Jack Nicklaus stopped in Michigan. Tees in the LIV, PGA Tour and Golf Wars

Grand Blanc Wearing his typical scarlet polo shirt, Jack Nicklaus of Buckeye, Ohio, doesn’t consider his regular flights to Michigan to cross into enemy territory. He won the US Open here, in Oakland Hills in 1991.

He created two of the state’s most talked about courses, Bear in Traverse City, and American Dunes in Grand Haven. He’s a regular visitor to The Ally Challenge, the state’s only annual State of Champions event, which takes place this week in the suburbs of Flint.

Last year, Nicklaus and his wife Barbara spent two weeks getting out of the scorching South Florida sun and vacationing in Charlevois — though the pace of play didn’t quite suit him even in his 80s.

“Get up in the morning and have breakfast and do nothing, go to lunch and do nothing, go to dinner and do nothing, and then do the same again the next day,” laughed Niklaus, who squeezed in a few rounds into one of Tom Watson’s favorite courses, Belvedere.

“I’m not designed for that.”

Nicklaus, 82, is still determined to do something — and as of late, say something, as he did again on Saturday when you fill him in with question after question about LIV arrogant golf round, which has emerged as the biggest threat to the biggest stage in golf Since Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and another couple split from the American PGA and created what is known today as the PGA Tour.

LIV Golf, which will hold its fourth tournament next week in Boston, has spent hundreds of millions from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to attract big names such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Sergio. Garcia and Bubba Watson, among others. More players, including potential British Open winner and world number two Cam Smith, are sure to drop out in the coming weeks and months.

Nicklaus, who won $13,000 for his first US Open title, a personal best of $144,000 for his 1986 Masters title win and a $237,000 “long time ago” pension, isn’t about to criticize anyone for taking what, in many ways. Of the cases, is the wealth of generations. Nicklaus’ net worth, through a highly successful golf course design company, is approximately $400 million. Mickelson reportedly only got half of that to sign with LIV.

“I don’t envy them at all,” Niklaus said. One player said, ‘I’m going to play three years on this and I’m going home to be on my farm for the rest of my life,’ and that’s fine.

Just don’t try to sell Nicklaus, with his record 18 majors in his career, that anyone leaving for the LIV is doing so for the benefit – or growth – of the game.

Nicklaus, one of the game’s toughest competitors (Tiger Woods, the other), said the PGA Tour remains the gold standard for those who value competition.

In turn, many called LIV Golf “The Show”.

“I think most of the guys who play the game are the ones who play it because they love competition and they love competition,” said Niklaus, standing on the golf courses outside Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. His first shot since May competing in the Ally Challenge celebrity races with the likes of Dylan Larkin, Jalen Rose, Charlie Bell and Kane Brown. “They want to play against the best every week. That wouldn’t be the case with LIV.

“I can’t tell if you’re really interested in what competition you want to get out of and play a 54-hole event and the gun starts, and the whole day ends in four hours.”

More than half of LIV’s current roster of 48 players are from outside the United States; Of the American golfers, many are considered to have passed the prime of their lives.

And Nicklaus can understand the reasons for both sectors, particularly the international players.

Few, if any, countries have a golf development system like the United States, with their junior, undergraduate, and amateur circuits feeding the PGA Tour directly. American golfers grew up watching Nicklaus, Palmer, Watson, or Woods, and grew up understanding that the ultimate advance was the PGA Tour. In most foreign countries where golf is popular, players become professionals at a much younger age. Less process, more profession.

“Look, Tiger has grown up in our system and Tiger’s has earned loyalty to our system,” Nicklaus said of Woods, who has been an outspoken ambassador for the PGA Tour in the face of the LIV threat. “If it wasn’t for our system, you’d probably never have heard of Tiger Woods. Because in his childhood he had the ability to go into junior programs, be able to join collegiate programs (Stanford), and join amateur programs. Generous, what Tiger won, three National Amateurs ? (Editor’s note: Yes, three American amateur titles, after he won three small American amateur titles) He understands what happened, and where it came from.

“There is a loyalty that has developed with a lot of our men here.”

Legacy is the other “L” value that is thrown.

LIV players put their players to the test. They have all been banned from playing on the PGA Tour, and former PGA Tour members have been told they are banned for life — 2021 United States Amateur Champion James Peat is not subject to this ban, as he was never eligible. He was a member of the PGA Tour — but they can still compete in the majors, at least for now. Even if the four majors, administered by four different governing bodies, never issue a ban, if the official golf classification doesn’t end up awarding points to the LIV, and the fields likely aren’t too small and the tournaments too short, qualifying for the majors will be very difficult.

so what?

“Most of these guys are going to want to play golf,” Nicklaus said, noting that the 50-year-old’s Champions Tour would not ultimately be an option either, as it is powered by the PGA Tour. “You can’t have your cake and eat it either.

“Maybe you can.”

The courts will ultimately determine that. The LIV-PGA Tour flick has already led to multiple lawsuits.

