Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf Finally Tees Off
After much hoopla and controversy, LIV Golf’s first tournament is being held in London, England. Headed by 2-time British Open winner Greg Norman and funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf is the nascent competitor to the major golf tours including the US PGA Tour and (European) DP World Tour.
Featuring a maximum of 48 players, 54 rather than 72 holes, shotgun starts (where players begin play simultaneously on all 18 holes rather than starting from the 1st or 10th hole in succession), no cuts, far larger pay packets than the PGA Tour and team as well as individual competition, LIV Golf has already attracted a host of stars.
Unsurprisingly after his supposedly off-the-record comments earlier this year, 6-time major champion Phil Mickelson has signed up.
US Masters and US Open winner Dustin Johnson, who has also won 20 times on the PGA Tour, has also joined. At the time of writing it is rumoured that US Masters winner Patrick Reed and former US Open Champion and 8-time PGA Tour winner Bryson DeChambeau have also signed with LIV.
LIV Golf has also attracted other famous golfers and former major champions including Sergio Garcia, Graham McDowell, Charl Schwartzel, and Louis Oosthuizen, along with fan favourites such as Ian Poulterand Lee Westwood.
Stars staying put
4-time major champion Rory McIlroy and 2-time US PGA Champion Justin Thomas are two stars who are remaining loyal to the PGA Tour. Defending US Open Champion Jon Rahm, Tony Finau and Tiger Woods – who is rumoured to have knocked back an offer from LIV Gold in the high hundreds of millions – are some other notable stars that are staying put for now.
Of course, the PGA Tour is fighting back, trying to take the moral high ground by accusing players of wanting to play with LIV – wait for it – for the money! It denied requests by PGA Tour members to compete in London, and subsequently suspended Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and 15 other PGA Tour memberscompeting in London.
The PGA Tour is also questioning why players would want to be associated with Saudi Arabia, given the country’s notorious disregard for human rights including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
I find the hypocrisy appalling, given one can easily make similar arguments elsewhere.
For example, why are US consumers content to purchase petrol (or gasoline) that is made from oil that comes from Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer?
Or given the likes of Callaway, TaylorMade and the other golf club and merchandise manufacturers have factories in China, why is the PGA Tour ok with these companies sponsoring many of its players given the Chinese government’s despicable actions against the Uighurs?
And I could go on.
Legal tussle upcoming
To me, the PGA Tour is making such poor arguments because it knows it is in a position of weakness.
Greg Norman says his legal advice is that the PGA has no right to ban players from playing on its Tour as they are independent contractors who have the right to play wherever they want to.
No doubt that question will be settled in court but more importantly for the PGA Tour’s prospects, it doesn’t control the four Major tournaments: namely, the US Masters, US PGA, US Open and The British Open. As such, the US Open will allow LIV golfers to play its tournament next week in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The Majors are the most prestigious tournaments in world golf that every golfer wants to play in and win. I assume the PGA Tour and Commissioner Jay Monahan will try to pressure the Majors to also ban Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and co, but they are up against it. The four Majors can’t exactly claim to have the best fields in world golf if they prevent some of the world’s best players from competing in them.
PGA Tour destined to lose
Unless the PGA Tour can somehow persuade the Majors to ally with it, despite all its bullying and blustering I think the PGA Tour is destined to lose this fight.
Even though the success of Tiger Woods has led to dramatically higher pay packets for your typical golfer, LIV Golf offers professional golfers more money for less work, as well as still allowing them to play in the Majors.
Which golfer would say no to that?!
I see the PGA Tour continuing to lose more stars to LIV Golf and, as such, ultimately having to give in and come to some arrangement with Greg Norman and LIV.