Golf’s fracture between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf Series is the talk of the US Open and Justin Thomas is saddened by what it could mean for the sport.
The fifth-ranked American star won his second Major title at last month’s PGA Championship and should be entering this week’s showdown at The Country Club fretting more about thick rough and fast greens than money’s impact on people and Majors.
“I tossed and turned and lost a lot of sleep last week thinking about what could potentially happen,” Thomas said on Monday.
While the PGA Tour has banned all players who join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series, the US Golf Association said it would not alter its qualifying to deny players like Phil Mickelson or Dustin Johnson because they took part in LIV’s opening event last week in England.
But imagine future Majors with several top contenders banned for playing on the rebel circuit or diminished Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup squads. Thomas does.
“Things like that could potentially get hurt because of some of the people that are leaving, and if more go, it’s just sad,” Thomas said. “It just makes me sad.
“I just want to play against the best in the world and try to win Majors. With that being said, the best players in the world need to be here, but at the same time I don’t necessarily want guys to be able to do both. It’s a tough spot to be in.”
Thomas has been a stalwart backing the PGA Tour even as such Major winners as Mickelson, Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have split for LIV Golf and record purses of $25-million.
“Everything has got a price, I guess,” Thomas said.
England’s 18th-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick, a winner at The Country Club in the 2013 US Amateur, will play in the same group as LIV’s Johnson for the first two rounds, at the front lines of golf’s hottest topic.
“It’s obviously the talk of the tour at the minute. Everyone wants to know what’s going on,” Fitzpatrick said. “Things have been shaken up a little bit.
“Everyone was fed up with hearing about it and they were like, all right, just start already, and now they’ve started, everyone is like, oh, actually this is quite interesting. What’s going to happen now? It has sort of kicked up a little bit more interest again, and we’ll just see what happens.”
Thomas says it’s a slap in the face to the US Open, saying, “You can’t go anywhere without somebody bringing it up. It’s sad. This is the US Open and that seems to be what all the questions are about.
“That’s unfortunate. That’s not right to the USGA. That’s not right for the US Open. That’s not right for us players. But that’s, unfortunately, where we’re at right now.”
Mickelson and Thomas have played up respect when talking about golfers on the opposite tour.
“I respect if they disagree, but at this time this is the right decision,” Mickelson said on Monday. “It brings out a lot of strong emotions for a lot of people and I respect the way they may or may not feel.”
Thomas wants to avoid personal rifts.
“You can disagree with the decision,” he said. “But for people at home to say that Dustin Johnson is now a bad person, that’s not fair. That’s just not right.”
Thomas marvels at the “astronomical money” LIV pays but basically argues money can’t buy happiness.
“There’s no amount of money that you could get that, if you don’t love or enjoy what you’re actually doing, you’re still going to be miserable,” he said.
“Although you might be miserable in a bigger house or a nicer car, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your life is going to be any better.”
Thomas fears that won’t matter.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to do it,” he said. “There’s going to be some kind of number that’s going to get people to think about it, and they’re reaching that number with a lot of people.”
© Agence France-Presse