DUBLIN, Ohio — As James Piot put a bow on his Memorial Tournament experience, a would-be bogey putt proved unkind. It lipped out, and the 2021 U.S. Amateur champion missed the cut.
Piot finds himself in a unique position, as the 23-year-old, who turned professional last week, was also announced Tuesday as one of the participants in the first LIV Golf event which will be contested in London. He will leave for the event on Sunday.
Initially, LIV Golf leader Greg Norman did try to speak with Piot about the possibility of joining the Saudi-backed tour, but that message and subsequent return message were both missed, so it was on the LIV public relations team to make that connection.
Piot said this process took several weeks to complete. Following a nondescript senior season at Michigan State, he has been relying on sponsor exemptions to participate on the PGA Tour and has struggled to find his game, specifically with his driver.
Still he spoke positively about the PGA Tour to the four reporters who approached him after Friday’s round.
“My game is kind of a little off these last two months,” he said. “It’s a grind but you’ve got to stick to it. Nothing to hang my head about, I have to keep focusing on getting better and watching these guys is phenomenal… I love playing every PGA Tour event, you know when you are playing with the best players it makes you better.”
While Piot did concede that he was paid in advance, though he has not spoken to anyone about the value and at the same time stated that the dollar amounts surmised on social media were incorrect. He said his playing in London is due to multiple factors.
“I know I’m playing golf next week,” said Piot. “It’s a cool format, playing in a team, especially coming from college.”
Since winning the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club, where he overcame being down three holes with nine to play, it has been a stressful time for the Michigan State golfer as a lot more eyes have shifted in his direction this week.
Dealing with the aftermath of that success has shown Piot how close he was to not having a lot of these opportunities. He admitted to having a “holy crap” feeling every now and again when he allows himself to look back.
“You get thrown in the fire right away,” Piot said. “You’re playing PGA Tour events, as a college kid who has I feel been on the edge of greatness, the U.S. Am was the coolest thing in the world. It’s been hard but it’s approaching it with the positive mindset of learning and getting better.”
As a 23-year-old Piot certainly views his social media pages, but given Tuesday’s announcement it has been difficult to stay on social media. As for some of the backlash, which came as a direct opposition of his playing in the event, it has left an impression on him.
“The things people are tweeting and people you don’t know are making judgments … but at the end of the day, I tell people that it’s about playing golf,” said Piot. “For me, it’s another opportunity.”
In the moment, Piot admitted to not thinking as much about the public image, just trying to be good to people but it certainly hurt him that people expressed negative feelings about his decision. Many in the golf world have criticized players for purportedly helping Saudi Arabia ‘sportswash’ its well-chronicled human rights violations.
As for his peers, Piot was concerned about their thoughts, but sitting at lunch in the Muirfield Village clubhouse, there was an overwhelming expression of happiness directed towards him.
On his end, Piot does not want this to close the book on his PGA Tour career. He expressed a desire to still play, but as long as he is playing golf, his goal is just that — to play for a living.
“I hope the PGA Tour looks favorably on me and allows me to still have opportunities,” he said. “Either way, playing golf professionally is my dream and what I plan on doing.”
After the London event, Piot will tee it up at the U.S. Open in greater Boston the following week and then at the LIV Golf event at Pumpkin Ridge in early July.