2023 LIV Golf Review

Amid all the euphoria of exceptional European performances in the Solheim and Ryder Cups - and what a shame these two great, nerve-shredding sporting occasions will never go back to back again as they go alternate years from now on - there’s a sadder side of the coin.

It is that those great Ryder Cup heroes of the past, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Paul Casey, are representing Europe so pathetically on the rival LIV tour for which they jumped ship so dramatically and entered a sort of golfing limbo that will almost certainly preclude any of them ever being asked to captain the continent they served so spectacularly and for so long.

Every time I turn on the LIV channel, I cringe at how far they have sunk golfwise although they look happy in their work. Fair enough, Kaymer and Casey have had their share of injuries but Poults 39th, Westwood 45th, Kaymer 48th in the rankings on a payroll of 49. Really? For LIV to catch fire over here, Europe needs to up its game big-time. One shock first-time-out success by Henrik Stenson, a couple of near-misses by Sergio Garcia and a botched winning opportunity by Westwood makes for a skinny return from the 20 individual LIV tournaments since the loudly-trumpeted launch in southern England just 16 months ago.

But, hooray, this weekend we could have a British triumph to celebrate at last. We love team events - the Ryder and Solheim Cups prove that over and over again - and Englishman Casey, once ranked No. 3 in the world, has a realistic chance of banking the biggest cheque of his life, a quarter share of the $16m copped by the winning quartet in the $50m LIV Team Championship in Miami on Sunday.

Yet it will be $4m mostly won for him, so far at least, by his mates Bryson DeChambeau, Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri. Four disparate loners, one would think, who seem to have bonded into a dynamic unit called the Crushers. Why even the egocentric DeChambeau seemed genuinely upset he’d been gifted LIV Chicago by his faltering ‘pal’ Lahiri last month.

But what of Casey? While ‘Chucky Threesticks’ was winning at the start of the year and ending it strong, while ‘Ban’ was steady as an Indian rock and while ‘Cham’ was finishing like an express train with some irresistibly freak scoring, an out-of-touch and not-always-fit Casey was compiling a wretched 4-24-31-39-30-40-19-WD-36-30-32-24 sequence for the 13-tournament campaign leading up to this weekend’s lavish $50m team finale, contributing little - only three out of four have to count - but still banking $5m in individual and team earnings.

Victory at Doral in a format that combines both strokeplay and matchplay, singles and foursomes - the Crushers are tight 4/1 second favourites behind last year’s all-conquering, all-American unit of DJ, Pat Reed, Peter Uihlein and joker Pat Perez - would give a happy ending to a year when little has gone right for Casey on the golf course. No complaints from the bank manager though!

Yet it is quiet man Talor Gooch who has really hit the LIV jackpot. Three victories this golden year and a 62 in Jeddah on Sunday that would have frightened the life out of most leaders - but not PGA champion Brooks Koepka who reacted as that iron man is always liable to do after being headed. He fought back and won in a playoff.

Yet it was Gooch who carried away the $18m player-of the-year bonus on top of the $19,542m haul he won this campaign with those magic golf clubs. Would his inclusion in that malfunctioning, weakly-led US Ryder Cup team have affected the result? Who knows but surely he’ll be in the next one. LIV And Let Play?


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