It's been official since the end of February: Thomas Pieters has decided to cross the Rubicon and join the LIV Golf Tour. We're still reporting on it extensively in this magazine, as it's completely revolutionizing world golf.
Pieters, who preferred the dissident circuit and its petrodollars, will play a dozen tournaments around the world (14 at most), rather than playing on the American PGA Tour, as Thomas Detry now does. In fact, Pieters, attached to his Antwerp roots where he has bought a house, and keen to spend more time with his partner Stefanie and their two daughters, didn't want to move to the USA with them. This made it impossible for him to play full-time on the PGA Tour, which made this clear by not inviting him to the Genesis Invitational, despite his place in the world's top 50. This was the last straw for the Antwerp native, who played it safe and was guaranteed to earn, in addition to the entry fee, a minimum of three or four million dollars a year. Admittedly, his many followers have every right to be disappointed by his choice. But it's his to make. And, given the arguments he has put forward, it also seems reasonable... and sensible. For a start, the sporting aspect has not been completely dismissed either, since he will be able to compete in all four majors this year. And, until further notice, a few DP World Tour tournaments. In fact, he remains in contact with European captain Luke Donald with a view to the Ryder Cup, which he intends to play in! Following in the footsteps of footballer Axel Witsel, who stayed with his national team while playing in China, before returning to major European clubs, there's nothing to say that Pieters won't be joining another world tour in a few years' time, as the current system is set to evolve.
The truth is, it's still all a blur on world golf. The PGA Tour, which has just launched a series of no-cut tournaments reserved exclusively for the top 70 of its own ranking, is imitating... LIV Golf, by becoming increasingly closed. So it's hard to argue that world ranking points can't be awarded to one circuit if they're awarded to the other. In the meantime, the World Ranking no longer represents the current state of world golf. This will ultimately pose a real problem in a sport where the values of ethics, fairness and mutual respect remain paramount, including for many sponsors. Indeed, the current financial windfall could quickly vanish, as television audiences plummet in the absence of the Tiger. That said, as a Sunday amateur, don't let this stop you from having a great golfing season on the courses of our Kingdom and beyond.
The cover of the spring edition of Play Golf magazine. On sale in bookshops!