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Top PGA Tour, LIV Players Gather for Masters As Golf's Civil War Rages

LIV appears to have strengthened its hand with its stunning signing of Jon Rahm, who was on the PGA Tour when he won at Augusta Masters a year ago. But there are actually five fewer players from the new tour than the 18 who played in 2023

AP
Scottie Scheffler tees off on the eighth hole during a practice round in preparation for the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: AP
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All the top players — from reigning Master champion Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka representing Team LIV to world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy teeing it up for the old guard — will be looking to not only claim a green jacket, but score bragging rights for their de facto team. (More Sports News)

“Obviously, the more togetherness that you get, the better it is for everyone. There's no doubt about that,” said Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters winner who bolted for LIV. “But there's room for everyone. I don't think that's a problem at all.”

Even though LIV appears to have strengthened its hand with its stunning signing of Rahm, who was on the PGA Tour when he won at Augusta a year ago, there are actually five fewer players from the new tour than the 18 who played in 2023.

That's largely because LIV events — with their smaller fields and 54-hole format — do not receive world ranking points, one of the main conduits for entry into the Masters.

Still, the Saudi-funded circuit has demonstrated that its top players can compete with the best of the PGA Tour.

Koepka and Phil Mickelson were runner-ups to Rahm a year ago at the Masters, and Koepka went on to capture his fifth career major title at the PGA Championship. Of the 27 major championships that have been staged since the beginning of 2017, 13 were won by golfers who now call LIV home.

Koepka took issue with those who say the split is ruining the game.

“Look, the best players in the world never got together week in, week out. I think that's kind of forgotten,” Koepka said Tuesday. “It was the majors, (World Golf Championship tournaments) ... those were pretty much the 10 events where everyone was, for sure, going to be there. And then it was just kind of sprinkled in everywhere else. I think that's kind of how it is" now.

But hard feelings remain, especially since a supposed merger agreement announced 10 months ago had yet to be finalized.

Just listen to Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion and outspoken critic of LIV.

“I don't think I'll ever understand it,” he said. “Now, everything can get better. But let me tell you, if the LIV tour is better for golf, I'm missing something there.”

Rahm acknowledged that when he accepted a reported $350 million offer to join LIV in December, he was hopeful that it would spur the two sides to reach some sort of reconciliation by the time the Masters rolled around.

Now, with a divide that seems as gaping as ever, he's one of the most prominent faces on a tour that has been called everything from the future of the game — with its shotgun starts and team element — to a refuge of sellouts who are helping the Saudis sportswash the image of a repressive regime.

“It's a bit of a detour on my path,” Rahm said. “But change can be better.”

Just how much things have changed was apparent from the attire he donned a year ago as he departed Augusta National to what he picked out for his practice rounds leading into this Masters.

Gone was the green jacket. Now he's wearing a shirt emblazoned with a Legion XIII logo.

The team he now leads in LIV.

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