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Cut Line: Pettiness reaches new level with Tee-gate and the Rory-Reed drama

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In this week’s edition, we break down a brush-off, a tee toss and a professional golf world that’s become far too litigious.

Made Cut

Rahm-bo. The Spaniard said all the right things last week when asked about the world ranking, despite obvious issues with the new math. Instead, he spoke with his game and won for the fourth time in his last six global starts at The American Express.

For his effort, Rahm moved up one spot to No. 3 in the world but, more importantly, sent an unmistakable message to the golf world that, even without his best stuff, he can still win.

“I'm, in a weird way, glad that [Sunday at PGA West] went the way it went,” Rahm said. “I've enjoyed some runaway victories, I've enjoyed some comebacks, but today was certainly a struggle. Out of the five birdies I made, what is it, one, two, three of them were tap-ins and the other two were basically 6-footers. So that tells you the story.”

It also sent a very clear message to the rest of professional golf that, regardless of what the world ranking math says, Rahm is the game’s best player at the moment.

Designated dilemma. With the addition of designated events and additional tournament minimums for top players, the looming unknowns festered, most notably how non-designated events would fare in this new world?

The early answer is, not too bad.

Last week’s American Express, a non-designated event, enjoyed its best field, according to the world ranking, since 2000, as well as a high-profile champion in Rahm. And this week’s Farmers Insurance Open, which also doesn’t enjoy elevated status, did not take the hit some thought it would, with the likes of Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele in the field.

It remains to be seen how the designated events will impact fields going forward but, at least on the West Coast, the sky’s not falling yet.

Tweet of the week

Not to be outdone, Morikawa got in the game:

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Swing big. With various deadlines looming in the antitrust case that was filed last August against the Tour, this week’s legal maneuvering appeared to announce a new, and complicated, chapter.

The Tour escalated its ongoing legal dispute with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and its governor Tuesday when the circuit filed a motion to add both to its counterclaim lawsuit against LIV Golf for interfering with its contracts with players who joined the new league.

Attorneys for the Tour claimed the Shareholders’ Agreement between the PIF, which owns 93 percent of the startup league, according to court documents, and LIV Golf proved to be a “lynchpin” that PIF had “total control over LIV” and should be added to the counterclaim as defendants.

The fund had argued it’s nothing more than an investor in LIV Golf and that as a sovereign wealth fund it’s immune from discovery in the United States. The Tour, however, claimed that PIF is involved in the day-to-day operations of LIV Golf and that the Shareholders’ Agreement proves it.

The complicated antitrust case was already on an expedited schedule that, based on numerous discovery disputes, seems wildly optimistic. Adding a sovereign wealth fund is only going to slow things down.

Tipping point. While the antitrust lawsuit filed against the Tour in Northern California lurches onward with no end in sight, a similar hearing in the United Kingdom is scheduled for Feb. 6 in London.

Instead of having the issue decided by a court, the DP World Tour and a group of players who had joined LIV Golf turned to an arbiter who will decide if the European circuit has the right to ban players who joined the breakaway league.

The danger for both sides in the dispute is an unfavorable ruling, but given the mired legal proceedings in the United States to essentially make the same ruling, there is a clarity to the case in the United Kingdom that would be welcome on this side of the Atlantic.

Missed Cut

Child-like. The tee-toss-heard-'round-the-world has been broken down more times than the Zapruder film. Tee-gate, as it’s been dubbed, began innocently enough with Patrick Reed attempting to greet Rory McIlroy on the range at this week’s Dubai Desert Classic, followed by a brush-off and a tee toss.

McIlroy, who has become the PGA Tour’s outspoken opponent of LIV Golf, said he dismissed Reed, who joined the Saudi-backed league last year, because of a subpoena he received on Christmas Eve from Reed’s lawyer.

Reed said he was simply trying to say hello and when McIlroy ignored him he flicked a tee (with his LIV Golf team logo on it) in the Northern Irishman’s direction. “[A]ct like an immature little child then you might as well be treated like one,” Reed told the Daily Mail.

“I didn’t feel the need to acknowledge him,” McIlroy said of the encounter. “And if roles were reversed and I’d have thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting a lawsuit.”

Reed has become exceedingly litigious since joining LIV Golf, with lawsuits filed against media outlets claiming defamation, but based on his behavior in Dubai it seems the only person hurting Reed’s character is himself.