SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Arizona State men’s golf alumni have traditionally been as big a part of the WM Phoenix Open as its crazy costumes and inebriated fans. This year is no different with five former Sun Devils in the field. But it’s the ASU alums not in the tournament who are most conspicuous.
Six former Sun Devils have jumped to LIV Golf, most notably Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, who have a combined 64 PGA Tour victories. Mickelson once played 30 consecutive times at TPC Scottsdale.
The five remaining Sun Devils in the Phoenix Open field have a combined five PGA Tour wins (three by Chez Reavie and two by Grayson Murray).
“The ASU presence, I feel like it’s not as much anymore,” Murray said of the Phoenix Open field.
But while LIV has drained the Sun Devil connection to the Phoenix Open, ASU coach Matt Thurmond said he does not believe it detracts from his program.
“While I appreciate everything that the PGA Tour does and has done, and I appreciate everything LIV is doing, I don’t have a horse in the race,” Thurmond said. “What I want is what’s best for our players.”
The @livgolf_league begins the season today in México.
Six @sundevilmgolf alums are on six different teams.
Anxious to see what this season looks like!
— Matt Thurmond (@MattThurmond) February 2, 2024
In 2022, Thurmond’s star player – David Puig – decided it was best for him to leave school early and join LIV. Puig now plays for Fireballs GC alongside Sergio Garcia.
“It got to the point where we felt like it was such a no-brainer for him,” Thurmond said.
Puig initially played in a few LIV events as an amateur while remaining on ASU’s team. But eventually the deal “got even better for him,” Thurmond said. So, Puig turned pro in a groundbreaking development for the upstart golf league. The young Spaniard paid his own tuition to complete his degree at ASU and still lives with three current Sun Devils golfers.
“Our relationship as friends, it didn’t change much,” Puig said.
Puig’s LIV decision foreshadowed the arrival of a far more famous Spanish Sun Devil in Rahm. The reigning Master’s champion and world No. 3 player committed to LIV in a shocking reversal last December.
Like Puig, Rahm still lives in Scottsdale. In his news conference before the LIV Las Vegas event this weekend, he expressed sadness at missing out on…