Best Players on the LIV Golf tour

The five most decorated players who left the PGA Tour to join LIV

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Competition is good. Healthy competition leads to improvement and spurs the evolution of the games we love. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan recently addressed the media for the first time since the LIV has poached some of its biggest names. Monahan was blunt, stating: “If this is an arms race, and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete.”

Related: The 20 Best Golf Accessories to Have in 2023

It has been announced that the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia will be merging their LIV Golf Tour with the PGA Tour, with a December 31, 2023 deadline in place to come to a final agreement. Whether or not this merger actually happens is anyone's guess at this point.

It’s clear those who left the PGA Tour are not motivated by legacy or the evolution of golf, but by dollar bills. So who are the best players that collected their bag and joined the LIV golf tour?

10. Henrick Stenson

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Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

22 Professional Wins: 2016 Open Championship

Henrick Stenson's career can be traced all the way back to 1998, and has been filled with ups and downs since then. In his LIV Golf debut, the Swede won the LIV Golf Invitational Series, making it an exciting start to his new golf era. Despite his success on the LIV golf tour that came with a heaping pay bump, Stenson did face several repercussions for the decision to join LIV such as the Swedish Golf Federation ending their partnership with him, and his removal from his position as the captain of the European Ryder Cup team.

9. Mito Pereira

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Jason Butler / Getty Images

10 Professional Wins

Mito Pereira first turned professional in 2015, In 2019, he qualified for his first Major, and though he cut cut he quickly bounced back and came in third at the 2019 Pan American Games quickly following his disappointing first Major run. Pereira really made a name for himself at the 2022 PGA Championship where he played really well until the last day. The Chilean joined LIV Golf in 2023 and is hoping to build off his growing success in the 2024 season.

8. Joaquin Niemann

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(Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

9 Professional Wins: 2022 Genesis Invitational

The loss of Joaquin Niemann didn't hurt the stardom of the PGA Tour, but was a worrying sign of what the future may hold. Niemann is only 23 years old, and remains one of the best young golfers in the world. He won the Genesis Invitational in 2022, a sign that Niemann was on a clear trajectory to be a dominant golfer. It was publicly covered that Niemann was on the fence about whether to join the LIV Tour or stay with the PGA. After a weekend at a LIV Boston event, he would make his decision. The PGA Tour lost one of the most exciting young golfers in the world in Joaquin Niemann, but Niemann also may have put a ceiling on what his legacy will be in golf.

7. Dustin Johnson

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(Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

28 Professional Wins: 2020 Masters Champion, 2016 U.S. Open Champion

Dustin Johnson is one of the most decorated golfers to join the LIV tour. Not only has Johnson won two Majors, but he is the only person to ever win all four of the World Golf Championship events. He’s a two time PGA Tour Player of the Year and won the FedEx cup in 2020. In 2017 Johnson was the world #1 ranked golfer and held that title for over 60 weeks. Johnson committed to joining LIV in early June of 2022.

6. Bryson DeChambeau

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(Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

10 Professional Wins: 2020 U.S. Open Champion

After initially declining an invitation to the LIV golf league, Bryson DeChambeau ultimately would join the league after missing the cut at the Memorial Tournament. DeChambeau has increasingly grown a reputation for budding heads with officials on the tour and taking extended time to tee off. He has won 10 professional tournaments with a single Majors victory since going pro in 2016. One thing that the LIV golf tour gets in Bryson DeChambeau is someone who can absolutely send the ball off the tee. He was the PGA Tours longest driver in 2020 and is looking to translate that talent to the LIV tour.

5. Patrick Reed

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(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

9 Professional Wins: 2018 Masters

Another Masters champion to depart from the PGA Tour was Patrick Reed, who won the historic tournament in 2018. Reed is known for budding heads with the PGA and has even been seen as a controversial figure in the sport for some time. He even filed a defamation lawsuit against the Golf Channel because he believed they were conspiring with the PGA Tour to defame his name. Controversies aside, Reed remains one of the best golfers in the world, and in-turn the PGA Tour will take a hit because of it.

4. Phil Mickelson

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(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

57 Professional Wins: 2004, 2006, 2010 Masters champion, 2005, 2021 PGA Championship, 2013 Open Championship

The most decorated player to join the LIV tour to date is without a doubt Phil Mickelson. Mickelson has won nearly 60 professional tournaments, including three green jackets. Mickelson's career on the tour will be greatly remembered for his epic battles against Tiger Woods on some of the biggest stages. Mickelson did participate in the 2022 U.S. Open, but did not make the cut after finishing 144th out of 156 total participants. It is rumored that Mickelson will be earning upwards of $200 million playing for LIV.

3. Cameron Smith

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(Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

6 Professional Wins: 2022 Open Championship

Without a doubt the most promising golfer the LIV tour poached from the PGA is Aussie golf phenom Cameron Smith. Smith is only 29 years old, and made huge waves during the 2022 PGA Tour. He finished in third at the Masters and even took home The Open Championship trophy. Recently, Smith won the LIV even in Chicago, Illinois, securing him a $4 million pay-day. That is nearly double the prize money he earned for winning The Open Championship, one of golf's most prestigious tournaments. Smith remains one of the best golfers in the world today, but may never receive that recognition because of his decision to join LIV.

2. Brooks Koepka

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(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

15 Professional Wins: 2018, 2019 PGA Champion, 2017, 2018, 2023; U.S. Open Champion

Brooks Koepka was a budding star on the PGA tour. He began his professional career in 2012 on the European Challenge Tour. He would win his first PGA tour event in 2015 at the Waste Management Open and then go on the run of a lifetime, winning the U.S Open championship in back-to-back years, being the first golfer to accomplish the feat in 30 years.

Koepka then defended his PGA Championship in 2018-19, the first person to do so since Tiger Woods. Koepka is the latest golfer to join the LIV tour after vehemently denying he would join the league.

1. Jon Rahm

Jhn Rahm

20 Professional Wins, 11 PGA Tour Wins: 2023 Masters, 2021 US Open

Jon Rahm, the 29-year-old Spaniard, sent shockwaves through the golfing world when he signed a reported $566,000,000 deal to join LIV on December 7, 2023, making him the world's highest paid athlete in 2023. Part of the deal included access to the Saudi Arabian Royal Jet, as well as his own personal 10-person team.

In June of 2023, Rahm said, "To be honest, part of the (LIV) format is not really appealing to me. Shotgun three days to me is not a golf tournament, no cut. It's that simple." He later said that $400,000,000 would not change his life and that he was more interested in history and his legacy.

How quickly things change.

The #6 ranked men's golfer on the planet heading to LIV has president Greg Norman boasting that his phone has been "blowing up" since the news was announced, with other prominent PGA players looking to come aboard.

His professional accomplishments include being the PGA Tour money list winner in 2020-21, the 2021 PGA Player of the Year, the 2020-21 Byron Nelson Award winner, the 2021 U.S. Open Champion and most recently winning the 2023 Masters, beating Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson by 4 strokes.

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