LIV Golf is off to a summer break now after its first three events as this week’s AIG Women’s Open and then the PGA Tour and its lucrative FedEx Cup Playoffs take center stage.
This inaugural year of LIV Golf has so far been a roller coaster for the sport and has produced countless stories both within the golf world and in the broader sports and general news sectors. Now that the news might calm down a bit with no tournaments for the month of August and the likelihood of any significant new player announcements, we can look back on the past six months and look at what might happen in the years to come.
This “pilot” year of eight tournaments in the “Invitational” series is just that, a pilot, and Greg Norman and his team will have quickly realized that they had the potential to become a serious player in the world of golf during of the next few years. Next year, the LIV Golf League will see a total of 14 tournaments and a roster of household names including Major Champions, former World No. 1s, Ryder Cup legends and stars from every continent.
There seems to be more to come, too, with Hideki Matsuyama and Cameron Smith two of the big names rumored to be joining later in the year. LIV has picked up an impressive roster of players in 2022, especially when you consider that in April Robert Garrigus (then world No. 1043) seemed to have been one of the headliners.
The lack of big names, along with the high-profile Phil Mickelson controversy, cut the wind from LIV’s sails, so to see it where it is today is both awe-inspiring and surprising. The Saudi-backed firm has certainly been a disruptor, resulting in players being suspended from the PGA Tour, banned from the Scottish Open, £100,000 fine, legal action and dismissal of a Ryder Cup captain. Golf but louder is one of her catchphrases and LIV certainly didn’t take it easy.
Perhaps the biggest downside to LIV Golf as a product, at least for golf fans, is the lack of world ranking points and the fact that there is a feeling of exposure. It will be a bug bear for Greg Norman and the team are clearly trying to make it more of a meritocracy next year with promotion and relegation – although the big names, it seems, will be immune after signing from huge multi-year contracts. .
Sport, and golf in particular, is about the ramifications of your performance. Play badly and you miss cups, lose your card and go down levels. Play poorly in LIV and in the case of Pat Perez, you walk away with $750,000 in team winnings. Pat Perez aside, the 54-hole uncut format was criticized by Tiger Woods and the 15-time Major winner’s words certainly struck a chord with many.
Woods rarely opens up on controversial topics as he did in his press conference ahead of the 150th Open, where his scathing words will have given some pros, especially younger ones, pause.
“But what are these players doing for guaranteed money, what’s the incentive to train? What’s the incentive to go out there and earn it in the mud? You just get paid a lot of money ahead and play a few events and play 54 holes,” he said. “They play loud music and have all these atmospheres that are different.”
“I can understand that 54 holes is almost like a warrant when you get to the Senior Tour. The guys are a little older and a little more stoned. But when you’re at that young age and some of those kids – they really are the kids who made it from amateur golf to this organization – the 72-hole testing is one of them.”
Woods is certainly right that golf is a 72-hole test at the highest level and there might be some truth that older guys in particular can take to the driving range a little easier with some strength. guaranteed money, huge signing bonuses and the chance to spend more time with their family.
But for golf, or anything, to grow and attract new audiences, which is what LIV Golf is trying to do, it has to change and branch out a bit, so those changes are understandable. Do they work? It’s a debate that can take place between golfers around the world, but there’s certainly potential for LIV to appeal to more casual golf fans in years to come with shorter viewing windows and l expansion of the team/franchise element.
Squads seem to be where the money will ultimately be made, with the potential for entrepreneurs buying squads, trading players, and turning them into brands in their own right. It all sounds doable and seeing it come together should be an interesting ride.
The free element has been fantastic to watch for golf fans, who are forced to pay a subscription to watch golf behind a paywall. In the UK there is unfortunately no golf available to terrestrial viewers on traditional channels like the BBC and ITV, while football, rugby, cricket, cycling, tennis, athletics and other sports are in the spotlight. This is where LIV should really try to land, even if it’s in the form of highlights. YouTube has been great for people to actively want to watch it, and it’s the same with Sky Sports and its free live golf streams, but to really grow the sport we really need non-golf fans and of non-sports fans to stumble upon the game via a terrestrial channel.
As for the format, will golf fans continue to watch and enjoy 72-hole strokeplay with the world’s best players on the PGA and DP World Tours? Sure. Will golf fans enjoy franchise-run 54-hole tournaments featuring some of the game’s most recognized names and rising stars from all corners of the globe? The answer to that is probably also a yes.
LIV seems to have found a place in the game, filling a gap in the market that was missing where we see some familiar names playing in a slightly shorter format, and that will really only grow with the huge support from the Public Investment Fund and big ambitions. It is certainly also a world tour, something so fundamental for Formula 1, on which LIV tries to build. Golf is calling for a truly global circuit and the introduction of more tournaments next year should mean events taking place in Ireland, Spain, Australia and Latin America to add to those overseas in the this year’s calendar in England, Thailand and Saudi Arabia. .
What’s too bad is how the game has been fractured and what could happen next with the big star potential missing from the Majors, the Ryder Cup, big events on the PGA and DP World Tours and the prospect of rarely see DeChambeau, Koepka, Johnson et Cie. alongside the McIlroys, Rahms and Spieths.
For LIV to be truly a good thing for the game, it would make sense for him to strike a deal with the Towers to allow players to play freely in whatever events they choose. Boxing is really suffering as a fractured sport with different promoters and TV networks signing fighters meaning we still haven’t seen Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury after all these years and countless other fights have fallen between the cracks due to out-of-the-ring politics. Let’s hope golf doesn’t experience the same divide.
After three events, LIV has turned the world of golf upside down like we couldn’t even imagine. Whether you like it or not, it’s here to stay and the years to come are going to be very interesting, both on and off the golf course.