U.S. Open ‘déjà vu’ with PGA Tour-LIV narrative

U.S. Open ‘déjà vu’ with PGA Tour-LIV narrative

LOS ANGELES — USGA president Mike Whan said he feels a sense of “déjà vu” as a second consecutive U.S. Open takes place amid the sport’s push and pull between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

“I thought last Monday was the longest day in golf, but it turns out last Tuesday was the longest day in golf,” Whan said of the day the tour announced its alliance with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour.

Whan said he was surprised by the sudden deal, but that he wasn’t surprised there had been ongoing conversation between the parties.

The USGA’s first reaction to the news, Whan said, was to fear how it would affect the storylines of this week’s tournament. But much like last year’s U.S. Open, when suspensions and LIV’s controversial start were the talk of the early week, Whan expects those topics to fade come Thursday.

“I’m fairly certain now — having lived through this déjà vu — that the same thing will happen this week that happened last year,” Whan said. “Once the balls go in the air, the athletes take the narrative back. I am pretty sure when we recap 2023, we’re going to be talking about what happened on the golf course and not what happened off the golf course.”

Still, Whan said that while he doesn’t have any insight or information about the particulars of the alliance, he did admit that the USGA is interested in what the final product and its effect will be.

“Exactly what happens in the future of men’s professional golf, we’ll certainly be paying attention,” Whan said. “But I’m not really sure if it changes the USGA or the U.S. Open or our championships.”

When asked if the USGA has had conversations with the PIF about partnerships or possible investments in the organization and whether that could be a possibility in the future, Whan said he didn’t know.

“Saudi investment fund and Saudi Golf has been involved in the game as long as I’ve been commissioner of the LPGA, and then this role,” Whan said. “That doesn’t feel as new to me as it maybe does to some other fans.”

Whan, however, did balk at the notion that USGA had some responsibility to stay away from private financial funds such as the PIF while also alluding to the fact that the USGA isn’t looking for influential partners.

“We don’t really have any current partners that want to change our decision-making, and I don’t know if they do, either,” Whan said. “I think probably if we were contacted, we’re pretty full up from a partnership perspective right now. … We’re probably not as attractive to outsiders as maybe some other entities might be.”

The USGA might not be looking for partners like the PIF, but as Whan has said in the past, it does seek to be aligned with the other governing bodies in the sport such as the Masters, the R&A and the PGA Tour, which is made up of the players whom the USGA is targeting when it comes to the Model Local Rule — a potential rollback of the golf ball that they announced earlier this year.

Those proposed rule changes have included plenty of pushback from players and equipment manufacturers, and Whan said he knew it would be a difficult process. He said feedback received so far has been helpful in determining where this project, which is proposed to take effect in 2026, goes next.

“I think I can speak on behalf of the R&A when I say both the R&A and the USGA believe doing nothing is a bad idea for the long-term future and health of the game,” Whan said. “It’s highly unlikely that the long-term solution is to do nothing.”

“Our intent is pure. It’s not malicious,” added USGA CEO Fred Perpall. “We’re not trying to do something to damage anyone. We’re thinking about all the good that this good game has given us, and we’re thinking about what is our responsibility to make sure that this game is still strong and healthy 50 years from now for our children’s children.”

Read more