ask alan

Rory’s Masters chances, how the LIV relegation works, my mojo with Phil and much more


Gregory Shamus

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.

March 01, 2023

Did Chris Kirk and Eric Cole, accompanied by Ryan Gerard, in a tournament abandoned by the sponsor and left for dead … did they ruin LIV’s life? It seems a lower-tier PGA Tour event was still the more compelling product? @ZitiDoggsGolf

I don’t fully understand the need to constantly compare LIV to the PGA Tour and vice versa. Can’t they co-exist as different but complementary entertainment products? I mean, some days I listen to hip-hop, some days the blues, some days alternative rock. It’s all music. The Honda was defined by hunger, with players on the margins desperately trying to advance their careers. In a tournament with basically no recognizable names, Kirk, Cole and Gerard were each compelling in their own way. LIV Mayakoba was a more freewheeling affair, featuring Hall of Famers, major champions, Ryder Cup stars and various big personalities you love to hate. It’s more about entertaining fans than offering hard-core, life-altering competition. During the first round I walked with the group of Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith and Abe Ancer—if you don’t get some enjoyment watching that trio play a tight, tricky, firm course, you must not like golf. Charles Howell III is not a brand name, but he made more than 450 cuts and $42 million on the PGA Tour; winning in Mayakoba was not going to change his life, but you could plainly see how much it meant to him. Some fans were much more interested in watching the tour event, a smaller number preferred LIV. That’s fine by me—I don’t see it as a binary choice.

Do you think Eric Cole deserves to be suspended for his pant selection? @taketheodds

Gosh, it’s nice to get away from golf’s complicated geo-politics and focus on a much more pressing concern: joggers! They’re not my jam, but I thought Cole wore them pretty well.

What’s it like when you and Phil bump into each other? @TyWebb_11

After the messiness of last year’s LIV event at London (where a couple of rogue security goons tossed me out of Mickelson’s press conference before I got the chance to ask a question), I gave Phil a wide berth. I didn’t want to be part of any more sideshows. But last week I wanted to ask him a specific fact-checking question related to my upcoming book about LIV vs. the PGA Tour, and I am always loathe to lob any queries in press conference settings because if a player says something really juicy or interesting, the whole world has it. During one of the practice days I spied Mickelson leaving the driving range so I quick-walked to catch him. When he saw me his face went into a reflexive frown. I explained I wanted to check one thing with him real quick, and he expressed a keen lack of interest. “Don’t you want to at least hear the question?” I asked, trying not to sound needy. He did not, never breaking stride while barking a few unpleasantries. So I’d say his vibe remains a little chilly, but I’m going to try to keep doing my job.

Will Rory get a green jacket this year? @MGallagher1977

If not now, when?! McIlroy is playing at an astonishingly high level week to week, fueled by the righteousness of being the PGA Tour’s self-appointed savior. He’s coming off a career-best second-place finish at the Masters, including a thrilling walk-off bunker shot on the 72nd hole. (Rory has finished top-10 at Augusta seven of the last nine years.) His wedge play and putting have become more consistent. It’s impossible to imagine he won’t ever win a green jacket. Unfortunately, the same thing was also said of megatalents like Lee Trevino, Ernie Els, Johnny Miller, Greg Norman and Tom Weiskopf; at some point the scar tissue becomes insurmountable. McIlroy turns 34 the month after this Masters. Barring injury, he will clearly have a bunch of opportunities to contend there. But, especially after last year’s epic letdown at the Old Course, this feels like a crucial year if Rory is going to get off the schneid at Augusta.

First time attending the Masters this year. What is the best item in the shop that is worth purchasing, and top food item that is a must try? @JeffreyBatt18 #AskAlan

It always amazes me the number of clever new items Augusta National comes up with every year for the merchandise shop. You’d think they would have thought of everything by now, but apparently not. It is a rite of passage for newbies to spend hours wandering around the merch shop; wear comfy shoes and bring an extra credit card. You might even consider selling a kidney ahead of time for extra cash. As far as the best grub, the easy answer has always been the peach ice-cream sandwich. But last year there was an uproar when it disappeared from the menus, with Augusta National citing only vague supply-chain issues. Pray for its return.

