Ranking golfers the PGA TOUR can’t afford to lose to LIV Golf, including Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm and Will Zalatoris
If the PGA TOUR thought the players heading to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series were going to stop at Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, it’s already several lengths behind.
On Monday, Brooks Koepka became the latest star to go for golf’s newest contender by throwing millions (and counting millions) of dollars at the game’s biggest stars.
While the list of players to join LIV Golf ranges from grand champions to journeymen looking for automatic pay, one thing is clear: they are not done yet.
Other players will leave. Big names will leave. The PGA TOUR’s reactionary attempt to add more events with big prize pools won’t be enough. None of this is a surprise. We’ve talked about it before in this space.
The TOUR must act quickly to prevent more stars from leaving, starting from the top.
Brooks, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil and DJ are gone. Others are on the way. Here’s our ranking of the players the PGA TOUR can’t afford to lose as LIV Golf just got started.
1. Tiger Level
Who knows what Tiger can do on the golf course at this point, but his impact is undeniable. If the most famous and richest athlete in the sport gives the sign that all is well, the TOUR is over.
2. Roaring Rory
Along with Mickelson at LIV and Tiger Limited, Rory is now the most famous “best player available”. McIlroy isn’t Woods, but he’s so professed his hatred for LIV and his love for the PGA TOUR that if he leaves, you know it’s over.
3. Code Red
Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris
All of the players listed here are fairly young and have proven they can win majors.
Koepka has one win since 2019, but he is opinionated and marketable. Bryson can also be considered a major loss for the TOUR because he is eccentric, untraditional and hits the ball far.
Scheffler is the No. 1 player in the world and the defending Masters champion. Zalatoris is growing in popularity with finalists in three of the four majors.
JT was clearly ahead of Spieth, but the general public knows Jordan well. Rahm has spoken out so strongly against LIV that if he changes his mind, it would be code red.
With Brooks and Bryson already gone, one of the other starters would be a blow.
4. Proceed with caution
Viktor Hovland, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Smith, Max Homa, Phil Mickelson
These golfers aren’t dangerous on their own, but if a bunch of them leave, the TOUR has a problem.
DJ is demoted here because of his “blabla” personality and age. Hovland was often associated with conversations about the next best talent in the game with Morikawa. Schauele is an Olympic champion and a lifelong competitor. Matsuyama is an international star with a green jacket. Smith is a top 10 player with wins at this year’s PLAYERS Championship and Tournament of Champions.
Homa is not as accomplished as the other members of this group, but his performance is catching up with his popularity on social media.
Mickelson is in the twilight of his career and has burned many bridges, but his time at LIV still carries a lot of weight.
5. Forget your peril
Patrick Cantlay, Sam Burns, Matt Fitzpatrick, Patrick Reed, Joaquin Niemann, Tony Finau
They might not be household names for the casual audience, but they are for those who tune in weekly.
Fitzpatrick just won the US Open, Reed is a great champion and Cantlay won the FedExCup last season.
Burns, Niemann and Finau knock on the door of great success.
6. International favorites
Paul Casey, Adam Scott, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton
Most are familiar with Sergio, of course, but the others divide their time between Europe and the United States and may not catch the eye of the casuals at first glance.
7. Massively Disturbing
Billy Horschel, Sungjae Im, Abraham Ancer, Daniel Berger, Corey Conners, Jason Kokrak, Seamus Power, Harold Varner III, Marc Leishman, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland, Harris English, Lucas Herbert
None of these golfers get much attention except with a loud outfit here and there – Jordan shoes from Varner III and pastels from Watson, well past his prime.
Others will pop up on the leaderboards from time to time, but none will have any significant weight or reaction if they fly away.
8. Has-Beens Without Threat
Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Stewart Cink, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter
Poulter and Westwood are already gone, finishing 5th and 8th respectively on LIV’s first event. Fowler hasn’t been close to a win in years, but has some market appeal. Day’s harassing comeback cost him chances during his prime.
However, due to their names and backgrounds, people still connect sometimes.
9. Still too early to call
Cameron Young, Talor Gooch, Aaron Wise, Mito Pereira, Davis Riley, Maverick McNealy, Robert MacIntyre, Cameron Davis, Matthew Wolff, KH Lee, Sahith Theegala
Cameron Young, Mito Pereira and Davis Riley have been in contention in recent weeks, but it’s too early to tell what someone of this level will think of their career.
10. The Replaceable
Erik Van Rooyen, Adam Hadwin, Hudson Swafford, Mackenzie Hughes, Keith Mitchell, Luke List, Alex Noren, Sepp Straka, Chris Kirk, Si Woo Kim, Cameron Tringale, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Sebastian Munoz, Keegan Bradley, Tom Hoge, Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner
Nice players. Don’t move the needle. Sorry.