GolfDifferent Strokes

Rory McIlroy clashes with Jordan Spieth on PGA Tour’s future

Niemann’s first reaction after his $4m LIV pay-day? ‘I’m not in the Majors!’

It was a disappointing week for Rory McIlroy in his first PGA Tour event of 2024, finishing tied 66th out of 80 players at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am and suffering a two-stroke penalty in round one for an incorrect drop. It was his worst finish in any tournament since missing the cut at the Masters last year, and remarkably his first time outside the top 25 since May.

It was also eventful off the course as McIlroy clashed with his replacement on the PGA Tour’s policy board, Jordan Spieth, on matters regarding the Saudi’s Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) involvement on the tour, according to Sports Illustrated.

On Wednesday Spieth said the PIF were not necessarily needed for the PGA Tour anymore given the $3 billion investment by the Strategic Sports Group, which includes Liverpool FC’s owners.

McIlroy said the Saudis “wouldn’t have been too happy” about Spieth’s comments, and he had a “frank discussion” over an hour-long phone call with Spieth. He said not having PIF as a partner is “not an option” for golf.


“They are still sitting out there with hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions, that they’re gonna pour into sport. If I were PIF and I was hearing that coming from here, the day after doing this SSG deal, it wouldn’t have made me too happy, I guess?”

Spieth called McIlroy to check in after noticing the 34-year-old had left a group chat comprised of top Tour players. “I just want to remove myself from the fray a little bit,” McIlroy said.


“Everyone gave me a standing ovation. It honestly felt like the end of the tournament and that’s what made it so unique and weird because I would have thought that it was Sunday.” – Wyndham Clark on winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the strength of a course record 60 on Saturday, which turned out to be his last shot as storms shortened the tournament.

Majors still on Niemann’s mind

If ever there was an advertisement for money can’t buy you (golfing) happiness, it was Joaquin Niemann’s reaction to winning the first LIV event of the year in Mayakoba, Mexico The Chilean had a dream week, shooting a 59 on Friday and then winning the $4 million first prize, beating Sergio Garcia in a playoff. His first reaction after the big pay-day? “I’m not in the Majors!”

The 25-year-old has fallen out of the top 50 since joining the LIV Tour and despite winning the Australian Open in December and finishing tied fourth at the Dubai Desert Classic his ranking is 66th, short of the top 50 mark he needs for Major qualification. He is good enough to compete for a Major but by joining LIV it is very much a case of reading the small print given the tour still does not receive world ranking points.

Another player with world ranking worries is Shane Lowry, who has dropped out of the top 50 for the first time since he won the Open in 2019. The Irishman needs a good week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona to get himself back into that coveted top 50 spot.

Jon Rahm has no such worries about Major qualification as he made his first appearance on LIV since signing a contract worth many hundreds of millions. Rahm was tied for the lead with two holes to go on his debut, before finishing bogey-bogey to miss out on a playoff.

European golfers take full advantage of new pathways to the PGA Tour

Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton may have left, but the PGA Tour leaderboards this season so far have had a European flavour to them, as evidenced by three of the top five players at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am being European – Ludvig Aberg, Matthieu Pavon and Thomas Detry. While Aberg is a young star destined for the top, Pavon and Detry have been long-time members of the DP World Tour.

Pavon’s third place came after becoming the first Frenchman to win on the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines, and received his card after finishing in the top 10 of the DP World Tour last season, a new pathway to the PGA Tour. He finished one shot ahead Danish Ryder Cup player Nicolai Hojgaard, who received special membership at the end of last year. Detry led at Torrey Pines in the third round before a final hole double bogey led to a collapse and has followed up with a top 5 at Pebble Beach.

Number – 189

The total distance of putts in feet that Wyndham Clark holed en route to his 60 to win at Pebble Beach. It was the longest distance of putts for any golfer in one round at the course since tracking began in 2003.

Tweets/X twaddle

“Has been no electricity for about 6 hours now. If it say DQ for me tomorrow that means I overslept.” Byeong Hun An living the stormy conditions on the Monterey Peninsula

“It’s just a little wind.” Max Homa was prepared to go out and fight the elements to finish his round at Pebble

“Wyndham Clark joins four other Major champions to be 54-hole winners at Pebble Beach in the last 40 years: DJ, Payne Stewart, Mickelson, Fuzzy Zoeller”. The AP’s Doug Ferguson on Clark’s rare company.

Know the Rules (Rory McIlroy edition)

Q: When taking an unplayable drop and taking “back-on-line relief”, moving the ball back from the hole, is it possible to take one club length either side of the line when dropping?

A: No, under Rule 14.3 the golfer can move the ball back as far as they like under “back-on-line relief”, but it is required to drop the ball on line. From 2019 to 2023 it was possible to drop within one club length of that spot, but a 2023 update brought the rule back to how it was pre-2019.

What’s in the Bag – Joaquin Niemann

Driver: Ping G430 LST (10.5°) with Graphite Design DI 6-X shaft

3-wood: Ping G430 MAX (15°) with Graphite Design DI 8-X shaft

7-wood: Ping G425 MAX (20.5°@19.5°) with Graphite Design DI 8-X shaft

Hybrid: Ping G430 MAX (26°) with Graphite Design DI Hybrid 95g-X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (5-9 iron) with Project X 6.0 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 3.0 (46°) with Project X 6.0 shaft, Glide Forged Pro (52°, 56°, 60°) with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD Anser prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x