BETHLEHEM — Jim Furyk and Ernie Els have enjoyed lucrative careers on the PGA Tour, combining for more than $120 million in earnings, and continue to thrive on the PGA Tour Champions.
However, with professional golf in turmoil given the arrival of the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series, an association fronted by 20-time PGA Tour winner Greg Norman and financed by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, the two veteran players are wondering how it affects their future.
“I have concerns about what’s going on the PGA Tour,” Furyk said Tuesday during a break from practice at Saucon Valley Country Club for Thursday’s start of the US Senior Open, where he is the defending champion. “That’s where I played my career, made my living. That’s where my heart is.
“Then kind of a trickle-down effect, how does that affect us from the PGA Tour Champions and the over-50 crowd? I feel like we’re in a really good place right now. There’s got to be someone a little smarter than me who will tell you how that will trickle down and affect us. I really enjoy the Tour and playing out there and hope that that effect is not really strong.”
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Els, a four-time major champion, said the Champions Tour seems like an “afterthought” given what’s happened in recent weeks.
“With things going on now, I’m not sure what our future is going to be like, to be honest with you,” he said. “So it’s a little scary for a lot of guys. A lot of us, we’ve had good careers, so we’re pretty sound, but you still want to play and compete. That’s what this Champions Tour is all about, is giving us a chance to showcase what we do. Hopefully it will continue.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspended 17 players who competed in LIV’s inaugural event earlier this month in London. Among those suspended were Phil Mickelson, 52, who has earned more than $1.5 million on PGA Tour Champions, and players approaching 50: Lee Westwood (49) and Ian Poulter (46). Mickelson reportedly was paid $200 million to join LIV.
Being staged at Saucon Valley for the third time, the US Senior Open is a homecoming for Furyk, who was born in West Chester, grew up in the Lancaster area and is a graduate of Manheim Township High School. His prior area appearances include the SEI Pennsylvania Classic at Waynesborough Country Club in 2000 and 2002, and the AT&T National in 2010 and 2011 when the event was held at Aronimink Golf Club.
Furyk said he looks at his return to Pennsylvania in two ways.
“You can really enjoy the support and the love and being in your home state,” he said, “or you can put too much pressure on yourself and have it go the other way. So I’ll probably try to really enjoy the week and have some fun with it.”
Dave McNabb, the head professional at Applebrook Golf Club in Malvern, is no stranger to big-time golf. When he tees off Thursday at the US Senior Open, it will mark his ninth time competing in a major — three PGA Championships, four Senior PGA Championships, and now two Senior Opens.
But there will be something special teeing up close to home.
“It’s really a treat to be able to be here in front of the hometown fans,” McNabb said Tuesday before beginning a practice round. “It’ll be fun. I’m sure I’ll get tons of members’ support. My family will be able to come and watch me play for the first time in a while. Yeah, it’s going to be good.”
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Two Philadelphia Section PGA members, McNabb and Country Club of Scranton head professional Mike Molino, qualified for the championship. In an interesting twist, each player will hit the first shot of the opening round off each nine — McNabb from the first tee, Molino from No. 10.