The Longshot: Saudi Golf unlikely to LIV up to hype

The Longshot: Saudi Golf unlikely to LIV up to hype

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy share a laugh as they discuss the future home of their tech-infused golf league TGL Golf that will begin play next year.

IT’S PROBABLY no coincidence that Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods decided to launch the TGL Golf League this week.

The LIV Golf season makes its return in Mexico today, and the announcement was presumably timed to overshadow its maiden 2023 event. LIV Golf had been doing a pretty good job themselves of ensuring they stay under the radar with golf fans already. I haven’t seen a shot myself, which is down as much to not really wanting to make the effort to find out where to watch it as it is to my genuine lack of curiosity about the 54-hole shotgun format).

Belgian and world number 34 Thomas Pieters, whom McIlroy once said he would be happy to partner for the rest of his participation in the Ryder Cup, jumped ship to LIV this week. Not quite the kind of big name the Saudi-backed tour would have hoped to see join in their off-season. There were rumblings of discontent too, with Brooks Koepka reportedly having some buyer’s remorse about signing up now that his long-term
injuries have begun to clear up.

LIV failed to live up to its “Golf, But Louder” motto last season, as many tournaments had restricted crowds or were poorly attended.

TGL Golf is now also seeking to add some razzmatazz to the game, although whether there will be a huge appetite for it either remains to be seen. It is a planned golf league created by TMRW (pronounced ‘tomorrow’ apparently) Sports, a venture formed by Woods and McIlroy in partnership with the PGA Tour.

It will launch in January 2024, with events held on Monday nights in conjunction with the Tour schedule. The league will include big names like world number one Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Collin Morikawa, Matt Fitzpatrick, Max Homa, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose, and Xander Schauffele.

Matches are being planned at just two hours and be played in arenas, but will also see players squaring off in matchplay on a data-driven virtual course that also includes a short-game complex for chipping and putting. It all sounds a bit
bizarre, but let’s wait and see.

“It’s going to give the viewer at home and also the people in the arena just more of an in-depth of sort of how we do things and how we sort of think through things in our head,” McIlroy said of the concept of having the players mic’d up. “It’s just a more in-depth look into that.”

Woods added that betting will be at the heart of the competition. “Wagering is part of our sport, part of our culture,” he said. “We don’t know how to play golf without it.”

The other big golf move was the screening of the Full Swing documentaries on Netflix on Wednesday.

Is it worth tuning in? Well, if you like watching Americans get emotional, it is definitely the series for you. However, if you are a close fan of the game, there are only a few rare nuggets to be gleaned from the series. Otherwise, it will simply reinforce the opinions you probably had formed of the players involved already.

Ireland odds on for Gland Slam and Championship

FOLLOWING their dismantling of nearest rivals France a fortnight ago, Ireland enter into tomorrow’s Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome as 4/7 favourites to win the competition and 4/6 to pick up a Grand Slam while doing so.

The match will be the first of two away games before the competition ends on St Patrick’s weekend with a home tie against England.

Ireland are expected to win comfortably despite Italy being in decent form (the hosts only lost by five points to France on the opening weekend at home).

We actually lost three of our first four international games played against Italy back in the late 90s before they had even joined this tournament, each one a double-digit defeat.

That was the nadir for modern Irish rugby, with the provinces yet to really find their feet and since then we have recorded only one loss against them, back in 2013.

But 10 years later as number one in the world, Ireland are a very different prospect and defeat is nearly unthinkable.

Johnny Sexton will sit out this contest after sustaining a groin problem in the round-two win, but lock James Ryan is a decent deputy as skipper.

The last three games against this opposition have seen Ireland beat the spread of -22 (even money). Indeed the score in Dublin last season was 57-6.

Beating Wales at the end of the 2022 Six Nations was the catalyst for the Italians’ improved form and they went on to beat Samoa and Australia in November.

Scotland need to beat France away to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive and a game against a wounded France in Paris on Sunday is the reason they are 7/1 to win the Championship. They are 3/1 to win in France.

Wales’ game with England on Saturday will go ahead after a potential strike was averted.

The Dragons’ squad met on Wednesday to discuss a range of issues, foremost among them that many of the players are out of contract at their regional teams at the end of this season. You might expect them to perform in such adversity, but I’d much more fancy England to get a result in Cardiff this weekend on the back of it.

England are 2/5 to place them well in the mix for the Wooden Spoon.

Influencing the outcome

IF LIV golf wanted take some solace from the fact that sizzle and hype can often garner more fans and viewers, they need only look at the sorry state of boxing.

The sport only has itself to blame, with its reluctance to pit the top two contenders against each other except nearly as a last resort these days. And so we are now in the situation that Youtubers v Love Islanders are topping the bill on the big cards.

Jake Paul, who in fairness has shown himself to be quite handy in the ring against far from stellar opposition is 4/5 to beat Tommy Fury, brother of heavyweight world champion Tyson, tomorrow. Paul has won all six of his fights so far but faces a pro boxer for the first time in his career, albeit one whose first eight fights have been against limited opposition. Fury is 5/1 to win on points.

Turn a corner at your peril

LAST Tuesday’s tip will surely go down as one of our worst.

Napoli were the only one of our Champions League tips to do the business. We claimed that Liverpool had probably turned a corner in their season and they had, if you factored in they were going to be slammed into the coach carrying Real Madrid. We also said Allison would keep a clean sheet!

Real now face a derby game with Atletico tomorrow at the Bernabeu, where they haven’t been beaten in a year (and haven’t lost to Diego Simeone’s men since 2016).

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are eight points behind Barca, but the demolition over Liverpool was their fifth straight victory in all competitions. The 7/1 on them to win La Liga looks decent value.

Motson was a voice of football

THERE was very sad news yesterday when it was announced that legendary football commentator John Motson had died at 77.

Myself and ‘Motto’ actually graduated together back in 2002, when he got an honorary degree from Luton University.

I have no memory if I actually met him that day, but that sort of sums up how hazy my college days are to me, for which I blame very cheap Student Union pints.

Motson was, alongside Barry Davies, the voice of football for many of us edging into middle age.

As he once immortally said: “And Seaman, just like a falling oak, manages to change direction.” RIP.

The Bet

It might be best to go a bit conservative just so we can put a few numbers on the board. England have insisted the roof remain open for their clash in Cardiff, vetoing Wales’ standard preference to have it closed (which shows some much-needed belligerence). Ireland -22 points, England and France will net you just shy of 3/1.

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