Professional golf is about to enter a new era. The LIV tour has taken the world by storm.
The LIV tour is the brainchild of Greg Norman and his backers, who have given $4 billion to build this tour. “LIV” is the Roman numeral for 54, the number of holes in each tournament.
The LIV tour is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is the richest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Human rights campaigners have accused the Saudi organizers of “sportswashing,” using these events to distract from controversies over the country’s record.
The initial LIV Golf Invitational was held June 9 in London. A field of 48 players representing 12 countries competed in a three-round, 54-hole, no-cut event.
There was a shotgun start, meaning all 48 players teed off at the same time on different holes so every player was out on the course at the same time.
They also had a team competition as well as the individual stroke play, with prize money totaling $25 million dollars. The winner, Charl Schwartzel, received the $4 million first place money. His team also came in first place, so he received an additional $750,000. Prior to this tournament his career earnings were just over $20 million.
For comparison, this year’s PGA Championship had a $15 million purse with $2.7 million first place prize.
The next four LIV events will be played in the United States. The eighth and final LIV event will be held at Trump National Doral in late October.
What are PGA players giving up to join this tour? Phil Mickelson gave up all his sponsors, including Callaway, KPMG and Workday, and received $200 million from LIV. Mickelson’s career earnings in 31 years on the PGA tour is $95 million.
Dustin Johnson ended his relationship with RBC and received $125 million from LIV. Bryson DeChambeau lost his sponsorship of Rocket Mortgage and received $120 million from LIV.
Brooks Koepka has decided to follow his brother Chase and join the LIV tour on June 21 for undisclosed amount of money. Abraham Ancer, ranked No. 20 in the world, also joined LIV.
This is a very fluid situation and there will be more players joining the LIV tour. As of this writing, June 28, two more younger players just signed on. PGA tour winners Matthew Wolff, age 23, and Carlos Ortiz, 31, have decided to give up their PGA affiliation to play in the LIV Pumpkin Ridge event held last week in Portland, Oregon.
These players will be suspended from the PGA tour and won’t be able to play in any PGA sponsored events.
As of now the players who qualify for the four Major tournaments are still able to play. LIV players will not receive Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, which is important to be able to get into the four majors in the future. Greg Norman is applying for OWGR consideration. If players can receive OWGR points from LIV events, then it becomes easier to qualify for the four Major tournaments.
So why is the PGA tour in trouble? First, the cost of being on the PGA tour is expensive. A young player must pay $6,500 to join the Korn Ferry Tour, which is the developmental tour. Once a player makes the PGA tour, he is not guaranteed money if he doesn’t make the 36- hole cut. He still has his expenses such as entry fee, travel, hotel and paying his caddie. Only the top players have sponsors.
LIV players receive a minimum of $120,000 to participate and there is no cut. Thus, the 48th placed player – last place – is guaranteed $120,000 to play for three days.
Major differences of the two tours:
Four rounds, 72 holes, with a cut after 36 holes
100-plus players with a cut at top 70 and ties
Starting times with two starts, morning and afternoon
Three rounds, 54 holes, and no cut
Shotgun start with three players per hole
Individual and team events
Guaranteed $120,000 per event
Bottom line, it is all about money. Do you want guaranteed money with a lesser tour, or play on the PGA tour against the best players in the world?
What would you do?
Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local courses. firstname.lastname@example.org; golfdoctorjean.com