LIV Golf: 13 players to feature at the Masters as unification hopes grow

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Calls for a move towards unification of golf’s warring tours are growing a week out from the Masters, with reigning champ Jon Rahm and former winner Phil Mickelson adamant the current “disruption” phase will result in a better worldwide game.

In the wake of four-time major champion Rory McIlroy labelling the split in the men’s game between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf as “unsustainable” and needing a “correction”, Rahm, now the headline act with Saudi-backed LIV, echoed those sentiments.

Mickelson, who was among LIV’s first converts, taking a nine-figure contract with him and subsequently voicing extreme criticism of the PGA Tour, was also hopeful but said he knew it would take two years from the start of the war and to get through the “transitional phase” for the best outcome for everyone.

“I think in the end, we are in a transitional state where we now have competition and that’s leading to a lot of disruption and change but it’s also in the end product going to make golf more global where the best players travel more,” he said ahead of LIV’s event in Miami, where 13 players headed to the Masters will tee it up.

“I don’t know how it’s going to end out, exactly, or what it’s going to look like. But at some point when it gets ironed out, I think it’s going to be in a much better place where we bring the best players from the world, and it’s going to open up more opportunities … I think it’s going to be in a much better place.

“But right now, we are in the disruption phase, so we are in the middle of the process, and when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be a lot brighter.”

Rahm has said at various stages since his own $400m move to LIV that he misses some PGA Tour events and hopes to play them again one day.

As defending champion prepares to take on the likes of McIlroy for the first time since his switch at Augusta next week, the Spaniard said there was “room for both” tours.

“It’s as simple as that. I think we have the opportunity to end up with an even better product for the spectators and the fans of the game, a little bit more variety doesn’t really hurt anybody,” he said.

“So, properly done, we can end up with a much better product that can take golf to the next level worldwide, and I’m hoping that’s what ends up happening.”

At last year’s Masters, behind Rahm, were three LIV players in Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed, defying lowered expectations and setting a scene for a clash of the tours next week in keeping with the “disruption” notion.

Mickelson maintained LIV had set a new standard and one in the new world the PGA Tour would have to match.

“I knew the first two years were going to be interesting. And how it all plays out, where it ends up, I don’t know exactly,” he said.

“We already have 52 more playing opportunities or 54 for players. That’s 54 more job opportunities that we didn’t have before, and they are on a more global scale.

“So we are bringing high-end, world-class professional golf to parts of the world to open up opportunities in those countries and getting young kids to see it first hand the way we did when we went to our local tour event and saw the pros for the first time and got inspired.

“And I think there’s going to be some things that will appeal in the end to people that don’t necessarily play that want to watch and be interested in the game.”

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