Hovland quells LIV talk, rips PGA Tour leadership

Viktor Hovland said he completely understands why Jon Rahm signed with LIV Golf, but the world’s No. 4-ranked player doesn’t plan to be the next marquee player to bolt to the Saudi-backed league.

In an appearance on the “Fore” podcast in Norway, Hovland said he doubts he would bolt for LIV, mostly because of the league’s no-cut format. However, he acknowledged the enormous sum of money Rahm signed for — reported to be more than $550 million including contract and signing bonuses — while taking aim at the “arrogance” of the PGA Tour’s leadership.

“It would be a bit too silly to criticize the players for leaving. After all, you only hear one angle in the media, and there are quite a few different parts happening at the same time here,” Hovland said in Norwegian as translated by Eurosport Norway, per Golfweek. “I totally understand why he left. That’s a lot, a lot of money.”

Hovland’s star status has taken off in 2023, highlighted by winning the FedEx Cup title in August and the $18 million bonus that came with it. He also won the Memorial, the second leg of the playoffs at the BMW Championship and tied for second at both the PGA Championship and the DP World Championship.

It has been an immensely rewarding year for Hovland on the course, but his earnings would be dwarfed by a potential offer from LIV. Hovland, 26, asserted that the format still does not appeal to him.

“I don’t think their product is that great. I’m not such a fan of, for example, playing without a cut,” Hovland said. “You need the competition with 150 players and a cut. If you don’t play well enough, you’re out. There is something about it that makes your game a little sharper. If I had gone to LIV, I don’t think I would have become a better golfer. And then it is, in a way, end of discussion.”

Hovland has committed to the season-opening The Sentry in Maui, which is a no-cut event, along with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the WM Phoenix Open and the Genesis Invitational.

Rahm had similarly strong objections to LIV’s format before he signed with the league. He has been suspended from the PGA Tour, preventing the Spanish golfer from playing in The Sentry ahead of LIV’s first event of 2024.

Hovland was also the latest to provide a blunt criticism of the PGA Tour’s decision-makers.

There is a Dec. 31 deadline for the tour to finalize a deal with the Public Investment Fund. The framework agreement that also includes the DP World Tour was announced in June, to the surprise of the tour’s members who were not involved in the closed-door discussions.

The secrecy of those talks generated significant anger from many players.

“The management has not done a good job. They almost see the players as labor, and not as part of the members. After all, we are the PGA Tour. Without the players, there is nothing,” he said. “When you then get to see what happens behind closed doors, how the management actually makes decisions, which are not in the players’ best interest, but best for themselves and what they think is best.

“They are not professional golfers after all. They are businessmen who say that, ‘No, it should look like this and that.’ There is a great deal of arrogance behind it all.”

Tiger Woods has since joined the policy board and is heavily involved in the ongoing discussions as the tour seeks investment for a new for-profit entity, PGA Tour Enterprises. ESPN reported that more than $3 billion would be injected by Strategic Sports Group, a consortium of billionaire U.S. sports team owners, into the new entity.

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