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Saudi money could put college stars in a difficult spot

DUBLIN, Ohio – Texas A&M senior Sam Bennett was a mix of joy and exhaustion as he surpassed the 36-hole US Open for the first time. The toughest test of golf is yet to come.

All of this can be a breeze considering what you might expect.

The temptation for Saudi money from the LIV Golf Invitational series has yet to be presented to Bennett, the No. 5 player in the world amateur rankings.

“I think they know I’m going back for my fifth year,” he said.

What if it wasn’t?

Bennett thought for a second. U.S. amateur champion James Piot is in London this week after receiving a signing bonus before playing for up to $ 25 million in prizes. So is Andy Ogletree, another former United States amateur champion.

And then he smiled and said, “Yeah, I’d probably accept it.”

Where else would he have access to riches beyond his dreams right outside of college without having to prove himself?

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Piot missed the cut in all five events of his PGA Tour. Ogletree has lost five cuts in the seven events he has contested since becoming a bass fan at the 2020 Masters.

Rory McIlroy was not entirely accurate in February in offering his assessments of the Saudi-funded acquisition attempt.

“Dead in the water,” he described it when Dustin Johnson and a small parade of other prominent players pledged support for the PGA Tour. And then Greg Norman gave Johnson too much money — the Daily Telegraph puts his $ 150 million subscription fee — to keep his word.

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“Who’s left? Who’s left to go? I just don’t see any reason why anyone would go,” McIlroy said.

One reason: money, a seemingly endless supply of the Saudi-controlled government-funded Public Investment Fund.

McIlroy also referred to it as a pre-Champions Tour circuit, and that it has water. Of the six big champions playing outside of London this week, all are 37 or older. Most of the others will not be lost, if someone paid attention to them in the first place.

But the college scene seems to be ripe for recruitment.

They are not members of the PGA Tour and would not fall under any discipline that Commissioner Jay Monahan has in mind for players who have deserted. Even if they have a good equipment business and some corporate sponsors, that can’t match what Norman has to offer.

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“I feel bad for putting that pressure on a child,” Xander Schauffele said. “Your parents have a lot of influence. They mold you to that point, and then you have those numbers thrown away. I think it’s brutal for them to be dealing with those numbers from the beginning.”

Although there were only two days left to launch this 54-hole series, uncut and with a shotgun, there were still many questions that went beyond the immediate ramifications.

Will the LIV Golf Invitational get world ranking points? Although it did for the former, the field is projected to be equal to an opposite field event on the PGA Tour.

More troubling is how the older ones will respond.

And so the conflict for college players is whether to make money now and be financial, while potentially giving up the opportunity to get into the majors, except to go through the qualifying process at the U.S. and British Open.

Grab your money now and they could always wait to start your PGA Tour career, starting from scratch with Korn Ferry Tour qualifying school or trying to qualify on Monday for PGA Tour events. That’s the path Patrick Reed took a long time ago.

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But the good guys know they could compete for seniors soon after they leave college. Jordan Spieth proved it. He was halfway through the Grand Slam his third year out of Texas. Collin Morikawa graduated from Cal in 2019. Two years later, he had already won two majors and was about to be number 1 in the world.

Davis Riley had to spend two years on the Korn Ferry Tour because the COVID-19 pandemic brought him one year ahead of major league graduation. As a rookie, he has already lost in the playoffs and is number 21 in the FedEx Cup.

“You see guys like Justin (Thomas) and Jordan arguing over a few years without being in school,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of money to play here. Bags are going up. I guess some people like to chase the dollar, others want to chase the trophy. I can’t talk about other guys. I just want to be out there. All my life I’ve dreamed of going out here and play on the PGA Tour. I want to win tournaments on the PGA Tour. “

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Are others engaged in what they have always wanted, even though it was the only option at the time? The Norman group is confident that players will see their teammates with much less ability to get a lot more money and want a share of it.

Bennett has a tattoo on the inside of his left arm, some advice his father gave him before Alzheimer’s robbed him of his ability to communicate, and he finally took his own life.

He made her write it to his father and carried it to his arm so that he could see it whenever he was preparing for a shot.

“Don’t wait to do something.”

The fifth year at Texas A&M makes you wait. This time, maybe not bad.

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Saudi money could put college stars in a difficult spot

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