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So conditioned have we become to conflict that nuance has become a forgotten part of debate. It’s a binary world. You’re either A or B, for or against, a fanboy or a hater.

That is particularly true as it relates to the exhaustingly schismastic realm of men’s professional golf. It’s not enough to love LIV. You must also hate the PGA Tour. And vice-versa. What you apparently cannot be is a fan of both. They don’t make half-and-half scarves for golf tours. Besides anything else, Elon Musk’s vitriol machine simply wouldn’t allow it. @FirstnameNumbersFlagEmoji would light up your mentions with a barrage of inarticulate insults were you to even insinuate you enjoy both products.

It’s really all very silly, the type of callow behaviour for which you would rightly reprimand a child. But hey, we are where we are. Well done us!

Anthony Kim’s much-anticipated return to the game after 12 years in self-imposed exile is particularly illustrative of the tediously dualistic times we live in.

Depending on your allegiance, convincing him to return is either a stroke of marketing genius by LIV, or evidence that the Saudi-backed league is becoming increasingly desperate in its fight for both legitimacy and relevance.

One or the other. This or that. The red pill or the blue pill.

But here’s a thought.

What if it’s both?

• Anthony Kim: 5 burning questions that need answers

• WITB: What clubs did Anthony Kim use – and what’s next?

It’s no secret that LIV is not where it wants to be. Its bankrollers have spent billions building it from scratch but remains some way short of being fully established. For all the talent it has acquired, off the course as well as on, it still doesn’t have a major television deal in either the UK or USA and it remains painfully unclear whether it will ever reach commercial maturity. Its top brass will tell you it’s all part of a very detailed, multi-year plan. Privately, though, they must have some concerns. Awareness of LIV is high, but its audience is small.

On that basis, the ‘signing’ of Anthony Kim must be viewed, on one hand, as a shrewd piece of business. Irrespective of what he did or did not achieve in his six years on the PGA Tour, the obsession with Kim stems from the mysterious, unique circumstances of his retreat, both from the game and public view. As the years have passed, the curiosity has intensified. The questions that have been stockpiled will be answered, one would suspect, this week. LIV is the conduit between a fascinated fanbase and one of golf’s most compelling characters, so of course people will tune in to watch his comeback.

What that will do is draw fresh eyeballs to the product and LIV’s hope will be that it can convince enough of them to stay long after the novelty of Kim’s return has worn off.

It’s simple but brilliant: we have something you want; now tune-in to see it.

That doesn’t mean it’s not desperate. It’s hard to imagine LIV would throw dollars at somebody who has already demonstrated he is not completely invested in the sport if the league was smashing every KPI.

The fact remains that the fields, whilst an almighty improvement on the one that debuted at Centurion in June 2022, are not as strong as they could be and that the additions of Brooks Koepka, Cam Smith and Jon Rahm have not moved the dial as much as might have been anticipated.

• Anthony Kim: The full timeline of golf’s biggest enigma

As good and as influential as LIV has become – and in such a remarkably short time, too – it’s not where it wants or needs to be. Hence, AK. The flash, brash American former phenom has been brought in more to boost ratings than to inflate competition. Yes, that’s desperate. It’s also perfectly okay.

What if it doesn’t have the desired effect? That, right there, is the gamble LIV is taking. That’s what people do when they’re desperate. They take risks, they apply different tactics, they adjust on the fly. Better that than doing nothing, no?

And tempting as it is not to speak directly to the loudest voices on social media, it’s worth pointing out that if Kim had rejoined the PGA Tour, the same people dismissing his return with a sanctimonious scoff would have their eyes on stalks and an expectant smile as wide as the first at St Andrews as the clock ticks down to round one on Friday. Equally, the LIV diehards who have received Kim’s comeback as a further sign of the league’s growing momentum would craw at the PGA Tour’s ‘sinking ship’ were the roles reversed. Such is the nature of craven partisanship.

Convincing Anthony Kim to climb off the couch is testament to LIV’s bargaining power and deep pockets, but one suspects the window to capitalise on him will be small, particularly if he doesn’t trouble the top of the leaderboard. Interest will soon give way to indifference. It’s up to the league to make the most of the space between those two points.

It promises to be a fascinating, if pugilistic, few days for the game.

Michael McEwan is the 2023 PPA Scotland ‘Columnist of the Year’ and ‘Writer of the Year’

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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