March 27, 2023
Interesting and Wild First Season of LIV Golf Comes to an End -

Interesting and Wild First Season of LIV Golf Comes to an End –

The inaugural season for LIV Golf ended over the weekend, ending the most disruptive year in professional golf since the PGA Tour split from the PGA of America in the late 1960s.

It’s been an interesting and wild first season for the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia backed organization. It goes from conceptual to unusual to provocative and then to shocking and back again.

From the staggering amounts it has paid top players to join its side – reportedly close to $1 billion in total – to its CEO Greg Norman’s controversial statements on and by the PGA Tour lawsuits few boring moments.

There were also eight tournaments, which included a player draft, post-event concerts, anti-Saudi protests and champagne victory celebrations.

In all of this, most of LIV Golf’s focus has been on the rewards that golfers are reaping. And for a good reason. Dustin Johnson has raised $35 million along the course, with $18 million as a bonus for winning the individual title and another $4 million for his share of the team championship.

If the rumors are true, he also received $125 million in signing bonuses, meaning his total is over $160 million. The amount is just shocking considering it took Johnson 14 years to earn $75 million on the PGA Tour.

“I really regret my decision to come here,” Johnson said dryly after the last individual stop in Thailand two weeks ago. “It’s just so awful. I’m sitting and thinking about this last night; it really kept me busy. Yeah, I just can’t get over it.”

It’s not just the big names that make big bucks. Vast amounts of money were distributed far and wide. Less savvy players like Peter Uihlein could cash large checks. His earnings for the first LIV season exceeded $12.5 million, or almost triple what he accumulated during his decade on the PGA Tour, where he never won a tournament and was ranked #394 on the career money list.

Aside from the money, LIV introduced other changes to the traditional golf tournament format that were notable: the 48-player fields, the no-cut rule, and the shotgun starts. These received mixed reviews from fans, with some suggesting that it was more of a members-guest tournament than a professional championship.

The change that seemed to spark the most interest was the team format. Players competed simultaneously individually and as part of a team (except for the last event, which was all about teams). LIV hopes to build teams that will function as franchises that can be sold. Each franchise will have a key player as a co-owner who has the opportunity to make more money as the team’s value increases.

There is no doubt that LIV Golf shook the very foundations of golf. In its truncated first season, it certainly stirred the pot and upset a fairly traditional sport at the professional level.

Phil Mickelson, the first major player to move to LIV and his biggest supporter, explained two weeks ago that the new circuit is trending up while the PGA Tour is going the other way. After being approached about those comments by Rory McIlroy, the left-hander traced them back while still touting the success of his new home.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said things like that,” Mickelson admitted. “I don’t know but if I just look at LIV Golf and where we are today, where we were six, seven months ago and people say that’s dead in the water and we’re beyond that. Here we are today, a force in the game that is not going away, having the players of this caliber that are moving professional golf around the world, and the excitement in countries around the world to have some of the best players in the game of golf come to their country and compete. It’s quite remarkable how far LIV Golf has come in the last six, seven months. I don’t think anyone can disagree with that.”

Mickelson is not wrong. LIV Golf has created a deep place in the golf landscape in a short time. But most of that comes from the money that’s been split in contracts and wins. On the course, very little attention was paid to the actual product. Few golf fans can report great finishes or magical shots from this year’s tournaments. In fact, it’s safe to say that not many can remember which players won which events.

That was LIV’s biggest problem in its first season: the money stole the headlines. In June, at the RBC Canadian Open, McIlroy battled Justin Thomas and Tony Finau on the track at St. George’s before scoring a 64 and defending his title north of the border. It was the competition on the court that the huge crowds remembered, not the size of the first-place check.

At the same time in London, Charl Schwarzel won the first LIV tournament, with Hennie Du Plessis in second place and Brandon Grace and Uihlein in third place. They were followed in the rankings by Sam Horsfield, Oliver Bekker and Adrian Otaegui.

Aside from a former Schwartzel snagging the $4 million first-place check, it wasn’t hard to guess which tournament garnered more attention.

LIV needs to change that. The best way is to show the product to the world, which it didn’t do with a wider reach. LIV Golf has only been seen on its own website, YouTube or online streaming service DAZN, not exactly the first places you think of for your Sunday afternoon golf fix. Canada got some TV time with CHCH, a Hamilton, Ontario based station with national coverage, which aired a few rounds. Bit by bit the same thing happened in a number of other countries, but there was no major broadcast partner.

LIV has not yet been able to secure a deal with a TV station, although it is said to be in negotiations. The major US networks rejected LIV mainly due to previous agreements with the PGA Tour. Apple and Amazon, two other possibilities, said they have ended negotiations to be the home of the tour. LIV may need to buy time on a network and then sell its own advertising. This isn’t an ideal method, but there don’t seem to be many other options.

There’s also the issue of on-site crowds, which tended to be smaller than PGA Tour stops. They increased over the season, with decent galleries in Boston, Chicago and Miami, but tickets were offered for as little as a dollar on resale sites.

For Season 2, not only does LIV need to shift focus from checks to shots — which might be difficult with a total purse of $405 million — but other things LIV need to do, some small and some pretty significant.

That list will include finding out how its players can earn world ranking points and compete in major championships, right down to a website that appears to be functional and working in real-time (for example, there was no live scoring for the first event). While we’re at it, taking out the army of LIV Twitter bots might help his image as well.

Although the next tournament won’t take place until February, there is still a lot to do in the coming weeks. There’s the battle with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, which is likely to be fought in the courtroom rather than the golf course, and more big-name players are expected to make the leap from the PGA Tour to LIV.

The PGA Tour, for its part, had to respond to LIV. It has drastically changed its schedule, creating a number of upscale, big-money tournaments, some of which are funded from its reserves. It still has the biggest stars in the game, the best seats to play and a brand new TV deal. Despite being forced to react and react, it’s still the best golf product on the planet.

Of course, LIV Golf would like to change that and that won’t be possible in the foreseeable future. Through all the ups and downs, from the battles between proponents and detractors, it has weathered its first year with some vigor.

Talor Gooch, who arrived at the circuit with the first tournament in London in June, perhaps best summed up LIV’s inaugural campaign in his Sunday press conference after celebrating being part of the team champion: “How could they ignore us now?”

#Interesting #Wild #Season #LIV #Golf #TSNca

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