The appeal was an easier travel schedule with an opportunity to earn more money from larger wallets. That’s why Peter Uihlein left the PGA Tour to attend the Saudi-funded LIV Golf.
Which is why he’s on the PGA Tour in the first place.
Three years after Oehlen turned professional, he has already played in 32 countries in nine rounds. The stamps in his passport were unlike most Americans who have a pedigree for being an American amateur champion, two-time Walker Cup player, and the world’s #1 amateur.
He is best known as the 33-year-old who has never managed to finish third during his five years on the PGA Tour, and who has raised just over $11 million in six LIV Golf events. That’s more than he’s achieved on the course in the 10 years since leaving Oklahoma.
“Financially, it was exceptional,” Oehlen said. “Five years in Europe, five years on the PGA Tour, and I was ready for something different. The first six events worked out really well. As DJ (Dustin Johnson) says, I’m not too disappointed.”
Johnson is the biggest star among those to escape to LIV, with two majors and other weeks ranked #1 in the world by any player since Tiger Woods. He has already made about $31 million.
The narrative on LIV Golf starts with the money, whether it’s Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Uihlein or Talor Gooch.
For Uihlein, no apologies are needed.
“The way I see it is when I was in Europe and decided to join the PGA Tour, I did it for easier travel and to make more money,” he said. “When the LIV came along, it was less play if you wanted to. I could play less and earn more. I don’t see what I did differently than I did when I left Europe for the PGA Tour.
“Obviously some people don’t appreciate it,” he added.
Uihlein is one of three players – along with Bryson DeChambeau and Matt Jones – who remain plaintiffs in an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.
He said he has no intention of returning – “I don’t miss playing the PGA Tour” – and isn’t sure why he didn’t resign or why his name wasn’t removed from the suit once LIV Golf joined, as Phil Mickelson and other players did.
The PGA Tour suspended Uihlein when he played his first LIV Golf event outside London in June, and said the suspension is now four years away. could be more.
“They cut off contact with me because I wasn’t abiding by their request to stop playing,” he said. “They beat me up a year after each event. I stopped after four one-sided emails. I could be suspended for six years. I don’t know.”
There is more grudge than bitterness toward the PGA Tour. It pays tribute to the tour’s impact on every community where it plays, particularly the charity. He makes no excuses for not playing better except that it didn’t work out for him.
Uihlein was actually looking at getting back on the European table a few years ago until the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. At that point, there were no real alternatives to the time split between the PGA Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour.
“The most fun I ever had was playing internationally,” said Oehlen, whose father, Wally Oehlen, chairman and CEO of Acushnet, the parent company of Titleist.
Traveling to distant lands – Kenya, Kazakhstan, Singapore and Switzerland – meant staying in the same hotels as part of the itinerary. That’s how I feel now, and he’s happy. Of course, $11 million can lift anyone’s spirits.
LIV Golf did not chase Uihlein. Sought to LIV.
“I reached out after Phil’s comments and Rory declared him dead,” Oehlen said.
It was in February, when Mickelson was quoted as saying the Saudis were “scary moms (expletives)” and all the big names leaning toward LIV suddenly vowed to support the tour. This prompted Rory McIlroy to say the rival league was “dead in the water”.
Turns out everyone has a price.
Uihlein tied for third on his LIV debut. He earned a runner-up finish, most recently in a playoff in Saudi Arabia against Koepka, with whom he once shared a house in Florida while both were making their way on the Challenge Tour of Europe.
That gave Uihlein enough points to finish third in the season standings. He earned $2,125,000 for finishing second after teammate LIV Koepka, $750,000 for being on the winning team and a $4 million bonus for being third in the points race.
Compare that with the roughly $9 million he has played for 10 years in 40 countries now. It is also up to 10 rounds.
“Don’t forget, I’m also a member of the MENA Tour,” Oehlen said with a laugh, referring to LIV Golf’s new alliance with the Development Tour in a bid to get world ranking points. “I keep asking for my player badge so I can add it to my collection.”
What he doesn’t know – and probably doesn’t – is how he compares to the best. Uihlein obviously swings well and plays better. How will he handle full fields, not just the 48-man fields at the start of the rifle, and more 72 holes instead of 54?
“That’s what I signed up for,” he said. “I think it’s like F1 and NASCAR. Who’s the better driver? You’ll never know.”
He doesn’t seem to care. He loves the side of the team and the camaraderie he hasn’t felt since college and the early days of traveling the world. And yes, he loves money. Ohlin said he hopes to make $11 million in a few years, not five months.
Uihlein has played three Asian Tours along with LIV Golf commitments. Three other “International Series” events have been scheduled with LIV funding. Money did not quench his curiosity to see the world.
He said, “I may go to Egypt.” “I’ve never played in Egypt.”
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