“There’s open spots. There’s interest,” Watson said Wednesday ahead of this week’s Team Championship at Trump National Doral. “There’s people calling, texting, even me, and I don’t have any pull. So they are asking for help to try to get in the league.”
Watson’s comments came a day after Mickelson said that LIV’s player roster is “going to improve next year.”
The Team Championship is the final of 14 events in the Saudi-backed league’s second season. There are numerous unknowns moving forward, including the seemingly tenuous status of the framework agreement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund that has financed LIV.
Another unknown is how the four major tournaments will address the eligibility of LIV players after the board of the Official World Golf Ranking denied the league’s request for its events to provide rankings points. Many LIV players have offered opinions on why the league should be able to compete for points, while Watson, who captains the Range Goats team, offered his solution for the majors.
“We shouldn’t go after world ranking points. We should go after top 10, top 15 on the money list — our points list on LIV should get into majors,” he said. “Makes it easy. These guys are so good. The top 10 this year could play against anybody. You could make a U.S. team, you could make a European team, they could play with anybody, our top 10.
“That’s how you should get into majors, and I’ve been saying that forever. Forget points. Just go straight off the money list, try to get 10 people or 15 get in; trying to get more people, so 15.”
Watson is a two-time Masters champion who is eligible to return to Augusta National for life. He was speaking on behalf of younger LIV players such as Talor Gooch, who won this year’s individual title, and Torque GC captain Joaquin Niemann. Both are currently ineligible to compete in any of next year’s majors.
Niemann said the prospect of not playing majors was something he contemplated before joining LIV and acknowledged that he is frustrated at potentially missing out on them next year. Currently 68th in the OWGR, he plans to compete in events on other tours around the world, but Niemann doesn’t believe it will be enough to crack back into the top 50.
“I want to win majors, and I want to have my chance to be playing on those,” he said. “The majors is all about having the best players in the world competing against each other, and there’s a few guys here that are on that bag that has to be competing with those guys all together playing for the majors with the best players in the world.
“Hopefully there is some way that we can get into those events.”
One of the sticking points for the OWGR in the board’s denial is the lack of turnover in LIV’s player roster. There are only four spots potentially available for new players ahead of next year, which Mickelson acknowledged could be filled by new signings before the league’s new promotions tournament.
Watson, who missed nine months following knee surgery, said further turnover at some point will include older players such as himself. He is focused not only on improving his game but also improving on the business front as a captain.
“I want to keep playing, but at some point, I’m going to back away. I’m going to be that owner [who] shows up to the tournaments, cheers the guys on, get the younger crowd in, better golfers,” he said. “I’ve told myself since the start, ‘If you don’t think I’m good enough, then let’s get somebody better.’ Put them in there and I’ll just sit out. I’ll cheer you on from the other side of the ropes. I’ll sit in the air conditioned box and watch y’all play golf in the heat.”
For now, Watson is focused on the short term. That’s this week’s Team Championship followed by planning for 2024. In addition to interest from players wanting to join LIV, he is enjoying learning the business side and being part of planning the league’s future.
Watson also believes there will ultimately be a resolution for top LIV players such as Niemann to have a pathway into majors.
“I think it will be coming soon,” Watson said. “Nobody has called me and asked me, but it’s common sense. Writing is on the wall that something is going to change in the near future. And if it doesn’t, LIV is going to be pretty good for a long time.”