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19th Hole

Gary Player blasts Cam Smith’s LIV move and claims another major champ ‘had no money, so he had to go’

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There have been plenty of “bombshell” signings for LIV Golf since it’s inception.

Phil Mickelson is an all-time great who was the initial signature signing for the Saudi-backed Series. Dustin Johnson is arguably a top-30 golfer of all time and Bryson DeChambeau, whether you love him or hate him, is a superstar in the prime of his career. Patrick Reed is a major champion and mercurial figure in the game who golf fans love to root against.

However, there seemingly hasn’t been a PGA TOUR departure that’s stung more for PGA TOUR fans than the number two ranked player in the world Cameron Smith.

With his down-to-earth approach to life and his stone cold killer mentality on the golf course, even the most dismissive of PGA TOUR fans have had to admit how big the loss of Smith will be felt.

Gary Player, who has been supportive of some other players who’ve chosen to join LIV Golf, was critical of Smith’s decision to take the money and run.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, the South African said:

“I was absolutely shocked to hear Cameron Smith [had joined LIV Golf]. Here’s a young man that I really thought was going to be a superstar. Now, what sort of future does he have? Will he be allowed to play in Majors in the future? Will he be able to realize this great dream of being a champion? I don’t know.”

Player, who’s won nine major championships, has opined that going to LIV is a good move for some but a mistake for others.

The South African defended former Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson in his decision to abandon the European team to join LIV when many others criticized him harshly.

“I don’t blame Stenson for going. He had no money, so he had to go. This superstar [Cam Smith], I think his advisors have given him the wrong advice. I don’t blame players for going on the LIV Tour. Most of the players can’t win on the regular Tour anymore. The PGA Tour will always be the major Tour.”

The massive sums of guaranteed money have been too tempting for many to pass on, but Player believes for the top-tier players who can still win at an elite level, the decision to stay on the PGA TOUR is an easy one.

The 86-year-old also said that if he had been faced with the opportunity to join something like LIV Golf while he was in his prime, he would decline.

“I’ve played golf all my life and I wouldn’t take a billion dollars for my nine Majors on both Tours,” he said. “The only man to win the Grand Slam on both Tours and 165 tournaments. I worked hard. I had a desire. I traveled the world, it was an education. I met wonderful people. How can you ever be a champion playing 54 holes with no cut?”

Time will tell if Cameron Smith will ever be able to win major championships again after his decision, but there’s no denying that making the jump to LIV was a massive gamble.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s LIV Golf Jeddah betting preview: Course specialist ready to steal the show in Saudi

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LIV Golf makes its third stop at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City this week to play LIV Golf Jeddah. 

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is a par-72 that measures 7,010 yards. There is plenty of water on the course and it features large greens and numerous sand traps. The fairways are Zoysia grass and the greens are Paspalum. The course has hosted several prestigious events in the past including the Saudi International, LIV Golf Jeddah, the Aramco Team Series and the Aramco Saudi Ladies International. The course is undoubtedly one of the best tracks that the Middle East has to offer. 

LIV Jeddah will be absolutely loaded with storylines this week. Perhaps the most exciting of them all is the return of Anthony Kim to professional golf.

Last seen at Quail Hollow in the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, the golf world often wondered aloud what ever happened to the charismatic party boy who once played a major role in the United States 2008 Ryder Cup win at Valhalla, thrashing Ryder Cup legend Sergio Garcia 5&4 in a singles match.

Six months later, “AK” made eleven birdies in a single round at Augusta National, shooting a -7 (65). The following year, Kim would finish 3rd at The Masters.

Kim was a “can’t miss” star who was poised to be near the top of the world rankings for the next decade. Until he wasn’t.

Starting in around 2010, injuries started to derail AK, causing him to have surgery on his Achilles tendon in June of 2012.

Reportedly, the then 26-year-old cashed in on an insurance policy that paid him somewhere between $10 and $20 million, which would force him into retirement.

Twelve years later, Kim will be playing at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club beginning on Friday this week.

There is still a great deal of mystery regarding what’s occurred in the past twelve years, but reports indicate that Kim is receiving somewhere between $5 and $10 million to sign with LIV Golf.

Details aside, Kim’s return to golf should be absolutely captivating.

Past Winners at LIV Jeddah

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-14)
  • 2022: Brooks Koepka (-12)

Past Winners at the Saudi International

    • 2023: Abraham Ancer (-19)
    • 2022:Harold Varner III (-13)
    • 2021: Dustin Johnson (-15)
    • 2020: Graeme McDowell (-12)
    • 2019: Dustin Johnson (-19)

The top of the odds board will be tough to beat this week. Jon Rahm has played well to start the year but still hasn’t gotten in the winner’s circle. He ought to be hungry to get it done this week. Brooks Koepka has won the event two straight years and is a force to be reckoned with. Dustin Johnson has a staggering record at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. In six trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-8 each time including two wins and a runner-up. 

Stats From LIV Las Vegas

2024 LIV Jeddah Picks

Sergio Garcia (+2500 FanDuel)

Sergio Garcia began his 2024 LIV Golf season with a bang, losing in a four-hole playoff to the Chilean superstar Joaquin Niemann at LIV Golf Mayakoba. Despite the runner-up finish, it was an encouraging start to the season for the former Masters Champion.

