Welcome to First Off, my new daily recap and reaction feature for Golf News Net members. Catch up on everything happening in the golf world each morning in an easy-to-consume format with commentary -- and sometimes insight -- to get your day started.
In today's kick-off edition:
- DP World Tour collects fines from LIV players (but one)
- Cantlay opens well with Lacava on the bag
- Anchored designated sites
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LIV players pay up DP World Tour fines (except Sergio)
The DP World Tour announced Thursday that it had collected £1.6 million from 16 of 17 players who had been fined £100,000 each for competing in the first LIV Golf event last year in England. The 16 players are: Richard Bland, Laurie Canter, Branden Grace, Justin Harding, Sam Horsfield, Martin Kaymer, Pablo Larrazabal, Graeme McDowell, Shaun Norris, Wade Ormsby, Adrian Otaegui, Ian Poulter, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood and Bernd Wiesberger.
Several of these players, including last week's DP World Tour winner Pablo Larrazabal, are not on LIV this season. Three of these players -- Bland, Westwood and Poulter -- paid the fine and resigned their DP World Tour membership. The others who have moved to LIV have not done so yet, and we'll see if they do.
The one player who didn't pay the fine? Sergio Garcia. According to the DP World Tour release on the subject, Garcia has no intention of paying the fine. "We will therefore take appropriate action if he continues not to respect the Sport Resolutions panel’s decision," the release added.
There is reporting out there that LIV agreed to shoulder the fines and fees related to legal issues for players moving to their tour. If that's the case, it's unclear why Garcia wouldn't authorize them to pay the fine and move on with the whole thing. It could be one last petty shot out the door, as Garcia also resigned his membership. Maybe there's another reason. But the DP World Tour is happy to throw Garcia under the bus here.
It also sounds like further sanctions are coming from the DP World Tour, which they play on announcing next week, for players who continued to compete on LIV in violation of their Conflicting Tournament Regulation. This is probably just the first (or second) step in a series of announcements.
Cantlay off well with opening 67
Patrick Cantlay started well at the Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday, shooting a 4-under 67 that left him a shot off the pace set by Tommy Fleetwood. It was his first tournament round with Joe Lacava as his permanent caddie. Lacava had filled in at the 2021 Northern Trust, so Cantlay felt it was easy to get into a rhythm this week.
“[LaCava] filled in a week for me a couple years ago. We've known each other a few years now and he's a pro and I've been doing it a little while now, so it's a pretty easy transition,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay said he drew from Fred Couples, a man he considers a close confidant, in seeking out Lacava.
He said, “[Fred Couples] just spoke so highly of [LaCava] not just as a caddie but as a friend, that he's just a great dude. I trust Fred a lot, he's a good friend of mine and I've gotten pretty close to him over the years, so when he says something like that, I know he keeps a tight circle, he means it."
Designated events not moving around?
It sounds like the designated events are also going to be static, or at least mostly static, moving forward. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spoke to the media ahead of the Wells Fargo this week and suggested that the makeup of the 2024 designated events is, more or less, going to be consistent from year to year.
“We’ll set the schedule for ’24 and see how we perform, and if we need to make adjustments, we will,” he said, according to Golf Channel. “When we do announce the schedule it’s more likely those events that will be in those [designated] positions will be in those positions long-term.”
Jack Nicklaus suggested in March that Phoenix was out as a designated event, and Pebble would be in. If that works out, assume then that the changes to the Pro-Am portion of the event will be permanent -- not just a one-year exercise.
It makes sense from a Tour perspective to aim for consistency. First, it means amending the schedule once to get to a new docket, and it won't become an annual juggling exercise to keep players from whining about playing in big bunches and sponsors from getting sandwiched or stranded on the schedule. Second, not every sponsor wants to pony up whatever the Tour is asking for an event to get the designated bump. However, I'm still disappointed as a golf fan.
I would love to see the designated events move around on the schedule. How wild would it be that the John Deere Classic could be a designated event, even for one year? The Quad Cities fans, who have been loyal to the small-but-mighty tournament for decades, would get paid off in one hell of a party. The same could happen for other long-running events.
Or, I'd even love to see some of the designated events take on the character of major championships and move around to new venues. The PGA Tour has largely abandoned the northeast, Midwest and Pacific northwest on the schedule. It stinks if you're living in one of those regions. Using even just one or two designated events to take the Tour to places that can't normally sustain a PGA Tour event would be a big boon for business.