Fresh off Valderrama victory, Adrian Otaegui ready to return to LIV Golf for team finale at Doral
One of the benefits that came with Adrian Otaegui's Andalucia Masters win at Valderrama was a phone call from Joaquin Niemann late last week. Niemann, a young Chilean star who left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf and is now captain of the Torque GC team, invited Otaegui to come back to LIV and contest its team finale at Trump Doral outside Miami. Otaegui played three events on LIV while jumping back to the DP World Tour.
"Joaquin said, 'Congrats on winning at Valderrama ... I'd be excited to have you on my team in Miami, so pack your bags," Otaegui told Golf Digest on Tuesday after being confirmed in the field for the $50 million LIV finale, which begins Friday.
But it hasn't all been smooth for Otaegui, who played LIV events in England, Portland and Boston, but did not compete in its Bedminster, N.J., or Chicago stops, or the recent overseas legs in Thailand and Saudi Arabia. His best finish was sixth place at the inaugural event outside London.
Otaegui is one of several LIV golfers who have used a court-ordered injunction to be able to play on the DP World Tour. The European circuit initially tried to ban and fine any of its members who played in LIV events, but the bans were blocked by a U.K. arbitration court. European stalwarts such as Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, as well as former PGA Tour players Patrick Reed and Talor Gooch, have been able to compete on the DP World Tour.
But Otaegui is the first LIV player to have gone back to the DP World Tour and won. He captured his fourth DP World Tour title on the famed Valderrama course earlier this month by shooting a 19-under-par total to win by six shots over Joakim Lagergren. He earned $500,000 for the victory, which was not the most widely popular in DP World tour circles, given they would rather LIV golfers not play their tour. Otaegui also shared 47th place at the Mallorca Golf Open last week.
Otaegui said overall the feedback had been positive, but he'd noticed some criticism.
"Obviously, everyone is free to have an opinion," Otaegui said from Trump Doral. "Some people, fans and friends, have been supportive. But some people have not been so happy. There are all kinds of opinions. Some people were not so keen [on me playing LIV] before [LIV's inaugural tournament] in London but since then they have realized this is a tour that's going to be here for a while."
Otaegui is also in a unique position in that he's the only LIV player currently in the frame for selection for Europe at next year's Ryder Cup. With his Valderrama win, he moved into the top six for European Ryder Cup qualifying via its world points list. That's because Otaegui secured valuable World Ranking points, which his LIV colleagues have not been able to obtain on the rival circuit because the fledgling series is not yet eligible to earn them. Otaegui jumped from 158th to 95th in the world, where he remains.
It is not clear yet whether LIV players will be allowed to participate on captain Luke Donald's team in Rome until Sport Resolutions U.K. holds a hearing in February. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is one of the European stars who has made it abundantly clear he doesn't "think any of those guys should be on the Ryder Cup team.”
"Making the Ryder Cup team is my big goal for 2023," said Otaegui, who has never played on a European Ryder Cup team. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a child. I'm going to fight to try and qualify on the golf course."
While LIV golfers taking part in a Ryder Cup may be awkward, Otaegui believes the European team can rise above it. "The way I see it, we all have different points of view but we should be able to remain friends and [play on the same team]. I'm not fazed by what has been said so far."
This week at Doral, LIV’s team finale will not have an individual stroke-play component but will boast a $50 million purse. All 48 competitors are assured of earning at least $250,000. The bottom four teams are guaranteed $1 million while the winning team will split $16 million.