Monday Leaderboard: LIV Golf's big win, Rory McIlroy's legend grows

Rory's 25th win and karaoke prowess, LIV's Australia chaos highlight the best of the week in golf

(Taylar Sievert / Yahoo Sports)
(Taylar Sievert / Yahoo Sports)

Welcome to the Monday Leaderboard, where we run down the weekend’s top stories in the wonderful world of golf. Grab an Arnold Palmer, pull up a chair, and assemble your crew …

For most of its existence, LIV Golf has been an extremely expensive punch line: Many of the world’s best players competing for millions while almost no one watches, either in person or on screens.

Leave it to Australia, then, to turn the entire enterprise on its head. LIV Golf is phenomenally popular Down Under, so much so that an estimated 94,000 golf fans flocked to Adelaide to watch home-country hero Cam Smith and his Rippers GC win the team event. (Brendan Steele took the individual honors, outlasting Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.) The entire event could go toe-to-toe, energy-wise, with anything that the PGA Tour can produce right now.

Here’s the thing with golf: Americans tend to think of it as an American game, largely because we’re Americans and think the world revolves around us. More than that, though, three of the four majors are held in America, and most of golf’s immortals (Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods) are as American as the Fourth of July.

But golf is an international game, exploding in popularity in Australia, the Middle East and particularly Asia. LIV Golf is poised to take advantage of that in a way the America-bound PGA Tour largely can’t, and that’s the pathway that LIV has for success.

Will LIV Golf establish itself as a viable long-term part of the golf world? Yet to be determined. But events like Adelaide showed that there’s an appetite out there for golf that has nothing to do with the PGA Tour … and that ought to make the Tour pay attention.

Every so often, Rory McIlroy reminds us that in addition to being the Once and Future Face of the PGA Tour, he’s also a pretty decent player, too. At the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, he and partner Shane Lowry won in a playoff, giving McIlroy his 25th career win on Tour. (Whether team events should count as individual victories is another discussion entirely.) McIlroy now has as many career Tour wins as Johnny Miller and more than Gary Player and Raymond Floyd. Plus, as he demonstrated afterward, he can tear up a stage, too, ripping through “Don’t Stop Believin’”:

Everyone’s acting all surprised that McIlroy has pipes like that, but come on, the guy grew up in pubs. That’s a mandatory skill to develop.

Every couple years, the Ryder Cup gets the golf world hyped out of its collective mind for the concept of team golf. Imagine the greatest players in the world … together! How great is that? Not all that great outside the Ryder Cup context, usually. Golf is an individual sport, and shoehorning a bunch of lone wolves into a team format often ends up as awkward as the dance floor at a wedding when “The Cupid Shuffle” comes on.

Still, there are possibilities out there. LIV players often remark on how the team format brings them back to the camaraderie of their college days. Sunday in Adelaide was the first-ever team golf playoff in LIV, and the all-Aussie Ripper GC beat the all-South African Stinger GC on the second playoff hole.

At its non-Ryder best — like Sunday at the Zurich — team golf can be fascinating and compelling. (Pity poor Martin Trainer, who would’ve gotten a two-year exemption with a win, and instead fell to McIlroy and Lowry in the playoff thanks to two sudden-death mishits.) There’s a whole lot of money riding on team golf — not just in LIV but in the yet-to-debut TGL indoor golf league, too — but it’s going to need a lot more buy-in from both players and fans to stick.

With Nelly Korda off for the week, the rest of the field played in the LPGA’s JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club … so Hannah Green stepped up and won her second straight title at the tournament. Unlike last year, where she needed to win in a playoff, Green rolled to a comfortable three-stroke victory this time around. Wilshire is Green’s territory; she finished T3 in 2021, solo second in 2022, and a winner the last two years. Along with Korda, Green is the second multi-time winner on the LPGA Tour this season.

What is it with multiple winners in golf these days? While Korda and Scottie Scheffler are wrecking shop at the highest level, Tim Widing is now doing the same thing on the Korn Ferry Tour. Widing won this past week’s Veritex Banking Championship in Arlington, Texas, his second straight win on the developmental tour. At the Veritex, he finished at an astounding 31 under par, a new record for the Korn Ferry Tour relative to par. Widing is on pace to qualify for the PGA Tour at the end of the season, but if he wins once more, he’ll immediately advance thanks to Korn Ferry’s “three-victory promotion” rule. Before long, it’s just going to be Scheffler, Widing, Korda and Green winning every tournament out there.

We’re all for a lively golf scene, but it seems the Aussies are no better at containing themselves than the galleries at the WM Phoenix Open. At this past weekend’s LIV event, somebody launched a full water bottle and nailed Lucas Herbert’s caddie right in the head as he was replacing the pin:

Ouch. LIV: Golf, but wilder.

Swing away and roll ‘em true this week, friends, and we’ll see you back here next Monday!