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Top Golf Moments In 2023: LIV Golf Vs. The PGA Tour Dominates The Discussion | TheSportsDay Top Golf Moments In 2023: LIV Golf Vs. The PGA Tour Dominates The Discussion | TheSportsDay

Top golf moments in 2023: LIV Golf vs. the PGA Tour dominates the discussion

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BEDMINSTER, NJ - JULY 31:  Greg Norman Commissioner/CEO of LIV Golf,Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) the Sovereign wealth fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Majed-Al-Sorour,-CEO-of-the-Saudi-Golf-Federation at the 1st tee during the 3rd round of the LIV Golf Invitational Series Bedminster on July 31, 2022 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Yasir Al-Rumayyan (middle), governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) the Sovereign wealth fund, has emerged as then most consequential figure in professional golf. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The golf world is still in flux, but the sport had a ridiculously busy year in 2023.

From the pending “merger,” to Rory McIlroy’s run coming up short before he led Europe to a Ryder Cup route to the start of Tiger Woods’ comeback, here are the biggest moments from the sport over the past 12 months:

Jay Monahan’s surprise LIV Golf-PGA Tour partnership

Let’s start here, because just about everything that happened in the golf world this past year was connected to commissioner Jay Monahan’s surprise announcement on June 6.

Monahan shocked the golf world, inside and out, in June when he announced a “merger” of sorts with LIV Golf and the DP World Tour — which seemingly ended more than a year of fighting within the sport. While that partnership still isn’t finalized, and both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Justice Department launched investigations, it left a lot of people, Rory McIlroy included, very upset.

“It’s hard for me not to sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb,” McIlroy said a day after the announcement, while revealing he only learned of the partnership a few hours before it was announced.

Monahan received plenty of criticism for the partnership, perhaps rightfully so. He railed against LIV Golf and Saudi Arabia from the beginning, and he even once invoking the 9/11 terrorist attacks while advocating for the Tour over LIV Golf. Then he flipped sides, and did so in near-total secrecy. There was a heated players meeting after it was announced, and one player reportedly called Monahan a “hypocrite” to his face.

Whether this deal gets done or not remains to be seen. There’s a self-imposed deadline for the partnership that is set for Dec. 31. Either way, Monahan’s decision to partner with LIV Golf was not received well in the moment, and that move sent shockwaves through the sport.

Rory McIlroy came close, but he failed to win a major championship yet again last year amid a tense battle within the sport.Rory McIlroy came close, but he failed to win a major championship yet again last year amid a tense battle within the sport.

Rory McIlroy came close, but he failed to win a major championship yet again last year amid a tense battle within the sport. (Keyur Khamar/PGA Tour via Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy tired as he fails to win a major, again

The LIV Golf battle has taken a toll on Rory McIlroy.

After becoming the face of the Tour in its feud with LIV Golf, McIlroy was very frustrated after the partnership announcement. He’s since stepped down from the PGA Tour’s board — it wasn’t what he signed up for, he said — and he started staying silent at the major championships. He didn’t want to talk about LIV Golf anymore.

McIlroy is coming up on a decade without winning a major championship. His last win came at the 2014 PGA Championship, which followed a British Open win in the same season. He’s accomplished just about everything else possible since those major championships, but he for some reason can’t get a fifth major title. He fell just shy of doing that at the U.S. Open in Los Angeles last summer, where he finished a shot behind Wyndham Clark.

Though he went another year without a major victory, McIlroy was still on one of the best runs of his career. He won twice last season and had 13 top-10 finishes — including at three of the four majors. He didn’t finish outside of the top 10 in any Tour event from mid-May on, and he helped Europe win the Ryder Cup (but more on that later).

McIlroy is sure to win another major championship eventually with the way that he’s playing. We’ll see if, now that his role in the Tour-LIV feud is seemingly behind him, that comes in 2024.

Jon Rahm leaves for LIV Golf

LIV Golf closed out 2023 by landing perhaps the best golfer on the planet.

Jon Rahm, the defending Masters champion and current world No. 3, committed to join LIV Golf earlier this month. He is the biggest get for the Saudi Arabian-backed league, outside of perhaps Dustin Johnson or Cam Smith.

Rahm’s jump, which came after weeks of rumors, was surprising considering how opposed he was to LIV Golf up until the moment he switched sides. He backed Monahan and the Tour seemingly at every turn, and said he wanted to build his “best legacy” playing on the Tour. Yet after being offered reportedly more than $500 million, Rahm made the announcement on Fox News in a LIV Golf bomber jacket fully ready to embrace the league.

“There’s a lot of things that LIV Golf has to offer that were very, very enticing,” he said. “Being part of a team is something that’s very big for me in my career.”

As Rahm won the Masters earlier this year, he now has permanent entry into Augusta National. He’ll get to play in the major championships for at least the near future despite the fact that his world ranking is set to plummet. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to play for Team Europe in future Ryder Cups. His departure from the Tour, however, is a big blow — both for the league and the sport as a whole.

Europe rolls over U.S. at Ryder Cup

Zach Johnson’s first run leading Team USA at the Ryder Cup did not go well this fall.

Europe cruised to an easy 16 ½ to 11 ½ win at the Ryder Cup in Italy in October, which gave the European’s the trophy once again and kept their streak of home wins alive. Though the Americans rallied a bit on Sunday, they couldn’t overcome what was their worst opening day in the event’s history.

Outside of the pure domination from Europe, however, “HatGate” took over. McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay and his caddie Joe LaCava got into a bit of a scuffle in Rome — which all started after Cantlay opted not to wear his team hat one day in an apparent protest. European fans started waving hats at Cantlay to mock him, which LaCava responded by waving his own hat. But as he did so, he got in McIlroy’s way. That led to a very heated later confrontation before McIlroy was shoved into a car and taken away from the course.

As far as golf goes, this is about as tense as things can possibly get. Both sides have since apologized and moved on.

The Ryder Cup will return to the United States in 2025, when it will be played at Bethpage Black in New York. The U.S. has won the last two events on American soil.

Tiger Woods is going to try and return to a semi-regular schedule in 2024. Tiger Woods is going to try and return to a semi-regular schedule in 2024.

Tiger Woods is going to try and return to a semi-regular schedule in 2024. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Is Tiger Woods back?

Kind of!

Tiger Woods got off to a rough start to 2023. He withdrew from the Masters early after a rough outing at Augusta National, and then he underwent surgery on his foot to address a fracture he sustained in his career-threatening car crash in 2021.

But finally earlier this month, Woods made his return. He completed the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, though he didn’t score very well, and then he played in the PNC Championship alongside his son, Charlie.

Though plenty can change, especially considering all of the health struggles Woods has been through in recent years, Woods plans to return to a semi-regular playing schedule next year. His goal is to play about one tournament each month — which would mean that he could hit all four major championships, the Players Championship, the Genesis Invitational and a few others.

He won’t be out there constantly, but Woods is gearing up for about as true of a return to the sport as fans could possibly hope for next year.

“I think I can get into the rhythm of it,” Woods said in the Bahamas. “I think that having a couple of weeks off to recover, a week to build up, there’s no reason why I can’t get into that rhythm. It’s just a matter of getting in better shape basically.

“I feel like my game’s not that far off, but I need to get in better shape.”

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