Columbus, Ohio – Let’s start with the alternate reality. Because that would be more believable. This is where fifth-year Michigan State grad James Peutt, a young man who heads out to dig marks on the walls of the early professional golf course – positions in Monday’s playoffs, in pursuit of his Korn Ferry Tour ticket, maybe some mini-rounds begin . You wouldn’t have heard of James Peyot. He’ll be another name in the long line of knockout contestants chasing PGA Tour dreams.
But this did not happen.
Instead, 23-year-old Piot is one of the most unexpected characters in LIV’s extraordinary theatre. golfA brutal attempt to demolish the golf industrial complex and displace (or destabilize) both the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour (also known as the European Tour). Designate those who run the LIV Golf Invitational Series Piot as a strategic participant in its upcoming eight-event season. He is the American Amateur Champion and has some well known names. It has been speculated that Piot is receiving north of seven characters to participate in the tour, with numbers put forth anywhere from $2 million to $6 million. None of it was accurate, says Piot himself. for this story, the athlete He couldn’t pinpoint the exact number, but he can report, via a source, that Piot is already locked in to playing all seven of the LIV events leading up to the team’s season-ending championship at the Trump National Doral, which he hopes he qualifies for.
Whatever the dollar number, Piot is on the cusp of a life-changing amount of money to take part in a highly controversial league funded by the Public Investment Fund – an independent wealth fund directly controlled by the government of Saudi Arabia. On top of the guarantees, events in which he plays will pay at least $100,000 for three days of work (LIV tournaments are 54-hole events), even for a Bundesliga finish.
All this for a professional who recently turned rounds 78-78-81-74-71-75-73-76-75-78 in five recent exemptions at PGA Tour events, including the Masters.
Piot said this last week, during which he missed a cut in the Memorial Tournament. “Playing with elite players in a team environment, not only you with them, but you can choose their minds. Time to play some good golf and develop.”
It’s not Piot’s fault that he’s earned big money and prestige on a professional golf tour. However, it is his decision to accept. For some onlookers there, it is completely irreparable, and Saudi Arabia’s human rights record makes the whole idea unsuccessful. For others, it’s pretty obvious what would you do? A clear and understandable decision.
But when boiled down this way – so simple, so simplistic – what is lost is that, in fact, Piot is a young athlete who is put into a complex, tangled (some would say impossible) situation. There are no recruiting options in professional golf. Every profession is self-made. Other than the best roads, these Victor Hovlands and Colin Murikawas, the typical road is unpaved and unforgiving.
Piot was offered the chance to play with well-known professionals, get guaranteed starts and enjoy some early financial stability.
He took it.
How can this be morally acceptable in the eye of the beholder?
What’s beyond doubt, however, is that Piot presents an emerging dilemma in rearranging reality in the ongoing game of golf.
Senior college-graduated amateurs – formerly the PGA Tour Supply Chain and Korn Ferry Tour – now face the possibility of a very different and highly lucrative option. How long will LIV last, who knows? But it is here now and the Saudi funding is flowing. At least, it’s a good bet that this summer’s US Amateur Champion and some other top rookies will get the same chance as Piot. Most likely, so would those who would come next as well.
What will these individuals do?
And what will the PGA Tour do to secure its sovereign affairs?
While established pros like Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na head to the LIV at clear risks to their long-term PGA Tour eligibility, younger players who participate in LIV events are more or less entering with a left-hand handshake. They wouldn’t be put in some kind of prison for debtors. During a manager meeting last Wednesday at the Memorial, PGA Tour officials told player agents and managers that amateurs and non-PGA Tour members would not be penalized for playing on the LIV Tour. They will remain fully eligible to pursue status in both the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour, and remain eligible to accept tournament waivers and participate in Monday’s qualifiers.
So LIV would be a viable option, even if many fans don’t want it to be.
This brings us back to Piot.
While preparing to play at the Memorial Tournament early last week, he knew LIV Square was about to be announced for the inaugural event in London (June 9-11). There was, he says, some anxiety, wondering about the reaction. His name raised some eyebrows when the full list was dropped on Tuesday.
“The first night, it was hard to stay off social media,” Piot said. “Things people have been tweeting. You know, people you don’t even know, make judgments, things like that. At the end of the day, I tell people it’s about playing golf. It’s what I want to do with my life. It’s an opportunity.”
It is a controversial opportunity. Piot is not blind about it. While speaking to two reporters on Friday, he leaned back on his main talking point.
“At the end of the day, it’s a chance to play golf and get somewhere,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’d consider. Money is clearly a factor, but at the same time it’s an exciting form and there’s an opportunity to learn from the greats. Being around these guys – there are so many big-time winners, it’s hard not to learn and improve when you’re in that environment.”
While Piot, who grew up playing public courses near his hometown of Canton, Michigan, is listed as an amateur on LIV’s “List”, he actually went pro before playing for Colonial two weeks ago. In fact, he’s been a pro since winning the amateurs. Not only did he come of age when the Saudi Golf League fell from the sky, but he spent last season discovering the new world of NCAA legislation for name, image and likeness. He’s played his PGA Tour in Michigan golf shirts that feature the logos of Lear (a car manufacturer based in Southfield, Michigan), Barton Mallo (a Michigan-based construction company) and Carls Golfland, a local golf store chain.
All these things are in the new world and everyone makes it as they go. Piot considers him “crazy” and “tired”.
It’s been since last summer.
What’s even weirder about Piot’s track is how easily it doesn’t happen at all.
All this, you see, traces its path to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, near the suburbs of Pittsburgh, to the Oakmont Country Club. It was a Sunday afternoon last August. hot. too hot. One of those misty white sky. Piot was there, late in what appeared to be an impending American amateur loss to Austin Greiser, a junior from the University of North Carolina. It was a 3-down Piot with eight holes to play. this is done.
But then Piot won the next hole. And next. He then became the first player since 2008 to win four consecutive holes in the back nine of a U.S. Amateur Championship game. Play the last eight holes of the 3-under match. He won the 121st American Amateur, 1-up.
That was nine months ago. Here’s James Piot now: “Every now and then, you get caught up in this process, and you have to take a second look back and say, ‘Holy crap, what?’ You know – like, you’ve already done this? “It was a heckuva’s journey.”
Since holding the outstanding title of American Amateur Champion, this has opened all doors. His next exemption will be at the US Open in Brooklyn in two weeks.
Meanwhile, last week was Piot’s last scheduled start on the PGA Tour. It was another window into a world he had always dreamed of living in. On Thursday morning, he was at Muirfield Village training ground cutting balls next to Jordan Spieth, his lifelong favorite. A few minutes after Spieth left, a fan came over and asked Piot for an autograph, shouting, “Hey Jordan!”
“Sorry, alas, I’m not Jordan,” said Piot with a smile. “It’s longer.” Then Piot took some pictures with some other fans.
On Friday, Piot was in the last group to finish the afternoon play at the memorial. The sun was low, and the crowd was scattered. He performed bird number 17, which delighted the spectator couple. Rising to the age of 18, he raised his hat when the group was introduced and his amateur title was hailed. It felt like everything was too steeped in tradition.
Now, though, young James Peat is on his way to playing seven events spanning Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia with a total purse of $25 million paid out among 48 players. In five games in his career on the Tour, he’s missed five cuts and hasn’t shot at par. His trip to the memorial ended with him hitting a ghost and a tie in 108th place at 9.
It doesn’t matter much in this new world, though, does it? There is a shark in the water, and for some, there are the most unexpected opportunities in the aftermath.
(Top photo: Rob Schumacher / USA Today)