News & Tours

Players 2024: We asked fans if PGA Tour needs to unite with LIV. They didn't lack opinions

March 12, 2024
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Scottie Scheffler signs autographs at the Players Championship.

Kevin C. Cox

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The pitch was simple as I approached people individually and in groups on a sunny Tuesday afternoon at the Players Championship: This is a quick survey, I only have one question, and I don't need your name—just your opinion. In fact, I had two questions, the second of which was more important.

Question 1: Do you think the PGA Tour and LIV should unite?

Question 2: Why?

As you may have gathered, question 1 is incomplete; it doesn't say how they would unite, what kind of golf they'd be playing, or if there would be any penalty for LIV players returning. That was OK by me, because I wanted to keep this very simple, get the raw, instinctive opinion of the vox populi, and let them interpret it however they wanted.

In all, I spoke to 33 people. By my rough count, 16 wanted a reconciliation, 12 wanted them to stay apart, and four had no idea what I was talking about. Here's what they had to say.

Fans 1, 2, 3, and 4

Two couples, perhaps in their late 50s, walked up beside me by the 18th green, which gave me permission to waylay them with my question. They joked that I could take their picture if I wanted, and I declined.

"Yes," the first man said. "I think it's going to be a constant battle, and if there can be some unity within professional golf, I think it would be good for golf. And I think for the majors and Ryder Cups, that the fans miss out a lot if certain ones are unable to play."

Behind him, one of the women was shaking her head, and when I asked why, she laughed and said, "Don't ask me." I asked her anyway.

"Like I know anything about golf. Are you recording? I think no, but don't ask me why. I just don't like the whole LIV thing. That's my whole reason. Just where the money comes from, how the players just went for the money. I don't know. It's a moral thing for me."

"I think they should merge," said the man. "Because everybody in the world wants to see the best golfers compete, versus a couple times in a major."

That left one woman, and I duly turned to her.

"I don't know what LIV is," she said.

Fans 5 and 6

I approached two friends next, and the first gave me an answer that I didn't think I would hear if I asked 1,000 people.

"I would say no," he said. "I think that just keeping them two separate entities, because they seem to have two different styles, I think is probably more beneficial to the sport."

"So you like it better when they're separated?" I asked, still processing the idea that the schism is actually better for professional golf.

"Yeah, I think so."

"I'm torn," said his friend. "Because I feel like I do like them separate, but then you're not getting to see all the best players. I like watching the majors the best because all the best players are getting the best competition."

Fans 7 and 8

Two more men, one middle-aged, one younger, and the younger and quiet one went first.

"Yeah," he said. "I think it would be more entertaining to see both groups of players. More storylines, more entertainment. So, small and simple reason honestly."

His friend was not so content with a simple answer and grilled me for a while on what a joint venture would actually look. "What are the details of it?" A fair question, which I eventually defined for him as LIV golfers returning to the PGA Tour, with maybe some team golf mixed in. This satisfied him.

"I'd like for the LIV guys to return," he said.

Fans 9, 10, 11

Here, I found three younger women in light dresses holding beers on a walkway behind the 18th green.

"I don't know anything about LIV Golf," said the first. "What is LIV Golf?"

I explained, very briefly, the broad details.

"Yeah, rejoin!" she said, happy to have a verdict.

"Why not?" added her friend.

"I know a lot of PGA people on the tour don’t want them to return," said the third. “So I say the people that left for LIV should stay there. That's dissolving, isn't it? Or am I wrong?"

I said I hadn't heard that it was dissolving.

"I think the guys that left for LIV shouldn't be coming back,” the third said. “Enough of them. They made their choice to go."

"True," said her friend, with the fervor of the newly converted.

"I agree," said her other friend. "I bandwagon on that one."

"So now you're on her side?" I asked.

"She's got more knowledge," she said.

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Ryan Moore high fives a fan at the Players Championship.

Jennifer Perez

Now I found five college-age-or-just-beyond men, also with beers, also on that same walkway.

"Separate them," said the first. "Two separate companies, no need to join them."

"Players left already," his friend concurred.

But soon there was disagreement.

"I say you want all the best guys all competing together, everyone's in the same place."

"I'd say they left for the money, don't let 'em back."

"I kind of agree with that. I do like how LIV's doing it though. The teams and everything."

There was still one I hadn't heard from, but he just shrugged.

"I don't know jack s--t about golf."

Fans 17, 18, 19

Three more men, about 30, more beers.

"Yes. It's dividing the tour up, like now, the big names on LIV, none of them's going to be on there. So if they were here, it'd be way cooler."

