competition is relentless, and so is the work ethic.

That shows itself more than in the recent run of majors won by players in their 20s. Ten of the top 12 players in the world ranking are in their 20s. Their average age is 27.25.

McIlroy is the oldest. He’s 33. He thinks his best years are still ahead of him.


More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

7 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

7 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

7 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

7 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

7 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

7 months ago

Column: Youth movement can make LIV Golf look appealing