There was some good that came out of this for the PGA Tour members who stayed. Behind strong pushes from the likes of Woods, McIlroy and others, the PGA Tour will feature 12 “high” tournaments in 2022-23, which will feature $20 million and the top 20 players participating in each. There will be more bonus money, a minimum salary for first-time tour professionals ($500,000), as well as a first-time weekly salary ($5,000) for any participant without tour cards, even if they miss the discount. The PGA Tour will also ramp up the schedule starting in 2024, moving from a wrapped roster to a one-year roster.

Some at LIV mocked the PGA Tour changes, saying they were copying the LIV scheme, which includes $25 million, plus travel and accommodation expenses for players and bags.

Nicklaus, who is in semi-regular contact with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, said many of these changes were in the pipeline. The advent of LIV has definitely speeded up the timeline.

“Well, you know, I think the whole world is changing, and I think there’s not much we can do about it,” Niklaus said. “I think the PGA Tour has to keep up like everyone else. The PGA Tour had their pattern of growth that they were looking to do, but they accelerated it, and LIV accelerated it for them. I think the Tour was going to get there.”

Monahan and McIlroy held a press conference earlier this week in Georgia To announce the changes, a week after Woods traveled to Delaware to meet the players of the PGA Tour. Woods and McIlroy will also launch TMRW, a Monday night golf show that will debut in January 2024 — and it seems to go against the party-like atmosphere of LIV.

There was tension among some PGA Tour players, many of whom have since defected, toward the Tour over Mammoth’s Nest Egg as a nonprofit. They felt the money should have been spent on them. Nicklaus defended the PGA Tour there as well, saving a rainy day.

“It was a COVID rainy day,” Nicklaus said, adding that the tour spent millions from its reserves every week for several months to make sure sponsorships stayed put and charities continued to receive their donations, even when there were no fans, or a limited number of fans, at tournaments. due to the epidemic.

Nor have portfolios shrunk during the pandemic.

“The tour has remained loyal to the players in that sense,” Niklaus said. “And 95% of players will remain loyal to the Tour for the exact same reason.”

Nicklaus revealed in May that he met the Saudis two years ago, when they were looking for a avatar to be the face of Lev Golf Club. Niklaus considered the meeting as a sign of respect, given that he has golf course projects in Saudi Arabia. But he was never interested in the job, even calling Monahan before the meeting to tell him he’d take it, but he wasn’t interested in the job.

His role was one that eventually went to Greg Norman. Nicklaus and the Saudis never got to the point of contract negotiations, although it was reported that LIV was willing to pay Nicklaus $100 million.

“I didn’t know how much that money would be,” Nicklaus said. “It could have been a lot more, and you know, because I was involved and given this opportunity, I understand what some of the other guys are going through, because you’ve been rejecting your financial future for so long.

“But by accepting, you are also limiting your competitive future.”

Speaking of the future, there are all sorts of guesses to be made about how long the LIV could stay in place. By all accounts, it is using the more than $600 billion Saudi Public Investment Fund and controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to call it “sports laundering” – or using sport to help clean up its reputation, marred by an appalling human rights record, As a way to persuade more international companies to do business with Saudi Arabia. Right now, there’s no need for LIV to make money, which is a good thing, because it doesn’t make money, with few corporate sponsors, no TV deal, and mediocre shows paying little or nothing for tickets.

That didn’t stop LIV from paying Mickelson, Johnson and DeChambeau $125 million each and Koepka $100 million. They reportedly offered Woods nearly $1 billion. He said no, and he recently became an official billionaire anyway (meaning the idea of ​​his pension, which could exceed $100 million, Nicklaus said). All of these LIV contracts are plus earnings during the course; LIV tournaments pay $4 million to the former, $120,000 to the latter, plus $3 million to the champion team each week.

The PGA Tour — which also owns the PGA Tour Champions, Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour China, and PGA Tour Latino America, and has seriously cemented its alliance with the DP World Tour or European Tour in recent years — wouldn’t be able to compete, from the dollar To the dollar, with LIV golf. This does not mean, however, that the PGA Tour will not be competing, Nicklaus said, and will eventually continue to thrive.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to be LIV,” said Niklaus, who stuck to golf talk and avoided any political rhetoric when discussing LIV on Saturday, perhaps not enjoying the reaction when he ran in the 2016 presidential race with President Trump’s endorsement (which Bidminster hosted the LIV course, It will host another Doral session). “I think he’s going to stay for a while. He’s not going anywhere…but I think the PGA Tour, the guys who grew up with her and kept her loyalty to her and grew up with her, wouldn’t be where they are (without her).” I think they understand that, and so I think the PGA Tour is probably stronger because of it… That’s all part of the problems, and so golf has had its problems. I call them growing problems now, and I think the game is in good hands.

“The tour will do well. The tour will come out very complete and run well.

“And the players who stay with her will do very well over time.”

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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