Take a look at the field for the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational this week in Los Angeles.
Then glance at last year’s results at the Riviera Country Club.
More than any other tournament so far on the 2022-23 Tour schedule, the impact of more than 20 former Tour players who are now playing on the LIV Golf League and are under suspension from the PGA Tour will be felt at the Genesis. It’s an impact that has been lessened with Tiger Woods’ announcement that he will play in the event he hosts, making his first start of the season.
Last year’s Genesis winner, Joaquin Niemann, isn’t playing because he joined the list of players suspended by the Tour the moment he opted for the LIV Golf Series. Also missing will be Cameron Tringale (tied for 13th), Mito Pereira and Paul Casey (tied for 15th), Sebastian Munoz (tied for 21st), Jason Kokrak (tied for 26th), Cameron Smith (tied for 33rd) and Pat Perez, Abraham Ancer, Sergio Garcia and Carlos Ortiz (all tied for 39th).
Ten other players who missed the cut won’t be in L.A., including four players who have combined for nine major championships, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed.
That makes a total of 21 players in the field for last year’s Genesis Invitational who won’t be playing this week. There were 17 former LIV players in the field at the CJ Cup in 2022 who didn’t play this year, 16 at the Farmers Insurance Open and 15 at the WM Phoenix Open.
But the biggest impact is yet to come, and it will be on the First Coast: There will be 25 participants in last year’s Players Championship who have joined LIV Golf and are barred from entering this year. It includes Smith, whose 66 was one of the most stirring closing rounds for a winner in tournament history, runner-up Anirban Lahiri and third-place finisher Paul Casey.
Two more players who were among the top 10 also won’t be playing, Harold Varner (tied for sixth) and Johnson (tied for ninth).
It’s the nature of The Players field that it would lose more than other tournaments to the LIV suspension list. It’s the PGA Tour’s signature event, with the largest purse, and it’s always a must-play.
And their spots will be filled, by the best 144 players the Tour can get, led by the last three players to be ranked No. 1 in the world, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm.
Also likely to play are other major champions such as Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama; veteran winners Billy Horschel, Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau, and rising stars Max Homa, Tom Kim and Seamus Power.
Indeed, The Players is on track to get 45 of the current top 50 in the world. LIV Golf proponents would counter that Johnson, Koepka, Reed, Kevin Na, Casey, Jason Kokrak and others have fallen out of the top 50 because the World Golf Ranking committee isn’t yet awarding points for LIV events.
And what’s that they say about every door that closes, another one opens? Having 25 spots open by the suspension of the LIV Golf pros may have simply sped up the process for the next generation of young players. Among those who are in line to make their first Players’ starts:
∎ Ryan Fox of New Zealand, who is 29th in the world, with 11 top-10 finishes and two victories worldwide in the past 18 months.
∎ Davis Thompson of St. Simons Island, Ga., the latest in a long list of University of Georgia products coming to the Tour who was matching Jon Rahm shot-for-shot for most of the final round in the American Express.
∎ Taylor Montgomery of the U.S., a former UNLV player and a deadly putter who has quietly moved into 10th on the FedEx Cup points list. He opened the season with five consecutive too-15 performances, three of them among the top 10.
∎ Ben Taylor of England, who played college golf at LSU and is a green-hitting machine, with a tie for third in Houston and a fourth at the Sony Open.
∎ Alex Smalley of the U.S., who played at Duke and tied for fifth at the RSM Classic at Sea Island in November with four rounds of 67 or better.