Is coming out an issue in elite men’s golf? It is now in soccer in Europe. @PeteKnot

Across the PGA, European, Asian and Japan tours, LIV Golf, and the Korn Ferry, Canadian and Latinoamérica tours, there are easily 1,000 men playing top-tier professional golf. It is a mathematical certainty that some of them are gay. Yet Tadd Fujikawa (below) remains, to my knowledge, the only pro who has gone public with his homosexuality, and by the time he did, in 2018, he was no longer playing competitively. So, yes, it is clearly an issue. Note that golf is always at least a quarter-century behind when it comes to societal change. The Shoal Creek controversy blew up 26 years after the Civil Rights Act passed. Augusta National accepted its first female members 31 years after Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, so by this crude math, you can expect openly gay golfers on the PGA Tour around 2040.

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Your mention of a LIV Q school and relegation seems to imply that LIV is more or less satisfied with its current roster. Does that mean they no longer plan to aggressively court PGA Tour players? Not sure if they have room for both at this point. @baldeag06487004

The rosters are set in stone for 2023. I recently asked a LIV executive what would happen if Rory McIlroy demanded a contract, and the dead-serious answer was that there is simply no mechanism to sign him now that the season has begun. (A handful of extra players are already on-call to fill out the field in case of injury, which is why Laurie Canter teed it up in Mayakoba as Martin Kaymer continues to rehab a surgically repaired wrist.) At year’s end, LIV folks and the various captains will try to recruit new talent to fill the spots of the four relegated players and a handful of expired contracts; there are not as many multiple-year deals as widely believed. Expect a push for some higher-profile PGA Tour players. After LIV’s chaotic, beta-test season in 2022, it’s understandable why no top tour players wanted to make the jump. LIV is counting on becoming a more attractive destination after this season plays out, with a full international schedule and a TV deal in place and a much more defined and promoted team component. We shall see.

What happens to the LIV players who get dropped as new players join? #askalan @paulcomp

They will be exempt on the Asian Tour and its elevated International Series events for the ensuing season. Finish top three on the International Series Order Of Merit and those players punch their ticket back onto LIV. Depending on how the arbitration case goes in the U.K., demoted LIVers may also be able to get some starts on the DP World Tour.

Thinking about going to the LIV event in Orlando; which day should I go to experience maximum weirdness? @luke_peacock

If weirdness is the goal I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Despite all the hype and all the noise, at its core LIV is just golfers hitting golf shots. It will feel very familiar if you’ve ever been to a pro tournament.

What resort did you stay at and did you get lost inside it? @benrector

There was a decent media rate at the Grand Riviera Princess, so we all stayed there. This place was immense—I timed it and it took 18 minutes to walk from the lobby to my front door. The room rate was all-inclusive of food and alcohol, and given the damage the press crops did, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Princess is now out of business. Mayakoba is next door but too far to walk. There was a shuttle snafu one morning, so I shared a cab with fellow scribes and crusty buggers Bob Harig, James Corrigan and Kevin Garside. The guards wouldn’t let our taxi onto the grounds of Mayakoba, so we had to hoof it through a maze of trails carved into the jungle, all of us perspiring madly under a brutal sun. It would have made a great buddies movie.

You are such a LIV fanboy, admit it! @arizonaguy71

This makes me laugh because another dude in this same batch of #Ask solicitations called me a “tour shill.” I don’t think I’m either, but that’s up to the reader to decide. I do try to keep an open mind about LIV and treat it with some level of seriousness. In this hyper-polarized media environment, I s’pose that is grounds for being accused of being a fanboy.


Rob Carr

What is going to happen if a LIV guy wins a major? @freedrop31

Total and utter chaos, which is my real rooting interest.