Gene Frenette's Saturday sports menu: PGA-LIV Golf feud, Pac-12 defections, Kevin Durant, more

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·8 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, speaking last week at the Travelers Championship, is fighting back against LIV Golf, who he sees as an "irrational threat" to the Tour.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, speaking last week at the Travelers Championship, is fighting back against LIV Golf, who he sees as an "irrational threat" to the Tour.

The ongoing catfight between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf has reached the point where both parties are better off calling a truce. Just stop lobbing grenades in each other’s direction, which only makes them look like junior high kids in a cafeteria food fight.

Obvious narratives — players like Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson Dechambeau and Patrick Reed defecting to LIV Golf International for more money and a less strenuous schedule, or the Tour shunning its own members for daring to accept lucrative guaranteed money from a Saudi wealth fund — are getting tiresome and do nothing to advance the game.

Golfers are essentially independent contractors in some instances because the Tour has selectively given them permission to play certain events, like next week’s Scottish Open on the DP World Tour, with which the Tour just formed a stronger alliance.

Gene's previous three columns:

But when players joined LIV, a controversial league because it is funded by a country with multiple human rights issues, the fangs came out.

Players who defected were treated like pariahs by commissioner Jay Monahan and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who foolishly called for the removal of LIV leader Greg Norman and Mickelson from the World Golf Hall of Fame.

As disappointing as it was that LIV defectors made their decision, which came with the predictable cold-shoulder treatment, it still does the Tour no good to keep them suspended for an indefinite period, maybe years.

Seriously, how does it grow the game to not have a dozen top 50 players or so at Tour events?

Does it not penalize the fans when a deserving LIV golfer can’t get points toward their world golf ranking and may possibly be excluded from majors?

How about a high-performing LIV competitor who merits a captain’s pick and doesn’t get into the Ryder Cup?

Monahan said publicly last week that the Tour can’t win an “arms race” with LIV, whom he considers an “irrational threat,” but he had no problem counter-punching by upping the ante. He announced purses at eight Tour events would increase by $53.8 million, including The Players Championship getting bumped from $20 million to $25 million.

The train was heading in that direction anyway, but Monahan sped up the process as a way of protecting his turf, making sure no other big-name players are more tempted to leave.

It was no coincidence that when Monahan was firing his LIV salvos at the Traveler’s Championship, the rival league announced Koepka — who previously denounced players as “sellouts” for leaving the Tour — changed his mind and joined LIV.

So back-and-forth it goes, with seemingly no end to the acrimony.

Honestly, just as the Tour can counteract LIV in whatever manner it chooses, so are Tour golfers free to make choices for themselves and their families. Playing on a circuit that offers more money and less time away from home is understandably enticing, though it means accepting the criticism accompanying that decision.

The question is what happens moving forward. If LIV survives only a couple years, will the Tour welcome back the suspended players? Does anybody think golf is better for the fans with the Tour and LIV engaging in a perpetual cold war?

Sooner or later, the Tour and LIV will be better off laying down their swords than acting like bullies. That is, if they genuinely care about growing the game and not just their bank accounts.

Surprise! Pac-12 defections about money

Thursday’s media reports that big-brand Pac-12 schools USC and UCLA are leaving for the Big Ten in 2024 might have a bombshell feel to it, but this money move was inevitable after Texas and Oklahoma bolted for the SEC last summer.

With USC football poised to ascend with the hiring of coach Lincoln Riley, and UCLA still carrying major cachet in the basketball world, this was a natural merger for the Big Ten to close the gap on the SEC. For the Los Angeles-based schools, the chance to more than double their annual $30 million windfall as Pac-12 members is a no-brainer.

Those alarm bells you hear are schools in the ACC (especially Florida State, Miami and Clemson), plus the Pac-12 leftovers and the Big 12, wondering if they can compete on the football field in 5-10 years without maneuvering quickly to get on the SEC-Big Ten train, which may eventually have their own playoff. It’d be a shocker if more dominos don’t fall soon as the Power 5 moves closer to becoming the Power 2.

