Genesis Invitational

Riviera Country Club



The Grind

Jon Rahm’s stunning reversal, Austin Reaves’ dream golf purchase and the most-blessed caddie on the PGA Tour

December 12, 2023

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where all we want for Christmas is the drama in pro golf to go away. I remember writing in this space that I wished golf had free agency to spice up the offseason when David Feherty was switching from CBS to NBC in 2015. Believe it or not, that was considered a really big deal! Ah, simpler times. Anyway, this may have been the worst golf take I’ve ever had because with each of these LIV signings (including Feherty last year), pro golf gets more and more fractured, and Jon Rahm’s big decision has taken the biggest hammer to the sport yet.

Going from a green jacket to a LIV letterman jacket? And going against all those previous things he said like not liking LIV's format and $400 million not mattering to him? Crazy times. Things have certainly changed a lot since the PGA Tour’s surprise announcement in June that it had reached a framework agreement with the Saudi Arabia PIF, and I’m sure it’s about more than money for Jon, but the Shohei Ohtani-like cash certainly didn’t hurt. Anyway, as we head toward the holidays, hug your favorite sports league extra tight, because you never know how long it's going to last. OK, let’s talk about what else is happening in golf.

WE’RE BUYING

Lydia Ko/Jason Day: Kudos to this pair of former phenoms and World No. 1s for winning the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational. Things got tight down the stretch, but Ko came up clutch late to claim this fun mixed-event:

1845699221

Cliff Hawkins

Wait, maybe we shouldn’t pump this tournament up too much. Saudi Arabia might just go out and buy it, too.

Joe Skovron: Obviously, this guy knows what he’s doing as a caddie, but what an amazing run he’s on. First he had Rickie Fowler for 13 years, then he went right to Tom Kim, and now he’s swapping one rising star for another with Ludvig Aberg. Those are some amazing gigs!

1738009740

Michael Owens

It’s actually an interesting debate as to who will wind up having the better career between Kim and Aberg. Obviously everyone (including Joe) is on the Ludvig train right now, but remember that Kim is nearly 2½ years younger. Regardless, Joe is going to be making a lot of money caddieing. For a long time.

The Hadwins: Just a quick shout-out to our favorite couple in the game right now—especially Golf Twitter queen Jessica Hadwin—for always providing some levity. And during times like this past week, it’s needed more than ever.

These two deserve their own Netflix show.

Kalle Samooja’s finish: LIV has received a lot of criticism, but the new Promotions event, AKA Q School, actually provided some drama as players battled for a spot on tour in 2024 that comes with life-changing money. What a finish for this Finnish golfer, who came up clutch by birdieing the final two holes:

WE’RE SELLING

Laurie Canter’s finish: On the flip side, this was tough to watch. The English golfer appeared to be in great position to earn one of the three lucrative spots before he three-putted for par in a wild playoff, badly missing from five feet, and then did this:

Ouch.

The PGA Tour’s week: Speaking of pain, it was a disastrous couple days for the PGA Tour, which saw one of its biggest stars and then one of its biggest sponsors bolt within 24 hours. While Rahm is a big get for LIV, I think it’s a much bigger loss for the tour, which continues to lose ground to this upstart league. And Wells Fargo announcing it wouldn’t be renewing its contract after 2024 isn’t directly due to Rahm’s decision, but it’s all part of the PGA Tour’s ongoing battle.

Bottom line, it seems more and more like the tour needs to get this deal done. And if there wasn’t a sense of urgency to do that before last week, there is now.

Braden Thornberry injury: In terms of physical pain, this has to win out. Take a look at this finger injury. If you can stomach it, that is.

OK, I might not eat lunch now. Good thing I already had two doughnuts for breakfast.

ON TAP

For a second-consecutive week, the golf world can enjoy a team event. And no, I’m not talking about LIV. It’s the PNC Championship and yes, Tiger Woods and Charlie Woods will take center stage once again. But don’t forget about Team Thomas. And Team Daly. And defending champs Team Singh. And a new squad, Team Stricker with Steve and daughter Izzi teaming up. This is quickly becoming golf’s new fifth major!

1245715999

Ben Jared

Random tournament fact: Vijay and Qass won last year in their 16th start and after three runner-up finishes. So maybe there’s still hope for Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open!

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

—Jon Rahm will regret his LIV decision this Christmas: 300-600 MILLION-to-1 odds

—Tiger and Charlie will win this week: 5-to-1 odds (Actual odds)

—Tiger and Charlie will do better TV ratings than any LIV event: LOCK

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Still stunning five days later.

CLUB PRO GUY TWEET OF THE WEEK

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (ON-COURSE DIVISION)

PSA: Do NOT try to drive a car down a cartpath—especially if golf carts are in the way:

Hopefully, that vehicle made it off the course in one piece.

THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS

Congrats to everyone’s favorite college golfer J.R. Smith on making his first hole-in-one!

The beers will be flowing in the golf dorms at North Carolina A&T when he returns to campus! Among those of legal age, of course.

THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS (ARCHIVE DIVISION)

This is an oldie, but a goodie. And a reminder that Shohei Ohtani is human on the golf course:

You’d hope that with $700 million he’d get a few golf lessons.

THIS WEEK IN PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

Aww. It’s good to see there’s (a lot) more to their relationship than daggering each other on Twitter! And congrats to them both on surviving a trip to Vegas in their 30s … no easy task!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Probably go get a golf membership at Riviera or something, really nice course in L.A.” —Austin Reaves on what he would do with the $500K if the Lakers won the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. Which they did!

Not sure if the guy who goes by “Hillbilly Bogey” on TikTok knows you need more than cash to get into a place like that, but we’re guessing he’s got a few connections.

THIS AND THAT

Tony Finau didn't save the PGA Tour, but his announcement that he's returning after it was reported he was leaving was huge news for Jay Monahan and Co. And led to a lot of fun "TONY FINAU, WHERE HE BE NOW?" (shout-out to Chris Vernon) jokes. … LIV's No. 1 player, Talor Gooch, was traded straight up for its 27th-player Matthew Wolff. Brooks Koepka just fleeced Bubba Watson worse than the Yankees buying Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. … Congrats to Gary Burt, who has made FIVE holes-in-one this year at the Vanderbilt Legends Club, according to the club’s assistant pro. Jeez, Gary, save some aces for the rest of us. … The biggest beneficiary of Rahm’s decision and subsequent PGA Tour suspension is Mackenzie Hughes, who got bumped up to No. 50 on the FedEx Cup points list to get into all of 2024’s signature events. Merry Christmas, Mackenzie! … And, speaking of Christmas, we made another successful voyage to the North Pole via the Polar Express (shout-out Warner Bros. Discovery) to see our good friend Santa:

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2021/231212-grind-polar-express.jpg

On a serious note, happy holidays to everyone. And thanks for continuing to read The Grind as we put a bow on Year No. 11. See you all back here in a couple weeks!

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

How long will our kids believe in Santa?

What will Jon Rahm’s LIV team be called?

Does Tom Kim need a caddie?