WASHINGTON: Former Masters champions Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed said Wednesday they do not expect awkward moments and tension when LIV Golf and PGA Tour players meet at next week’s Masters.
Speaking ahead of this week’s LIV Golf League event at Orlando, they and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka said the world’s top players plan on routine situations at the year’s first major at Augusta National despite the ongoing feud.
The Saudi-backed LIV series lured several big names from the PGA, prompting the PGA to ban those who jumped to the global series for record $25 million purses and 54-hole events.
While a court battle is set to play out into 2024, major tournaments have not restricted qualifying, making them the only stage where LIV and PGA players will face each other.
“I’m going to be honest, man. It’s only awkward in the media,” two-time Masters winner Watson said. “I’ve talked to people that are going to be there.
“I’m going to sign up with (PGA players) Jason Day and Cam Young in the par-3. Some guys have already asked me to play some practice rounds.”
Watson says he’s trying “to beat them all” while Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, says there’s no battle for tour top honor, just the fight for the green jacket symbolic of Masters supremacy.
“The storylines are going to be obviously LIV versus PGA Tour and all that kind of stuff, but really at the majors, all the guys that come in, top players in the world are playing against each other no matter where they come from,” Reed said.
“It doesn’t matter what tour they’re on or anything. It’s the top guys going and trying to play for one of the most coveted events in the world.
“For us, at least for myself, it’s going to be business as usual going out and playing. Would I like to have LIV be up at the top? Of course.”
Koepka, still eligible for the Masters thanks to his most recent major triumph at the 2019 PGA Championship, said he often spends time with PGA major winners like Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy near their homes in Jupiter, Florida.
“That’s one of the big things,” he said. “Down in Jupiter, I was just with Rory and J.T. yesterday, and I think Keegan (Bradley) was there. We see each other quite a bit.
“There are a lot of conversations. I was talking with Rory for probably about 30 minutes... no one is angry at anybody from what I’ve seen.”
McIlroy has been a major supporter of the PGA Tour and the changes it has made to create more top-level events for bigger purses.
“Protecting his entity, man,” said Watson. “He’s protecting his business, which is fine.”
Opposite sides of a business decision, Koepka said, will not mean animosity at Augusta.
“I also don’t think that means anything personal with any of us,” Koepka said. “I’ve had relationships with them — I’ve known J.T. 13, 14 years old maybe. Rory for the last 10 years. It’s not anything (like) we don’t see each other normally.”