Former Michigan State golfer James Piot is blundering by playing in LIV series

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Thursday, the LIV Golf Invitational Series teed off for the first time near London. I am writing about the LIV series for the first time. I hope I am writing about the LIV series for the last time.

That’s because it doesn’t deserve our attention. It doesn’t deserve to take up any more oxygen in our conversations about golf, sports or any other facet of life.

The LIV series is simply a reprehensible endeavor being funded by the repugnant government of Saudi Arabia, which uses murder as its preferred method of dealing with problems.

The Saudis, under the order of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, killed and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, father of four, U.S. resident and Indiana State graduate. That might be one of the Saudis’ most notorious acts, but it’s hardly an isolated incident. In March, the government ordered the deaths of 81 men in a mass execution, and Saudi air strikes have killed nearly 15,000 Yemen civilians since 2015. Then there’s the ongoing prosecution and killing of people for same-sex sexual activity and the country’s long-standing oppression of women.

But hey, what’s wrong with a little murder and some human-rights atrocities as long golfers get to play the game they love and do what’s right for them and their families as they grab fistfuls of guaranteed, blood-stained money that’s being whitewashed by Phil Mickelson’s toothy smile?

2022 LIV Golf London

Phil Mickelson smiles during a pro-am ahead of the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series golf tournament at The Centurion Club north of London. (Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Mickelson is the highest-profile player in the eight-event LIV series, which features 48 players on 12 teams that compete in three-round tournaments with guaranteed money and no cuts. Dustin Johnson recently resigned his PGA Tour membership while signing up with LIV and there are a few other prominent players and major winners, such as Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell.

Then there’s James Piot. He’s the defending U.S. Amateur champion, a Farmington Hills native who was a star at Michigan State and Novi Detroit Catholic Central. He also signed up, and his case might be the saddest and most costly of any player’s.

It’s indefensible for any player to join this tour when they know exactly where their paychecks are coming from. I’m not giving anyone a pass, but there’s a certain calculated risk and logic behind the aforementioned stars, who are either near the end — or at least on the back nine — of their careers. Johnson turns 38 this month and reportedly is being paid about $125 million just to join the series. By comparison, Johnson has earned a total of about $74 million in career prize money, which includes two majors.

The money and financial logic don’t excuse any player’s decision to park his conscience and sign a deal with the devil. If you followed the farce of the pretournament press conferences this week in London, you could easily see through all the pathetic excuses each player offered as justification for selling themselves and their morality for the right price.

“I chose what’s best for me and my family,” Johnson said, no doubt hoping to conjure images of his malnourished wife, Paulina Gretzky, worried about where her next meal would come from if hubby doesn’t play this series.

These veterans are lost souls who simply don’t care about their legacies or public image as they stuff their pockets with money and make their career exits.

former michigan state golfer james piot is blundering by playing in liv series 2

James Piot hits from the no. 12 tee during the first round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports

But Piot is different. He’s only 23 with his entire professional career ahead of him. He reportedly received about $1 million to sign up. Decent money, but hardly a life-changing sum for a pro golfer. He’ll also get guaranteed prize money and a place where he can play.

Great perks, certainly. But at what cost?

“Yeah, for me personally,” Piot said Tuesday at his news conference, “this is a great opportunity: 23-year-old getting to travel the world and go to places I never dreamed of and being able to make an impact on others is something I’d love to do with my career.

“Extremely grateful to be able to have this opportunity and looking forward to the future of playing everywhere I can go.”

We aren’t sure what the PGA Tour will do to players who sign up with LIV, but they’re almost certain to face some discipline, which could include a ban. There’s also the question about how the majors’ governing bodies will respond to LIV players, though the U.S. Golf Association said Tuesday that it will allow LIV golfers to compete in next week’s U.S. Open.

I don’t what the PGA Tour is waiting for. Maybe the tour wants to announce a lifetime ban just as those 48 players are at the top of their backswings during the shotgun start today.

Piot might be included in disciplinary action and a potential ban. Imagine the U.S. Amateur champ — which is a little like being a top-10 draft pick — being forbidden from competing on the world’s best golf tour.

Of course, there’s no real pro-league equivalent to golf because golfers aren’t part of teams. They love to call themselves independent contractors, which has advantages and drawbacks. For a young, unproven player like Piot, starting out as a pro and trying to earn status on any tour is extremely challenging. A little sponsor money helps, but otherwise, he’s on his own financially.

What I don’t understand is why Piot wouldn’t bet on himself. Why he wouldn’t bet he could make it to the PGA Tour, where he already has had exemptions to five events on the PGA Tour schedule. If Piot didn’t earn his PGA Tour card this year, he would have had to attempt qualifying school or join a mini-tour and work his way up. Reasonable paths for a talented player like Piot.

“But at the end of the day, I tell people, you know, it’s about playing golf and it’s what I want to do with my life,” Piot told Golf Digest last week at the Memorial. “So, for me, a part of the decision is, like I said, just developing, playing with great players and you learn (whether) it’s PGA Tour, LIV tour, wherever you’re at, you’re around golf greats. And we’ll see where it takes me.”

Professional golf is a hard road and success isn’t guaranteed for even the most promising players. Piot admitted that “obviously, money is a factor,” but so was his chance to learn from some of the world’s top players in a unique environment.

Maybe Piot is being honest and sincere about his desire to improve. But at the very least, we can say Piot has decided to take the easier road to start his career. You know, that famously nefarious road that’s paved with good intentions.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.