ACC should align Miami, Clemson

There’s no disputing ACC football has taken deserved criticism for lack of depth in recent years, but it made the right move this week by scrapping its divisions and going to a 3-5-5 scheduling model, ensuring all teams play each other at least twice every four years.

My only revision for each school’s three permanent opponents would be to replace Boston College as one of Miami’s annual foes with Clemson, thus being on a similar schedule path with Florida State, which has Clemson, Miami and Syracuse. I’m pretty sure first-year Hurricanes coach Mario Cristobal would agree Clemson makes a lot more sense for his attendance-challenged program than B.C.

JU athletics securing its assets

With Jacksonville University locking in men’s basketball coach Jordan Mincy and several others on long-term contracts, the Dolphins stayed on that path this week by signing athletic director Alex Ricker-Gilbert, who was on an expiring deal, through the 2026-27 season.

Ricker-Gilbert, 34, might well be courted for a higher-paying job as an associate AD at a big-name school, but he enjoys JU’s more intimate atmosphere and his aligned relationship with president Tim Cost.

“It’s fun to be part of something being built and is building,” said Ricker-Gilbert. “It’s a really good time to be at JU and the president has shown a lot of belief in us. We’re really just scratching the surface of what we can do, like Mincy in his first year.”

Brooklyn could receive a considerable return in a trade for Kevin Durant.
Brooklyn could receive a considerable return in a trade for Kevin Durant.

Going west ideal for Durant

With Kevin Durant demanding a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, who want to accommodate him, the best thing that could happen for the 12-time All-Star and the NBA would be for him to land with the Phoenix Suns.

Seeing Durant having to battle his former team, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, and ex-teammates Steph Curry and Klay Thompson for superiority in the Western Conference would be must-see TV.

Phoenix is one of Durant's top destinations and the Suns have the personnel to make it worthwhile for Brooklyn to make a deal. With Durant on the Suns, the league would be hard pressed to have a better rivalry next season than Phoenix-Golden State.

Lexi Thompson reacts to a missed putt on the 17th hole during the final round of play in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship golf tournament at Congressional Country Club, Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Lexi Thompson reacts to a missed putt on the 17th hole during the final round of play in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship golf tournament at Congressional Country Club, Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Mental block for Lexi Thompson

You have to wonder how much more distress the psyche of 27-year-old Lexi Thompson, who has a history of not being able to close out majors, can take?

One of America’s best female golfers wasted another great opportunity Sunday when she failed to hold a two-shot lead with three holes left at the Women’s PGA Championship, losing to In Gee Chun by one shot.

Thompson was 30 yards away from the hole in two shots at the par-five 16th hole, but sent her approach over the green and bogeyed the hole (Chun birdied to tie).

At the 17th, Thompson three-putted for bogey from 16 feet, not even coming close on a five-foot par putt.

A birdie putt at No. 18 to get in a playoff never had a chance.

It was Thompson’s fourth runner-up major result — she won the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship and also has four third-place finishes — because the putter always seems to let her down in big moments. It was rather telling of the burden she feels that Thompson, who hasn’t won since 2019, declined to speak to the media.

SEC baseball rise

This is a hard-to-believe statistic: no SEC baseball program won a national title before Georgia captured the first one under Steve Webber in 1990.

With Mississippi stunning the college baseball world by beating Oklahoma to win it all as the last at-large team to get into the tournament, that means six different SEC teams (also Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Florida, LSU, South Carolina) have dogpiled in Omaha to win a combined eight national championships in the last 13 years.

Back on vacation

I’ll be taking my second of three vacations during the Jaguars’ summer break this coming week, so the column will resume on July 13.

Gfrenette@jacksonville.com; (904) 359-4540  

Gene Frenette Sports columnist at Florida Times-Union, follow him on Twitter @genefrenette

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Gene Frenette: PGA-LIV, SEC-Big Ten jockey for supremacy, and more