3M Open director Hollis Cavner slams LIV Golf and its PGA Tour defectors
“There’s no way LIV Golf can make money,” Cavner said. “The numbers don’t work.”
The image of Matthew Wolff is plastered alongside an underpass only 100 yards away from the clubhouse at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. No word yet on whether the golf course plans to rid itself of the latest PGA Tour defector.
As the rookie winner of the PGA Tour’s inaugural 3M Open three years ago, Wolff seemed destined for greatness. That 2019 victory felt like the start of something special for the kid right out of college with an unmistakable hitch in his swing and a fiery personality to match.
Unfortunately for Wolff, he has fallen on hard times over the past couple of years, often looking as if he has forgotten how to play the game he once made look so effortless.
That might explain why he opted for the money grab that is LIV Golf.
Though the terms of the deal are unclear, it’s a good bet that Wolff got a pretty penny to tee it up in this week’s LIV Golf event at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Ore. As soon as he does, Wolff will be suspended indefinitely from the PGA Tour, meaning he won’t be eligible to compete in next month’s 3M Open, which remains the only win of his young professional golf career.
Wolff’s defection, announced Sunday, is something altogether different than previous players who left to play on the Saudi Arabia-funded tour. The bulk of the players making the money grab for the new events have been aging players past their prime. At age 23, Wolff is just getting started in professional golf. But the common denominator among the younger players turning to LIV Golf is most are not playing their best golf this year, and Wolff certainly fits in that category. He hasn’t played well in a couple of years.
3M Open director Hollis Cavner talked to reporters on Monday and said he’s disappointed in Wolff’s decision.
“I really hate it because he was a good first champion,” said Cavner, who still clearly has a soft spot for Wolff. “Let’s face it. He’s got some issues. His game is struggling, and I think he just decided to take the easy money and go instead of fighting through not playing well.”
The fact that Wolff has chosen LIV Golf over the PGA Tour speaks to a bigger issue facing the 3M Open, which runs from July 21-24, one week after The Open Championships at St. Andrews in Scotland.
Many of the big names the tournament has prided itself on in the past — including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau — have defected in the past month. That, coupled with the fact that LIV Golf has also poached a good number of the mid-level players from the PGA Tour, and the talent pool for the 3M Open has significantly decreased.
As of right now, the confirmed headliners for next month include veteran Tony Finau, last year’s winner Cam Champ and up-and-comer Sahith Theegala, among others. There are some other Top 20 players committed, according to Cavner, with announcements popping up over the next few weeks.
“We’re going to do a big name per week between now and the tournament to pump it up,” Cavner said. “We’ve got some good players coming in.”
While the existence of LIV Golf is affecting the 3M Open on a micro level, Cavner doesn’t appear to be too concerned on a macro level.
“There’s no way LIV Golf can make money,” Cavner said. “The numbers don’t work. How long is it going to be before somebody gets tired of throwing billions of dollars at something if they aren’t getting good PR out of it?”
In an attempt to answer his own question, Cavner declared, “I don’t think it’ll be around in two years.” He added that the format of a LIV Golf event — 54 holes with no cut and a shotgun start with all players beginning their rounds at the same time — makes it more of an exhibition tour than anything else.
“The guys are getting paid to show up,” Cavner said. “There’s no risk. Look at the guys who have taken it. Almost everybody that’s taken it is at the end of their career or have never had a career.”
That lack of current top talent within LIV Golf has been low-hanging fruit for the players who have turned down massive offers to stick with the PGA Tour. Whether it’s Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas or Collin Morikawa, the messaging has been similar.
They want to play against the best of the best. That’s an option on the PGA Tour. That’s not an option with LIV Golf.
“The best players in the world are all saying, ‘I want to go somewhere and beat somebody,’ ” Cavner said. “They want that push. All these young guns are coming out with that in mind. They have the right attitude, and that makes me feel really good about where we’re going.”
The hardest thing for Cavner has been coming to grips with some of his friends leaving the PGA Tour for good. He has developed relationships with many players over the years, and while he doesn’t agree with their decision to leave, he said he won’t treat them any different because of it.
“I might make them buy dinner now because they’ve got all the money in the world,” Cavner joked. “I hated to see some of them go. I really did.”
In that same breath, Cavner admitted that he was happy to see some other players leave the PGA Tour.
“I was actually sitting there, like, ‘Take that guy,’ ” Cavner said. “The slow players and things like that. Let’s speed up the round by about an hour. There’s some guys we’re going to miss. Most of them, though, it’s fine with us.”
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