Jason Kokrak is not at Memorial Park Golf Course in defense of his Cadence Bank Houston Open championship. Carlos Ortiz, who won here as well in 2020, also is not in the 132-player field.
Kokrak and Ortiz have switched sides so to speak. They have aligned themselves with LIV Golf in competition with the PGA Tour, which is still a thriving golf tour despite some raids of key players.
Backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf has been throwing money to attract established PGA Tour players. Greg Norman is commissioner. Phil Mickelson was one of the first big names to join LIV, which held eight events in its inaugural year in 2022 and will transition to 14 events in 2023.
“I will say the unfortunate thing is all the top players in the world aren’t playing together anymore,” Sahith Theegala, a member of the PGA Tour, said on Wednesday at Memorial Park on the eve of the 2022 Houston Open. “Like we all want to play with Cam (Cameron Smith) and D.J. (Dustin Johnson) and those guys that are some of the best players in the world and there’s no denying that. So, it’s unfortunate that the talent pool’s split a little bit.”
Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka was a PGA Tour player consultant for the renovation of the Memorial Park Golf Course. He too is a member of LIV Golf, which has also landed Bryson DeChambeau, Joaquin Niemann and Paul Casey.
“No matter what everyone feels about either tour, whatever opinions they have or thoughts they have, I think it affects everyone whether they want to admit it or not,” Theegala said. “It’s great for the players because it’s making the tour more competitive and it’s better for the players now. There’s more opportunity than ever.”
There is still a good number of name players in this year’s Houston Open, highlighted by 2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, 2017 Houston Open winner Russell Henley, Sam Burns, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama and Aaron Wise.
Even though Scheffler was not asked about LIV on Wednesday during a session with the media, Scheffler has gone on record saying that the PGA Tour is the best place to play.
“My dream was to play on the PGA Tour,” Scheffler said. “My dream was never to maximize my financial benefits. I feel very blessed and fortunate to play golf and get paid for it. So I’m not looking to go out and do anything else.
“The PGA Tour is where I want to play and it continues to be the place where the best golfers in the world play and the opportunity to win the FedExCup and opportunity to win major championships and to win tournaments is out here.”
Tee times start on Thursday with the morning groupings running from 6:40 a.m. thru 8:30 a.m. off both holes No. 1 and 10. The afternoon wave runs from 11:25 a.m.-1:15 p.m. on both sets of tees.
One of the premier groupings has Sam Burns, Scottie Scheffler and Taylor Montgomery teeing off on Thursday at 7:13 a.m. off the first tee. Just behind the trio at hole 1 going off at 7:24 a.m. will be Hideki Matsuyama, Sebastian Munoz and Jason Day.
Cole Hammer starts at 12:53 p.m. off No. 10. His former Texas teammate Travis Vick tees off at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday from the first tee. Another Houstonian, Walker Lee begins his round at 1:04 p.m. off No. 1.
Tee times on Saturday and Sunday are scheduled to run from 8 a.m. thru 10 a.m. Finishing time for the weekend is 3 p.m. for both Saturday and Sunday.
Source : Houston Chronicle