The first LIV Tour vs. PGA Tour showdown of the 2023 season goes to the PGA Tour.
The 51 PGA Tour regulars who teed it up at the Masters Thursday completed their 18 holes in an average of 71.39 strokes. That was a half stroke under par and more than a full stroke better than the 17 LIV Tour players, who averaged 72.41.
Brooks Koepka alone represented the LIV guys among the tournament’s top 15 after the completion of play Thursday, and he was also the only LIV regular who showed out brilliantly.
Koepka turned in a seven-under 65 to take a share of the first-round lead with PGA Tour vets Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm.
The problem for the LIV Tour was what transpired any place Koepka wasn’t playing. The four-time Major champion was the only LIV representative among 16 players who broke 70 Thursday. Only five other LIV guys broke par; only reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith (70) by more than one stroke.
Eight LIV Tour players failed to break Augusta National’s par of 72, and seven of those project to finish outside the Friday cutline of 73.
On a percentage basis, Thursday was a clear win for the PGA Tour guys.
Here are the percentages:
Under 70 5.9% 27.4%
Top 25 11.7% 41.2%
Under par 35.3% 52.9%
Outside top 50 41.2% 25.5%
Among the big LIV Tour names who came up small Thursday, Bryson DeChambeau (74), Louis Oosthuizen (74), and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (77) stood out.
By contrast, the only front-rank PGA Tour name who jeopardized his chances of making the cut by his play Thursday was Tiger Woods, who turned in a 74.
That left Woods in a large tie for 54th in a field where only the top 50 and ties advance.
The Masters is the first time that a large contingent of LIV Tour regulars has competed in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event since last year’s British Open, which was won by Cam Smith a short time before he jumped to LIV.
There were 11 LIV players who made the cut in the 2022 British Open field and they averaged a four-round total of 281.36. Twelve other LIV regulars missed the cut. At 275, Dustin Johnson had the best four-round performance. That was good for a tie for sixth.
A total of 44 PGA Tour regulars made the cut at the 2022 Brit and they averaged 279.88, about 1.5 strokes less than the LIV guys. Another 23 PGA Tour regulars went home Friday after missing the cut.