Canadian Open once again 'overshadowed' by PGA Tour-LIV drama

Seemingly out of nowhere, the PGA Tour and its supposed rival, the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League, announced a merger. Details about what that means for the future of men’s golf, almost a year after the sport seemed to fracture, were sparse.

Sides announced surprise merger Tuesday, 2 days before event begins in Toronto

Team champions David Puig, Sebastián Muñoz, Mito Pereira, and captain Joaquín Niemann, and caddies celebrate on stage during a Liv Golf event in May.
Liv team champions celebrate during an event in May. The Saudi-funded breakaway tour and supposed rival PGA Tour announced a merger on Tuesday, potentially leaving the upcoming Canadian Open overshadowed. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via The Associated Press)

The news came like a sucker punch on Tuesday morning.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the PGA Tour and its supposed rival, the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League, announced a merger. Details about what that means for the future of men's golf, almost a year after the sport seemed to fracture, were sparse.

Among the few certainties is that the Canadian Open will once again be obscured by the spat, one year after it went head-to-head with LIV's inaugural event in London and seemingly won as Rory McIlroy was crowned champion for the second consecutive time.

Adam Hadwin, of Abbotsford, B.C., was the first player to speak publicly about the news that stunned the golf world ahead of the tournament at Toronto's Oakdale Golf and Country Club.

"I can't help but feel sad for the Canadian Open, once again, that this news drops Tuesday of what is our national open, a very important event for golf in Canada and hopefully viewed from the PGA Tour's standpoint as an important event to them," Hadwin said.

"Now, once again, we're overshadowed."

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Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C. said he feels sad that news of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger has taken emphasis away from Canada's national men's golf tournament.

There could have been plenty of golf-specific headlines, including a strong field of Canadians vying to fend off the McIlroy three-peat and become the first to win at home since 1954.

Instead, Hadwin was left to speak about the merger. He said he found out like everyone else this morning, and that commissioner Jay Monahan later sent a memo to membership.

"I think that what's transpired like the last year and a half and the rhetoric, not only on this side but on that side as well, I think it's difficult to look at that and say, how did we get here now?" Hadwin said.

The rift between the golf leagues was portrayed, by the PGA Tour at least, as a question of morality — the supposed good guys fighting for the legacy of golf vs. the interlopers with a questionable human rights record but loads of oil money.

Multiple PGA Tour players, as well as Monahan, have come out against allowing those who defected to LIV — led by major champions Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka — back onto the circuit, or at least forcing them to earn back their status.

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A strong Canadian contingent will be teeing it up at the Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto this week.

How that all shakes out now is murky at best. Players were meeting at Oakdale late Tuesday afternoon.

"I don't even know if at this point you could even get the answers that you would want. I don't even know if they have those answers yet," Hadwin said. "That being one of the big talking points throughout this year and a half from the commissioner about how these guys will never play on the PGA Tour again, it will be interesting."

Multiple caddies told CBC Sports they were surprised by the news, especially given Monahan's public and private comments toward LIV.

"A year ago they said we would never see [LIV players] on Tour again. So it seems like it doesn't change the fact they will keep lying to the membership," said one caddie.

However, it also may be better for the game as a whole to reunite all of the top players on one tour instead of only competing against each other at majors.

"Fracture is a strong word — but you can't take away the best players in the game and have them at separate events and only be together four weeks a year. It's not putting the best golf product forward," Hadwin said. "However, again, happening this quick and in this way is surprising."

Next week, all the top players from both tours will be present at the U.S. Open in Los Angeles. For now, the golf world turns its focus to Oakdale.

Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum referred to last year's event for how they could turn a negative spotlight into a positive.

"We had the greatest event in our history and so we come back into 2023 and again some news that was unexpected. For us, we will continue to stay focused on running a great PGA Tour event," he said.

Merger 'doesn't change a thing' for Canadian Open

Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion and eight-time PGA Tour winner, will tee it up at the Canadian Open for the 30th time on Tuesday.

He said the merger does not take away from what makes the event so special.

"That's an announcement for the Tour and what's going on with the future of the Tour and what that looks like. But we're all here this week. The guys that are here are focused on winning this championship," he said. "For me personally that doesn't change a thing."

At the recent PGA Championship, Hadwin said he was curious how sustainable the money-first LIV model would be compared to the legacy-first PGA Tour model. Now, he has a bit of an answer.

"Clearly there was a lot of things going on behind the scenes that nobody was aware of that between the two entities, they decided that it was best moving forward if they got together," he said.

And so the merger will linger over the tournament. McIlroy was among those scheduled to speak to the media on Wednesday. He has often come across as the voice of reason in the PGA-LIV strife.

The hope, especially for Canadians, is that by Sunday, golf will take centre stage. More than ever, though, it's hard to see what's coming next.

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