James Piot has just turned pro but has the 2021 American amateur champion already put his career in danger by signing with LIV Golf? | Golf News and Tour Information

DUBLIN, Ohio — James Piot just wants to be a professional golfer, so he’s taken big freebies from Greg Norman’s minions at LIV Golf — because being “pro” is like doing something for pay — and will take part next week in the first event of the LIV Invitational series outside of London.

Tons of free money sounds pretty appealing to a 23-year-old fresh out of college who only made his second professional start last week at the Memorial. Again it has proven attractive to a myriad of golfers of varying experience and levels of success, many of whom find the most important thing about the money they receive is its wealth and not its origins. . These origins are not only questionable but unseemly, linked to the Public Investment Fund, which happens to be under the auspices of the Saudi government.

Golf already has ties to Saudi Arabia, so it’s a little late, but not unwarranted. But put that aside.

Slim rail and with a nasal voice embellishing his seriousness, Piot is no villain for doing what he thinks is the best avenue to pursue his professional career. A recent fifth-year graduate from Michigan State, he is, in fact, probably best placed to take the road he has chosen – the road not taken, not available until now, in fact, and a road with fewer obstacles, frankly.

“For me the offer was, you know, you’re going to play golf and you’re going to have status somewhere… so for me, I thought that was fantastic,” Piot said after drawing 75-78 at the Muirfield Village Golf Club to miss the cup at the Memorial.

Piot won the US Amateur at the legendary Oakmont Country Club last year and because of it has had byes at five PGA Tour events this year, including the Masters. He also secured a spot at the US Open in two weeks at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Had he played well in those events, he might have earned his place on the PGA Tour. Of course, few young players have been outstanding enough to take advantage of the opportunity, and Piot not only hasn’t made the cut in any of the five events, but has yet to break par. His best effort was an even 71 game in the first round at RBC Heritage.

Until the arrival of LIV golf, Piot would have considered mini-tours, the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament, perhaps the Challenge Tour in Europe and other even less attractive options, while figuring out how to win his life. Many of today’s top PGA Tour players learned their skills on the Korn Ferry Tour. Brooks Koepka, winner of four major tournaments, cut his teeth on the Challenge Tour.

Instead, Piot, who leaves for London and the first LIV Golf event on Sunday, will jump straight into the fire against Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood, among others, while dangling his feet into a pot of d ‘gold . Indeed, he received some money in advance – very good money, maybe $1 million or more – so his trial by fire will be appeased with the balm of solvency.

“At the end of the day, it’s an opportunity to play golf and have status somewhere,” he said. “That’s kind of what I saw. Obviously money is a factor, but at the same time it’s an exciting format and there’s an opportunity to learn from the greats. Being around these guys, there are so many major championship winners, it’s hard not to learn and improve when you’re in that environment.

While it’s unclear what the ramifications will be for tour members like Johnson, Garcia and others — fines, suspensions and PGA Tour bans are likely on the table — Piot is a pioneer of another way, being perhaps the first of many college bests. players who choose to delay their bid for the PGA Tour and major championships to build an early nest egg.

“I can definitely see that being a factor for guys coming out of college, young players who can earn maybe three times as much playing X number of events and then maybe move on,” said Jordan Spieth. “That could be one of the biggest threats to the PGA Tour if the younger guys opt for that other tour.”

Of course, if LIV Golf grows and takes a significant place, how many places would be available for college All-American types who have not proven themselves at the professional level? The choices might be slim in the future.

Thus, Piot’s timing seems rather fortuitous. Not that it was an easy decision. He said he’s been staying off social media for the past few days after the list of attendees for the first LIV Golf event was released on Tuesday. OK, he took a look, saw the reactions and decided ‘the most stressful six, seven months of my life, since winning the Am’, probably didn’t need any improvements.

“Things that people retweet and, you know, people, you don’t even know, are judgmental, stuff like that,” Piot said. “But at the end of the day, I tell people, you know, it’s about playing golf and that’s what I want to do with my life.

“So for me part of the decision is like I said, just develop, play with great players and you learn [whether] it’s the PGA Tour, the LIV Tour, wherever you are, you’re surrounded by great golfers. And we’ll see where it takes me.

He still hopes that one day it will bring him back to the PGA Tour. He even hopes he might receive more sponsor exemptions this year, which seems a bit naive. As a non-tour member, he certainly faces no penalties for starring in the LIV series. They can’t stop him from trying to qualify on Monday.

But will touring be willing to grant him an exemption after his involvement in LIV? A legitimate question.

In the meantime, he’s taking things one step at a time, though his goal is to qualify for the LIV Golf Tour Championship. Even on a rookie circuit, in a peloton that, if awarded world ranking points, wouldn’t be up to a Korn Ferry Tour event, he has his work cut out for him.

“At the end of the day, it’s just golf,” he said.

No, it’s more than that. It’s professional golf, which he wants, but there’s also a political element, and a social one too. So he’s going to get a lot of different experiences, and he’s probably going to get them, to paraphrase HL Mencken, good and hard.

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