Icons Series unites 24 professional athletes for Ryder Cup-style golf

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Boxer Canelo Álvarez of Mexico speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in New York City. Golovkin and Canelo Álvarez of Mexico will meet for the third time on September 17, 2022 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

PA

For those tired of the dispute between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series, Tom Brookes has something that might be of interest.

The General Manager of Icons Series is hosting a two-day tournament at Liberty National that will feature 24 professional athletes from all sporting backgrounds in Ryder Cup-style competition.

It begins Thursday with two-time Major champion Fred Couples leading an American team against four-time Major champion Ernie Els and his Rest of the World team.

Players include Hall of Fame football players Marshall Faulk and Michael Strahan, recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps, Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz, Mexican boxer Canelo Álvarez, Tottenham striker Harry Cane, recently retired female tennis No. 1 athlete Ash Barty and retired Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh.

“I think golf is so relevant right now and even more so after the pandemic, that it needs an injection of innovation, of fresh air,” Brookes said Wednesday. “There are a lot of disruptions and fractures in golf right now. And what we want to do is the opposite. We want to unite icons from all sports, unite people, come together and enjoy a golf-focused entertainment product.

This will be the third event in the Icons series. The first was in Dubai in 2015 and the second in England in 2017. A planned event in Japan in 2019 was canceled due to a tsunami and an earthquake within days of each other. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the event from taking place in 2021 and Brookes said returning this year was a late decision.

However, he added that Icones had signed a deal for the next two years with Liberty National, which hosted the 2017 Presidents Cup four times and the opening event of the PGA Tour.

“I think we’ve stayed away from the celebrities and focused on athletes who by DNA are super competitive and we can try to humanize them and a different sport,” Brookes said.

The PGA Tour (John Deere Classic) and LIV Golf (Portland) have events this weekend, the first time Greg Norman’s band has played in the United States.

Bad feelings between tours intensified with the PGA Tour suspending players who signed up for LIV Golf without asking for a release. Some players, like Dustin Johnson. quit as tour members. Others like Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka did not.

Most athletes attending the Icons event understood why golfers joined LIV, with many saying they likely did what they felt was best for their families.

Els said he had a bad feeling about LIV Golf, saying he was brought up to believe pure golf was a 72-hole stroke play that includes a cut. LIV events are 54 holes without cuts.

Els’ biggest criticism was of the major golf tours, saying the Saudis had been coming for a while and now they’ve arrived in a big way. He said the tours should have considered ways for the parties to co-exist.

“It didn’t,” he said. “And now the players and everyone have been thrown in the middle. And you have to pick a side and… it’s not right.

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