PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf: Former Tour regular Daniel Summerhays weighs in

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What’s happening in professional golf today worries and saddens Utah native Daniel Summerhays, the former BYU Golf All-American who earned nearly $9 million in PGA Tour earnings before retiring from full-time playing in 2020.

“It breaks my heart to see all these great players go in different directions,” Summerhays told the Deseret News on Sunday, hours after fellow Utah native Tony Finau played at the RBC Canadian Open, one of the most entertaining and entertaining, finishing second to Rory McIlroy, had star-studded PGA Tour events in recent memory.

However, Summerhays says that over the long term he believes that “competition can make a product better” and that the PGA Tour will come out of LIV Golf’s “challenge” with a better organization and tour.

“Even though I don’t really like it when some of the best players in the world split up in different venues, I genuinely believe the PGA Tour will be a better product for the players, fans and sponsors because of the (competition).” – Former PGA Tour regular Daniel Summerhays

“Even though I don’t really like it when some of the best players in the world split up in different venues, I really believe the PGA Tour will be a better product for the players, fans and sponsors because of the (competition)” said Summerhays. “I believe the competitive nature of the[new rivalry]will bring out the best if that makes sense.”

Of course, Summerhays, 38, was referring to the controversy that has dominated professional golf in recent months: A burgeoning professional golf circuit funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, officially called the LIV Golf International Series, has attracted several big-name golfers away from the PGA Tour, which has represented the highest level of professional golf for nearly a century.

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Pat Perez, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, and Bryson DeChambeau, among others, have joined or will soon join. Two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson is rumored to be also think about it.

Johnson, 37, No. 15 in the official world golf rankings, was reportedly paid $125 million by the LIV to leave the PGA Tour and compete in eight events a year for the next four years. He is the highest-ranked player to have made the move to date.

Mickelson will reportedly be paid $200 million despite his age of 51 to help break through to LIV Golf, which has drawn widespread criticism for allegedly widespread human rights abuses by the Saudi Arabian government. Mickelson again defended his decision at a US Open press conference in Brookline, Massachusetts on Monday.

“It allows me to have more balance in my life. It allows me to do things that are off the course and that I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I prioritize those who are important to me, people who are important to me in the future. This allows me to spend more time with them and be more present.”

Despite the split, the above stars will be playing this week’s US Open at The Country Club near Boston as the US Open is sponsored by the United States Golf Association and not the PGA Tour. It should be an interesting, tense meeting, especially after PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan covered the RBC Canadian Open on CBS television on Sunday and described the Saudi-funded league as a “series of exhibition games” and accused them of spending billions of dollars on players with no return on their investment.

PGA Tour officials say LIV Golf is an attempt by the Saudi Arabian government’s “sports laundering” to wash its reputation through golf.

“I would ask any player who left, or any player who would ever consider leaving, ‘Have you ever had to apologize for being on the PGA Tour?'” Monahan said three days later the suspension of the 17 PGA Tour members who attended the inaugural event won by Charl Schwarzel at the Centurion Club outside London. Schwarzel banked a whopping $4.75 million for the win.

Meanwhile, McIlroy and third-place finisher Justin Thomas have also shot at LIV Golf, particularly at Commissioner Greg Norman, who has 20 PGA Tour wins to his credit.

“This is a day I will remember for a long, long time,” McIlroy said. “Twenty-first PGA Tour win, one more than anyone else (Norman). That gave me a little extra push today and I’m glad I did it.”

Utah’s Finau, who earned $948,000 for second place, was apparently not asked about LIV Golf by reporters in Toronto after his best tournament of the 2021-22 season. Boyd, Summerhays’ brother, is Finau’s swing coach, but Daniel Summerhays said he has “no idea” Finau’s stance on the new golf league.

“I haven’t spoken to him about it at all,” Daniel Summerhays said.

Finau recently told Sports Illustrated’s Bob Harig that he was contacted by LIV Golf, pretty much Repeat what he said to Golf Monthly last January.

“There will always be competition, no matter the level, in any sport,” Finau told SI. “Now we see that in the Gulf. Whether that’s good or bad depends on (personal) opinion. But having competition is a natural thing. It’s a positive thing. There’s a lot of talk about it.

“It’s something that me and my team continue to look at and see for us,” Finau continued. “It’s natural to have competition in sport and that’s what we’re seeing now at LIV Golf.”

Summerhays who became a volunteer assistant coach for BYU’s men’s golf team in January but is still undecided on whether he will continue in that role next year, said McIlroy and Thomas are understandably more upset about the new league than he is because he hasn’t toured in several years. Still, he sees many problems at LIV Golf.

“If you have a fixed field every week and it’s not a game in or out, that’s not great,” Summerhays said. “I mean, last week (in LIV) you had guys shooting almost 30 over par. And you don’t have to fight for your spot every week. I think the quality of golf could go down.”

Summerhays believes the PGA Tour will continue to be the premier golf tour in the world.

“The PGA Tour produces the best players in the world because it’s so competitive week in and week out and it’s a meritocracy, not a monopoly,” he said. “I think they have that advantage because they know the cream is actually going to go up on the PGA Tour, rather than maybe the LIV Tour, which is just kind of a small traveling group of exhibition games, (which) Jay Monahan did said it today.”

Would Summerhays consider joining LIV Golf if that had happened six years ago when he was in the prime of his tour career?

“I’ll have to think about that,” he says. “Financially, it sure sounds nice to never really have to worry about anything again, really, honestly, when you’ve played well and signed a guaranteed contract. But at the same time, there’s this little drive in you that says you don’t necessarily want it easy.”

Summerhays, who finished third at the PGA Championship and eighth at the 2016 US Open, said he remains a firm believer in the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts and hopes that never changes as purses and fields come under scrutiny like never before would.

“The PGA Tour does a lot in every community that it goes to,” he said. “I don’t know the exact numbers, but I read a few years ago that the PGA Tour gave more to charity than all other pro sports combined. That’s a big deal.

“The tour has raised over $2 billion in charitable donations,” he continued. “I think sometimes people forget that it’s a non-profit organization and does a lot of good. That’s kind of the purpose of it, and it’s an incredible model. So it would be hard to leave.”

Professional golfers Daniel Summerhays and Tony Finau shake hands before playing a scramble at Nibley Park Golf Course on Saturday, June 13, 2015 in Salt Lake City. Summerhays played with his son Jack and Finau played with Grace Summerhays, daughter of Boyd Summerhays.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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