World golf is in the midst of a potentially seismic shift.
Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf, headed up by Greg Norman, is preparing an all-out ambush on the PGA Tour and its players, pledging to supercharge the sport with smaller fields, fewer events and more prizemoney.
Golf’s new ‘super league’, the LIV Golf Invitational, has just launched with an eight-event schedule to be played in 2022 and is now in the process of poaching some of the sport’s biggest names to take part.
Here’s what we know about the LIV Golf and what it means for the sport.
WHAT IS LIV GOLF?
The tour is a new upstart in the world of golf run by LIV Golf Investments, which is led by Australian legend Greg Norman as CEO.
The organisation are financially backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia, which is essentially the government’s financial arm.
The PIF recently purchased an 80 per cent stake in Premier League outfit Newcastle United, and has made investments in various other international sports.
In February this year, LIV Golf announced a $300 million USD, 10-year investment in the Asian Tour that would include an international series of 10 events across Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
A month later, the company then launched its own league, the LIV Golf Invitational series.
FORMAT: HOW WILL THE LIV LEAGUE BE DIFFERENT TO THE PGA?
Where a member of the PGA Tour would commonly play between 20 to 30 events in a season on a schedule spanning almost two years, the LIV Golf Tour is much shorter.
It will consist of seven regular-season events where players will compete both individually for points and as part of a team, of which there will be 12.
A team championship match play event, similar to the Ryder Cup, will then conclude the season.
Each event will be played over 54 holes, compared with the customary 74 holes played across four days on the PGA. It’s where the name ‘LIV’ – the roman numeral for 54 – is derived from.
Unlike the PGA, where virtually all events are played in the United States, the LIV Tour will be played across three different continents, with four events in the US, one in London, one in Thailand and another in Saudi Arabia.
There will also be shotgun starts for events and no cuts.
WHEN IS IT SLATED TO START?
The tour is set to get underway with the first event on June 9-11 at the Centurion Club in London.
It will kick off a week before the US Open gets underway. (Coincidence? We think not.)
It will then go on a four-event tour of the US through Portland, Bedminster, Boston and Chicago, before visiting Bangkok, Jeddah and then finishing with the team event back in Miami.
WHAT PRIZEMONEY IS INVOLVED?
Each of the first seven events on the LIV Golf Invitational Series will boast $20 million USD for individual prizes and another $5 million USD that goes towards the team championship.
Comparatively, purses on the PGA Tour range from the $20 million to $3.7 million USD.
WHO WILL PLAY IN THE LIV TOUR?
48 players will be registered to the tour, making for far smaller fields than what is seen on the PGA.
Multiple reports claim 15 of the world’s top 100 players have committed to the tour thus far, and more than 70 players have enlisted for the first event.
Headlining that list, according to reports, is six-time major winner Phil Mickelson, while US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau has also floated the possibility of considering the switch.
Mickelson’s commitment has caused a huge stir, after he took aim at the Saudi government and called them “scary motherf***ers”, referencing the nation’s human rights record.
Norman recently claimed in an interview with ESPN Mickelson’s comments caused a number of the world’s best players who had committed to the breakaway league to back out. The LIV Tour pushed back its initial launch date in February as a result.
Mickelson, who hasn’t been seen at a PGA event since February, later apologised for his comments while requesting a release from the tour for a ‘conflicting event’ in June; no prizes for guessing what that might be.
He has also registered to play in the PGA Championship and US Open in the same month.
HOW WILL WE WATCH THE LIV TOUR?
While the tour is yet to secure a broadcasting partner, expect this to be determined very soon now that the schedule has been announced.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE PGA?
At this point, the narrative is still very much in the PGA’s favour.
Many of golf’s biggest superstars and most influential voices, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in particular, have spoken out against the LIV Tour.
But before all of that, the PGA Tour’s distinct traditions, legacies and fan following will always prove incredibly hard to pull down.
Besides, this isn’t the first time the PGA has been faced with a threat from a rival league start-up.
Norman and media mogul Rupert Murdoch formed partnership in the mid-1990s in attempt to create the ‘World Golf Tour’, which was virtually a carbon copy to what the LIV Tour is proposed to be.
The proposal was quickly quashed by PGA Tour heavyweights while the players, led at the time by golf icon Arnold Palmer, also stuck loyal.
This time around, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has drawn a similar hardline stance, threatening to suspend and exclude any players that pledge their allegiance to the rival league.
NEWS: WHAT’S BEING SAID ABOUT THE LIV TOUR?
Greg Norman in April – “I’m a big believer that you can’t run through a brick wall without getting bloody. I’m willing to run through this wall because I’m a big believer in growing the game of golf on a global basis.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on the threat of the new tour in March – “The PGA Tour is moving on, we have too much momentum and too much to accomplish to be consistently distracted by rumors of other golf leagues and their attempts to disrupt our players, our partners, and most importantly our fans from enjoying the Tour and the game we all love so much.
“I am grateful for the strong support our top players have shown recently and publicly, and I’m extremely proud that we’ve turned the conversation around to focus on what we do best: delivering world-class golf tournaments with the best players to the best fans, all while positively impacting the communities in which we play.
“We are and we always will be focused on legacy not leverage.’’
DP World Tour pro Matt Southgate on the LIV Tour poaching young players, via Sky Sports – “Should they (LIV) have a stumbling block today because they can’t get the players of today, there’s nothing stopping them producing the players of tomorrow. That’s where it’s tough. If I was Keith Pelley (CEO of the European tour), I’d be looking at how to stop them taking those players who will potentially be in and around the Saudi tour in five years’ time.”
“Five years ago, we didn’t know Bob MacIntyre, we didn’t know Scottie Scheffler, we don’t know Viktor Hovland or either of the Hojgaard brothers.
“When you start going through the list of players who weren’t on Tour five years ago, it’s quite significant.”
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy in November 2021 – “You go back to what happened in Europe with the European Super League in football.
“People can see it for what it is, a money grab, which is fine if what you’re playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. Totally fine, then go and do that if that’s what makes you happy.
“I’m just speaking about my own beliefs; I’m playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. I honestly don’t think there’s a better structure in place and I don’t think there will be.”
Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson in February – “I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family. While there will always be areas where our Tour can improve and evolve, I am thankful for our leadership and the many sponsors who make the PGA Tour golf’s premier tour.”