Atlanta hosts Tour Championship amid PGA conflict
Atlanta unintentionally became the host site for a sort-of PGA Tour convention last week during a Tour Championship that was as much about the politics of golf as the game itself.
Driving the news: The tournament at East Lake Golf Club not only delivered the excitement of top players competing for an incredible amount of cash — the $75 million prize pool was the largest in history — but it also was a week in which the PGA Tour shot back at LIV Golf, the rebellious tour financially backed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.
Why it matters: The feud between the PGA and LIV is about more than just recruiting players to one side or the other. It's become a bitter battle over the value of traditions, money and even, to some, the victims of 9/11.
- And in many ways, Atlanta and Georgia have stepped into the center of global controversy.
- Big-name Tour defenders like Rory McIlroy, who won this weekend's championship in rather inspiring fashion, spent their time in Atlanta last week campaigning to keep top LIV prospects from leaving.
Catch up quick: LIV Golf launched in June as a direct competitor to the more than 90-year-old PGA Tour. Immediately, the PGA suspended the players who left, including superstars Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
- Still, the LIV money was too good to resist. Several more golfers split, including Patrick Reed — who as it happens played one year at the University of Georgia before being dismissed from the team amid allegations that he cheated and stole from teammates.
- By midsummer, LIV defections were common among fans, too — many liked the zingy LIV format of shorter tournaments, lighter atmospheres and concerts afterward.
- Late July brought the gasoline toss of former President Trump hosting a LIV event at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. Survivors and families of 9/11 victims protested, citing ties between the Saudi government funding and the hijackers who carried out the 2001 attacks.
Another Georgia tie: In early August, several LIV players filed a 105-page complaint asking for a restraining order against the PGA. It included allegations that Augusta National representatives had been working behind the scenes on behalf of the PGA Tour, Golfweek reported.
The latest: Ahead of the final tournament of its playoffs at East Lake, commissioner Jay Monahan announced major changes coming to the Tour as part of a broader strategy to avoid losing more golfers to LIV, Axios' Jeff Tracy reported.
- McIlroy, one of the Tour's staunchest defenders, announced a new virtual golf league launching in 2024 in partnership with the PGA Tour. Its intro video is unmistakably firing shots at LIV.
- Adding to the intrigue, McIlroy was paired with Cameron Smith in the first round at East Lake. Smith is the No. 2 player in the world and rumored to be LIV's next signee.
The bottom line: Georgia is a swing state in more than just politics.
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