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COLUMN: LIV Golf gives players a new-found flexibility to play the game on their terms, appealing to new audiences.

Take it or leave it, but LIV Golf is here to stay based on the scene this past week at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course outside of Portland.

It's not just the money, but it's the set up. From the parking, to the concessions, the festivities offered during and after the event, the course conditions which were far from easy, and of course the media facility which was top-tier. LIV came to play and if it's sustainable from an interest standpoint, what it brings to the table — besides the money — is pretty alluring.

Matthew Wolff, a 23-year-old former college star who has a PGA Tour win and two top-5 finishes in major championships to his name, made his LIV debut in Portland and spent a good portion of his Tuesday press conference prior to the tournament speaking to the relaxed atmosphere of the event.

Wolff has spent the better part of the last year struggling not only with his game, but also with his mental health. The 2019 Haskins Award winner — which is given to the male college golfer of the year — has just two top-10s and is currently ranked 57th in the FedExCup standings, but more prominently took two months in the middle of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season to focus on his happiness.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Phil Mickelson walks to the 10th hole tee during a LIV Golf pro-am event June 29, 2022 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Oregon.

In an era where mental health finds itself being confronted by a number of sports' biggest stars and prominently with tennis' Naomi Osaka and gymnastics' Simone Biles', Wolff's concerns and now his suggested revival as part of the LIV Tour is becoming a thing associated with golf's newest distraction.

"I've only been here for a couple of days and you know, everyone seems to have a smile on their face," Wolff said during his pre-tournament press conference. "Everyone's happy and there's some excitement and energy around here. It's nice. I feel like I'm smiling a lot."

That sentiment shifted with others who spoke to the press Tuesday, but akin to their mental health, players from Patrick Reed to Brooks Koepka notably mentioned the time commitment — or lack thereof — that was part of their attraction to LIV.

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Koepka spoke to recent injury-plagued seasons that have led to a lingering knee injury as fodder for his move away from the PGA Tour, and pointed to a slimmer schedule with more time to rest and rehab as a major allure to playing the 8-event tour.

"For me, to look what I've had to go through the last few years on my knees," Koepka said, "the pain the rehab, all this stuff, I realized we need a little bit more time off."

Pat Perez, who's 46 years old and playing his first LIV event, spoke very candidly about his age and where he is regarding his career as the appeal. Having played professionally on the PGA Tour since 1998 and having played more than 500 events, Perez pointed to his desire to be more present in his new family's lives as making this decision a no-brainer.

He said he missed the birth of his son this past year because of his standing on the PGA Tour's FedExCup standings necessitating him competing so as to keep his playing privileges going forward. That's not something that sits well with the aging competitor, and something he said will always haunt him going forward.

"It sucked," Perez said. "I'll have to tell him some day why I wasn't there."

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Dustin Johnson tees off during the LIV Golf pro-am event Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Oregon.

That feels a bit dramatic, after-all Perez will have from here forward to convince his infant son of his undying affection for him, but it does help to hammer-home what seems to be a widespread opinion amongst his peers that they value something they have little of — time at home.

LIV — at least for now — offers them that, and that shouldn't be taken lightly by the fledgling circuit nor the historic one efforting to retain their services.

There's plenty not to like about LIV. From it's highly questionable Saudi backing, to its dilution of the competitive product we've become accustomed to on a weekly basis, it's disrupting the natural order of a sport that leans heavily on its historical roots.

Purists are shaking their heads, humanitarians are wagging their fingers, and fans like me are rolling their eyes at much of the rhetoric PGA Tour "traitors" are using in an effort to justify what's predominantly a cash grab for golfers looking for the easy way out. But it's not going away, it offers players a viable and relaxing alternative to the typically cutthroat professional option, and is giving fringe golf fans more of what they want and less of what they don't.

You may not like what it represents and I may not like what it's doing to the game, but the players are taking notice and that's a problem for the establishment — like it or not.

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