The R&A has been doing its very best to make LIV Golf defectors feel as unwelcome as possible at St. Andrews in advance of the 150th Open Championship. And it's been noticed by those who fled the venerable PGA Tour for supposedly greener pastures that come stocked with all types of scrutiny.
At Golf Digest, Dan Rapaport detailed some of the measures taken and how much they've been noticed.
It continued into the early part of the week, when the press conference schedule did not feature a single LIV player. Not Phil Mickelson, an Open Champion and legend of the game, and not Louis Oosthuizen, a runaway winner at St. Andrews in 2010. Not Dustin Johnson, a two-time major winner who’s had plenty of close calls at the Open. Not Bryson DeChambeau, a U.S. Open champion with a massive following. And not Brooks Koepka, the best major championship player of the last half-decade.
World No. 21 Abraham Ancer is playing with Emiliano Grillo (No. 128) and Yuto Katsurgawa (No. 128). Before pulling out with an injury on Thursday of the U.S. Open, he was set to play with Thomas Pieters (No. 34) and Sam Burns (No. 11) DeChambeau is with John Daly and Cameron Tringale, this week. At Brookline, Bryson played with fellow U.S. Open winners Gary Woodland and Justin Rose. Lee Westwood will play with J.T. Poston and Stephen Dodd on Thursday. At last year’s Open, the Englishman played the first two rounds with major winners Stewart Cink and Martin Kaymer.
Perhaps the most egregious: Phil Mickelson, six-time major champion, will play his first two rounds alongside Lucas Herbert and Kurt Kitayama, the latter of whom only got into the field with a runner-up finish at the Genesis Scottish Open last week. At the U.S. Open, Mickelson was paired with Oosthuizen and Shane Lowry.
Clearly, this is no accident. And clearly, it would suck to be Cameron Tringale or J.T. Poston or Kurt Kitayama taking strays on the eve of the summer's last major. All of this — from the actual implication to the whining about it — feels a bit petty. Yet one wonders how disconnected from reality some of the LIV golfers are if they really thought they could make such a seismic choice without alienating a lot of people, including the most powerful who want nothing more than to preserve the status quo.
If there is actual interest in growing the game, as has been echoed by so many jumping to LIV, how about growing the game by playing alongside some lesser-known players? It's not like Poston, who just won the John Deere, and Kitayama, who finished second in the Scottish Open, can't play. Tringale posted a freaking 61 during his opening round six days ago.
Here's fun experiment. Let's see who plays the best out of the Herbert-Kitayama-Mickelson trio. Let's see if Poston outperforms Westwood. This preemptive complaining will look a bit silly if the LIV players turn out to be the weak links.
All is not lost, of course. There's a league right now where golfers can go if they don't think they are getting enough exposure.