Column: Saudi money may put university stars in a difficult situation

Dublin, Ohio (AFP) – Texas A&M University senior Sam Bennett was a mixture of joy and exhaustion when he passed the 36-hole US Open qualifying for the first time. Next is the hardest test in golf.

All this can be a breeze considering what can lie ahead.

The Saudi money lure from the LIV Golf Invitational Series did not introduce itself to Bennett, the No. 5 player in the amateur world rankings.

“I think they know I’ll be back for the fifth year,” he said.

And if not?

Bennett thought for a moment. American amateur champion James Peat is in London this week, having picked up a signing bonus even before playing for a prize pool of up to $25 million. So does Andy Ogletree, another former American amateur champion.

Then he smiled and said, “Yes, I would probably kiss him.”

Where else can he access fortunes beyond his dreams right after graduating from college without having to prove himself?

Piot missed all five of his PGA Tour events. Ogletree has missed five cuts in the seven events he’s played since he was an amateur low at the 2020 Masters Tournament.

Rory McIlroy wasn’t entirely accurate in February when showing his ratings from a Saudi-funded takeover attempt.

He called it “dead in the water” when Dustin Johnson and a small parade of other top players pledged their support for the PGA Tour. Then Greg Norman waved a lot of money at Johnson – The Daily Telegraph He puts his signature fee at $150 million – until he makes good on his promise.

“Who’s left? Who’s left to go? I just don’t see any reason for anyone to leave,” McIlroy said.

One reason: money, a seemingly endless supply from the Public Investment Fund controlled by the government of Saudi Arabia.

McIlroy also referred to it as the pre-Course of Champions circuit, and this holds the water. Among the top six champions playing outside London This week, they are all 37 or older. Most of the others wouldn’t be missed, if someone cared about them in the first place.

But the college scene appears to be ripe for enlistment.

They are not members of the PGA Tour and will not be subject to any Discipline Commissioner Jay Monahan has in mind for players who defected. Even if they have a good equipment deal and few corporate sponsors, this can’t match what Norman has to offer.

“I feel bad for putting that pressure on a kid,” Zander Shaveli said. “Your parents are very influential. They mold you up to that point, and then these numbers are thrown around for you. I think it’s hard for them to deal with these numbers early on.”

Although firing this 54-hole, uncut, chain gun was only two days away, there were still many questions beyond the immediate repercussions.

Will LIV Golf Invitational earn global ranking points? Even if it were for the first one, field projects should equal an opposite field event on the PGA Tour.

Most worrying is how major companies will respond.

So the contention for college players is whether to take the money now and be set financially, conceding a chance to get into the majors, except for going through the hardships of qualifying in the US and Britain.

Take the money now and they can always wait to start their career on the PGA Tour, starting with the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School or trying to qualify on Mondays at the PGA Tour events. This is the path that Patrick Reed took a long time ago.

But the good guys know they may be competing for majors soon after they graduate from college. Jordan Spieth proved it. He was halfway to the Grand Slam his third year outside of Texas. Colin Morikawa graduated from the University of California in 2019. Two years later, he had already won two majors and was on the verge of becoming #1 in the world.

Davis Riley had to spend two years on the Korn Ferry Tour because the COVID-19 pandemic delayed graduation to the major tournaments by a year. As a rookie, he has already lost in a playoff and is number 21 in the FedEx Cup.

“You see guys like Justin (Thomas) and Jordan competing in majors a few years after they go to school,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of money to play here. Wallets are going up. I think some guys like chasing a dollar, some like chasing a trophy. I can’t speak for other guys. I just want to be there. I’ve dreamed all my life of getting out here and playing on the PGA Tour.” I want to win championships on the PGA Tour.”

Do others devote to what they always wanted, even if at the time it was the only option? Norman’s group relies on players who see their peers as much less likely to get much more money and want a piece of it.

Bennett has a tattoo on the inside of his left armThe words of advice his father gave him before Alzheimer’s disease robbed him of their ability to communicate and ultimately took his life.

He had his father write it down, and moved it into his arm so that he could see it whenever he shot.

“Don’t wait to do something.”

Fifth year at Texas A&M University makes him wait. This time, that might not be a bad thing.


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