After PGA Tour-LIV Golf bombshell, this is a U.S. Open unlike any other

LOS ANGELES — Where were you when your entire sport convulsed?

On a Tuesday when erudite reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm spoke of “a bit of betrayal from management” and a de facto theme of golfers seemed to be I know less than you do, the rich and semifamous professionals here for a unique U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club told about the previous Tuesday, the one with the widespread shudder.

That’s when Rahm “was at home taking care of the kids” and “just having my normal morning, making coffee and breakfast, and basically texts just started flowing in” about the PGA Tour and Europe’s DP World Tour join-up with Saudi-funded LIV Golf. Patrick Cantlay was home in Jupiter, Fla., still in shock from learning hours earlier than most players because he’s on the tour’s policy board. Brooks Koepka was having breakfast at Michael Jordan’s Grove XXIII club in Florida but claimed to remain unfazed because he’s Brooks Koepka.

“I was at the gym,” said top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion. “I didn’t really know what was going on. Still don’t really have a clue.”

They spoke at a time of upheaval in their sport’s history, and the uncertainty deepened Tuesday night when the PGA Tour announced that its commissioner and one of the faces of the partnership, Jay Monahan, was “recuperating from a medical situation” and temporarily would leave “day-to-day operations of the PGA Tour” to Ron Price and Tyler Dennis, current tour officers. Monahan has been the subject of mass pillory for his about-face regarding the LIV threat.

Their players’ powerlessness and confusion, elements with which they don’t tend to hang, might have gained their clearest summary from six-time PGA Tour winner and Greater Los Angeles native Max Homa.

“I think we’re all curious and we’re all, I guess, skeptical of things or whatever, but I trust the guys at the top doing what they’re doing,” he said. “But I guess I’m just a lowly golfer here. I’m not a businessman; I don’t really get how all of it works. The more I’ve tried to learn, the more I’ve just gone in circles. At some point I just have to leave it up to them and wait for more information, I guess, to come out.”

Already he had spoken a theme: “I know as much if not less than you.”

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Rory McIlroy, so often their dutiful speaker in the 18 months since LIV birthed itself with boundless oil money and began luring away PGA Tour players, did not speak at all. His name appeared atop the interview docket set for Tuesday morning, but then it disappeared.

Soon came Rahm, European in upbringing like McIlroy and thoughtful in expression like McIlroy.

“There’s a lot of not-answered questions,” Rahm said. “It’s tough when it’s the week before a major. Trying not to think about it as much as possible. I think it gets to a point where you want to have faith in management, and I want to have faith that this is the best thing for all of us, but it’s clear that that’s not the consensus.

“I think the general feeling is that a lot of people feel a bit of betrayal from management. I understand why they had to keep it so secret” — because of the inevitability of leaking. “I get the secrecy. It’s just not easy as a player that’s been involved, like many others, to wake up and see this bombshell. That’s why we’re all in a bit of a state of limbo, because we don’t know what’s going on and how much is finalized and how much they can talk about, either. … We’ll see. There’s too many questions to be answered.”

He said that Tuesday of last week, “I thought my phone was going to catch on fire at one point.”

Though Cantlay, the No. 4 player in the world, had a few moments more than most to process the bombshell, he got the idea of betrayal.

“I think it’s totally understandable,” he said. “I think anytime you’re left in the dark on a decision that potentially affects you massively, that could easily make you upset. … I’m just trying to understand this deal as best I can or understand what’s going on as best I can. It seems really complicated. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and form an opinion like that until I know all the facts and know what it’s about. But I understand the emotion, and I think it’s totally natural and understandable.”

Collin Morikawa, the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 British Open champion, fielded the first PGA Tour/LIV question by veering to his new project for youth golfers, the Maggie Hathaway Project, which he explained at length.

Later, though, he did address the great uncertainty: “That’s hard because I think for a lot of different parties there’s a lot of different reasons why it’s happening. So we all want to know the why. We’re so interested in the why. For us, for me right now, it’s just like, ‘What’s going to happen?’ I don’t know. But we always want to know the ‘why’ answer. What’s the purpose behind it? … Everyone has had kind of a different answer and different reaction to all of this. So the why is — I think that’s going to be very opinionated, and I don’t think we’ll ever really get an answer. But we don’t even know what’s going to happen.”

He added, to reporters, “Or maybe you do.”

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Cantlay said he had talked with board members and Monahan. Cantlay found it still “too early to have enough information to have a good handle on the situation.”

Koepka was one of the players who went to LIV, even as he has refrained from carrying much of its banner. He won the PGA Championship in a grand comeback in May and said little about any meaning for the new circuit.

So he wrapped up his breakfast Tuesday of last week, watched a bit of the coverage and went out to practice. “There’s four weeks a year that I really care about” — the majors — “and this is one of them, and I want to play well,” he said. “So I wasn’t going to waste any time on news that happened last week.”

He said: “It didn’t matter to me. Like I said, I’m trying to focus on this week.”

He then chimed in with: “I think that’s why I’ve been really good at majors.”

He did allow that there had been shock around and about. “Because we didn’t hear anything about it,” he said. “I think that’s the one thing that shocked everybody the most. I think I ran into Rickie [Fowler] and [Justin Thomas] after watching the whole thing, and I asked if they knew, and they said they didn’t know, either.”

Rahm said he has had to resort to “perspective” on the matter, how playing golf so well has lent “a situation where my family and my kids don’t have to struggle financially ever, and I don’t know how many generations I can help if I do it properly.” The gratefulness, he said, helps him deal with the goblin of change.

That change hovers above the first U.S. Open at this course — a rare U.S. Open in terms of its mystery. “Yeah, it’s a distraction,” Cantlay said, “but I imagine it’s a distraction for everyone. Come tournament time, it won’t be on my mind.” Or, as Homa put it: “It’s actually nice to be as confused as I am here because I’m not really thinking about it anymore. I’m ready to just go play golf.”

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