Garcia’s strong week didn’t directly follow him to LIV Las Vegas, where he finished 26th, but the unfamiliar course didn’t necessarily fit his skill set. Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is a relatively short course that can get extremely windy. Garcia still has the iron game to compete with the elite players in this field, and is a great wind player and shot maker. 

In Sergio’s seven trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-6 three times, and finished 3rd in both of LIV’s trips to Jeddah. 

The 44-year-old can still stripe it and my gut tells me he will be a part of the story late on Sunday. 

Paul Casey (+3500 DraftKings)

I’ve been extremely high on Casey to kick off 2024 and thus far things have gone extremely well for the Englishman. In his two starts this season, Casey has finished in a tie for 11th and a tie for 5th, and was the first-round leader at LIV Las Vegas. 

Casey has had success at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club and has finished 5th in two of his past three trips to the golf course. The 46-year-old is a superb ball striker and wind player when he’s healthy, and all signs point to him finally being back to full strength. 

In Vegas, Casey led the field in birdies made (tied with a few at the top), and finished in the top ten in both fairways hit and greens in regulation. 

Veterans have done well on LIV to date, and Casey may be next in line of players on the back nine of their careers who show they still have the game to compete with some of the world’s best. 

Matt Wolff (+4100 FanDuel)

The mercurial Matt Wolff has seemingly found a comfortable home with the RangeGoats and has been playing his best golf to date on LIV in his two starts this season. Wolff finished 4th at LIV Las Vegas and followed that up with a tie for 7th place finish at the Asian Tour’s International Series Oman. 

In his past four trips to the course, the 23-year-old (Wow! He’s still only 23?) has finished in the top-10 three times. 

The Oklahoma State product was once tabbed as a future superstar, and it’s still far too early to give up on such a talented player. A win is coming soon. 

Bubba Watson (+8000 FanDuel)

It’s been a long road back for Bubba Watson since he had surgery to repair his meniscus a few years ago, but the two-time Masters champion is beginning to show some signs that he may once again be healthy enough to complete.

In his two starts this season, Bubba has finished T21 (Mayakoba) and T15 (Vegas). Watson has always been a player who plays “his” tracks well, with multiple wins at Augusta, Riviera and TPC River Highlands. With a few more cracks at it, Royal Greens Golf & Country Club could certainly be one of those courses. He’s only played the course three times, but has a 2nd place finish in 2022 when he lost to Harold Varner III in a playoff.

In Vegas, Watson was 7th in the field in Greens in Regulation. When he’s on his game, there are few players more fun to watch than Bubba. 

 

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19th Hole

Anthony Kim’s speculated LIV Golf sign-on fee may surprise you

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The one-time star who all but disappeared for twelve years, Anthony Kim, is set to make his shocking return to professional golf this week at LIV Jeddah.

Last seen at Quail Hollow in the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, the golf world often wondered aloud what ever happened to the charismatic party boy who once played a major role in the United States 2008 Ryder Cup win at Valhalla, thrashing Ryder Cup legend Sergio Garcia 5&4 in a singles match.

Six months later, “AK” made eleven birdies in a single round at Augusta National, shooting a -7 (65). The following year, Kim would finish 3rd at The Masters.

Kim was a “can’t miss” star who was poised to be near the top of the world rankings for the next decade. Until he wasn’t.

Starting in around 2010, injuries started to derail AK, causing him to have surgery on his achilles tendon in June of 2012.

Reportedly, the then 26-year-old cashed in on an insurance policy that paid him somewhere around the $10 million mark, which would force him into retirement.

Twelve years later, Kim will be playing at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club beginning on Friday this week.

There is still a great deal of mystery regarding what’s occurred in the past twelve years, but reports indicate that Kim is receiving somewhere between $5 and $10 million to sign with LIV Golf.

“Tee Times Pub” is reporting that AK will receive between $5 million and $7 million, while the Telegraph UK and Irish Golfer are both speculating the number is likely to be in the $10 million region. Enough to cover his forfeited insurance policy.

Details aside, Anthony Kim’s return to the world stage should be a captivating one.

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19th Hole

This Rory McIlroy post-round ‘The Match’ moment is going viral…but all is likely not what it seems

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On Monday, Rory McIlroy dominated “The Match”, which was a skins game between Rory, Max Homa, Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang.

The golf took place at The Park Golf Course in West Palm Beach, Florida, with McIlroy winning 10 skins in 12 holes plus a closest to the pin competition. All in all, the four-time major champion won $2.4 million for charity.

Lexi Thompson was the closest challenger, winning 200,000 and two skins. Both Max Homa and Rose Zhang came away with nothing.

After the match, there was a moment in the interview that fans are split about. While being interviewed by Kathryn Tappen, McIlroy seemed to pull away when she tried to put her hand on his back. Or did he?

Some fans think the move was due to him not wanting to be touched, but others insisted it was just a “hood flip”.

Eeagle-eyed watchers seem to have since decided on an innocent hood flip at the wrong time causing the stir.

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