Event two of eight on the controversial LIV Golf Series calendar takes place this week, with the Greg Norman led Tour making its first foray into America.
Once again, the players signing up to play for the exorbitant prizemoney, let alone their sign on fee, have dominated much of the golf news landscape in recent weeks despite multiple major championships taking place.
Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka appeared to make an about face on where he intended to play his golf moving forward by joining the Saudi-backed league. The American joined by Australian Open winner Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Matthew Wolff and Spanish amateur star, now pro, Eugenio Chacarra in signing over the past week.
Unlike the venue for the first event, Pumpkin Ridge will be more familiar for American fans on the back of the previous events it has played host to, while the polarising Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed will both make their first LIV starts this week.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Inaugural event.
South African Charl Schwartzel won the first event held at the Centurion Club outside of London earlier this month. The Masters winner reaching seven-under through 54-holes to take the title, and more
RIGHT: Charl Schwartzel won the first LIV trophy at the start of the month. PHOTO: Montana Pritchard/LIV Golf/Getty Images.
COURSE: Make no mistake, Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club is no out and out classic piece of architecture, but the club does have a fairly impressive tournament hosting history given it only came into existence in 1992.
Sitting 20 miles west of Portland itself on what was once farmland, the club has two courses, the public Ghost Creek and private Witch Hollow that will welcome the 48 players this week.
Host of two U.S. Women’s Opens, the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the Korn Ferry Tour in the past, Pumpkin Ridge is most famous as the site of Tiger Woods’ third straight U.S. Amateur win in 1996 when he defeated Steve Scott on the 38th hole.
Designed by Bob Cupp and John Fought, the Witch Hollow layout can be stretched out to more than 7,000 yards, with the par-5 18th arguably its best, so much so World Golf Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez named it her favourite hole in the world. Of course, if you’re taking in the golf this week, the shotgun starts each day will mean the 18th may not be where all the action happens come Saturday’s last round.
PRIZEMONEY: US$25,000,000 ($20 million for the individual event; $5 million to be split among the leading teams)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: All eyes will be on Brooks Koepka as he makes his LIV debut following his angry response to questions about the circuit at the U.S. Open and word from fellow PGA Tour players that the former World No.1 was intending to stay put before his shock decision.
Koepka, who had one of the most dominant runs in major championships in recent years before knee injuries, has not been anywhere near his best this year, and hasn’t won since early 2021 and was 55th at the U.S. Open in his last start.
Given his apparent disinterest in the regular grind of Tour golf away from the majors it will be fascinating to watch how he finds LIV Golf without any history on the line and with his bank account already filled with an eye watering amount of money.
Koepka’s former sparring partner, Bryson DeChambeau, makes for another interesting prospect this week in Oregon.
Having battled with a hand injury that required surgery, amongst other injuries, the 2020 U.S. Open winner has a best finish of T25 at the limited field Sentry Tournament of Champions back in January and was T56 at his national Open last start.
After missing the cut by a long way at Brookline, Phil Mickelson remains an intriguing player as he continues to get back to competitive golf after his extended hiatus.
Mickelson will no doubt have some supporters playing back in America for a second straight week and will want to find something before he heads to St. Andrews.
Another recent defector, Eugenio Chacarra will be worth tuning in for as the No.2 amateur in the world before taking the pro plunge, with a soft cash filled landing it might be added.
Chacarra will be unfamiliar to many outside of Spain and America where he played his college golf, but is worth keeping an eye as he owns a serious golf game.
There is one less Aussie teeing it up this week than there was in the UK, where Travis Smyth had himself a week via the team competition to bank more than A$1 million over the course of two weeks.
Smyth got in to the last event on the back of an Asian Tour runner-up and if he is to continue to get LIV starts will need to continue to impress.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Matt Jones, Jed Morgan, Travis Smyth, Wade Ormsby and Blake Windred.
Beginning at 6:15am (AEST) Friday, coverage will be available via the LIV Golf website, YouTube and Facebook channels.