"I'd just say no," his friend disagreed. "Once they leave, they leave, they're out. Kinda like man, screw it, you jump ship, we cut ties. Kinda like Rory [McIlroy]. I'm with Rory, man, screw 'em. Get out of here, you're not good enough, go."

(Note: This is not McIlroy’s position.)

"I say yes, we want them back together," opined the third, breaking the tie. "We just want to see the best players all in one tournament, all competing."

Fans 20, 21

I figured I should go for a couple with kids to cover all demographics, so when I spotted a pair dragging two impatient little ones with them, I made their lives a little more complicated by asking my question.

"Oh yeah, I do," said the guy. "We want to see the best players compete. Same golfers competing in the same place. We're missing golfers here. I want to see them together."

I looked to the woman.

"She doesn't care," he said.

"Yes. Let's go with yes," she said with a laugh.

"I don't know what the answer is!" their daughter shouted. For statistical purposes, I didn’t count her.

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Next, by the putting green, I approached an older couple standing with a father and his teenage son. The son wore a Travis Matthews black hat, and he was the first to answer.

"Yes. It would be better and, like, the tournaments would be more fun with all the big guys there."

The father told me that it was going to be a hard road back for the LIV players, but that he wanted them all back together. The older man concurred.

"You don't want my opinion," said his wife.

"I do want your opinion!"

"I don't think it's fair to the players that did not go to LIV. That's just how I feel.”

"So you'd want to keep them separate?"

"Yeah, or pay the players that stayed a little bit more."

"I've never watched a LIV tournament," her husband added. "I've never even tried it."

"Not in real life," the boy added. "On TV."

"It's a little challenging to watch, for sure," his father agreed, almost ruefully.

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A middle-aged woman and an older woman were walking down the path, and they seemed like the first who weren't over the moon to talk to me, and while they agreed, they didn't slow their stride.

"I don't know what LIV Golf is," the younger of the two said. "Yes! What do you want me to say?"

"The answer is yes," her friend said. "It's just fracturing golf too much. You don't have people here because of LIV."

At that point, an older man ahead slowed his stride and joined us.

"It's like the AFL and NFL before you were born," he said. "I hope they can come back together."

Fans 29, 30, 31

Three more men, three more standard yes answers.

"A thousand percent. It's better for golf to have the best players in every field. Plus, you get more money, you get to increase the purses across the board. It's just better for golf. They're all contractors; let them make their money."

"I think it's a lot more fun to watch those kind of [LIV] events. It doesn't always have to be stroke play. You can have team events and things like that."

They had a fourth friend with them, but when I asked him, he just smiled and took yet another official credential out of his pocket. The place was crawling with us.

Fans 32, 33

On my way back to the media center, I spotted two men in their fifties speaking to each other in animated gestures, and I thought I detected Irish accents. I decided to turn around and stop them—everything to that point had been Americans. I was right; they were Irish, and, not to stereotype, eager to talk. They began to answer my questions, but at a certain point seemed to forget I was there and just conducted a dialogue with each other.

"No, absolutely not!" said the man in a pink shirt. "The real reason is, there's a greed element here, and a lot of the guys on the PGA Tour—and we're both big into our golf—"

"Yes."

"—have been paid a serious amount of money to move to LIV. And it's not for the growth of the game. The game actually, as far as I'm concerned, is down the drain. And it's pure greed. And the fact that a lot of the guys in LIV who were probably in the top 20 or 30 a year or two ago are causing a big issue now for the PGA. … A lot of my friends who are big into our sport and golf in Ireland, they're not watching the PGA anymore. … It could be Bryson DeChambeau, it could be Phil Mickelson, it could be Cam Smith, they're no longer on the PGA, and I won't watch them, because I just don't agree with the fact that … the likes of [Jon] Rahm [making] $300 million. Is 300 million going to make any difference to them? Absolutely not. No, and it's wrong; it's greed. And I actually think they're killing the game.”

"Now, hang on," his friend interjected. "You don't want them to come back together as is, or you want something different?"

"Something different."

"But a lot of these guys have just got way too much money. How much money do they need? And I know for a fact that a lot of guys would have been asked on the PGA to move over [to LIV]. They refused because their alliance was to stay in the PGA, but they're now looking for compensation. Because they didn't move.

"Yes, but there's too many demands on the players, and the PGA Tour are not running this properly either; the PGA Tour model is flawed—"

"Will you look at this week? It's $25 million purse, four and a half million purse prize for what, four days? Yeah. It's not bad, is it?"

"But there's only very few, there's only 10 people that can win this tournament."

"But they still complain. It's ruined European soccer. There's no question about it ..."

And it went on in this manner for some time.