Photo Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network
As 18 LIV Golf players arrived at Augusta National on Monday fresh off their Orlando event over the weekend, they were greeted by far more hugs from their PGA Tour counterparts than cold shoulders.
Bryson DeChambeau, a polarizing figured on numerous fronts, embraced good friend and defending Masters champion Scottie Scheffler. Cam Smith chatted on the driving range with the likes of Jon Rahm, Kevin Kisner and Billy Horschel, one of the tour’s most outspoken LIV critics.
Dustin Johnson even got a quick hug from Zach Johnson, the 2023 United States Ryder Cup captain who has said he does not expect to have LIV players on his team this fall.
At least on Day One of Masters week, all appeared cordial between players from the rival leagues who have spent the past year trading barbs in the media.
“I’m here at the Masters and enjoying this week. This week is all about Augusta, it has nothing to do with where you play at,” Dustin Johnson, the 2020 Masters champion, told reporters. “Guys that are here, they play all around the world. Not everybody just plays on one spot.
“All my buddies are still my buddies. It’s nice to see a lot of the guys because I haven’t seen them that much. Should be a great week, and looking forward to it.”
Even several LIV players wearing apparel from their respective teams didn’t seem to rile their counterparts.
Fred Couples, who has repeatedly taken aim at players in the Saudi-backed league, insisted he believes those who have qualified deserve to be at Augusta this week. He doesn’t take issue with the personal decisions they have made – as long as they don’t turn around and criticize the PGA Tour.
“I have no problem with any of them,” Couples insisted. “Please, just do not bash the tour that I have 43 years invested in. It bothers the hell out of me. They don’t bother me. They really don’t.
“They’re golfers. I’m a golfer. I respect them all.”
The toned-down rhetoric was in particularly stark contrast from previous comments from Couples, who has called Sergio Garcia a “clown” and Phil Mickelson a “nutbag.” According to Couples, any criticism has all been in response to comments made by LIV players, and he’d even look forward to being paired with Mickelson this week.
“I’d love to play with Phil. He’s one of the best players to ever play. He loves this place as much as I do,” Couples said. “And if we did, we’d look at each other on the first hole, and we’d have a good time.
“If someone wants to stop and ask why I’m picking on them, then I’m all for it. But I don’t really think I’ve done anything horrific. They’re making comments, and I’m replying to them. And that’s it.”
For now, all the pre-tournament speculation about simmering tension between PGA and LIV players appears to be overblown. That could change through the course of the week, and attention will now turn to Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner, with Scheffler supplying the menu.
“Eatin’ some good food. And some good wine, usually,” Johnson said of what he expects Tuesday night. “It’s special, just to be a part of it. It’s something that you’re a part of forever, and it’s a special evening.
“Excited for Scottie, obviously, to enjoy it. It’s going to be a great evening, it always is.”
–Field Level Media