LIV is not about golf. It’s about revenge :: WRALSportsFan.com

Columnist’s note: This was written prior to Tuesday’s reports that 4-time major champion Brooks Koepka was joining LIV Golf and will play next week in Portland, Oregon.

In an ideal world, we would always be able to separate sports from politics. Of course, the world is not perfect, so we will always see these two worlds intersect. Seismic events like Jackie Robinson who broke the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947 are political in nature, and show how the sports world has always been ahead of the real world when it comes to social progress.

So, I’m all for the blurring of political-sport lines. keep m coming.

Now, to the question at hand. We are one course in the LIV Golf Series and there have been more players announcing their plans to leave the PGA Tour and enter the first US-based event in Portland, Oregon at the end of this month. As I’ve said over and over since official news broke that players like Dustin Johnson have chosen this new “round”, this “round” isn’t going away anytime soon. The fields will only improve. And the PGA Tour must be very proactive in how it responds to this existential threat.

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LIV Golf is a series of big money tournaments played on three continents with the next seven spanning over a period of 4 months. The next tournament is scheduled to take place from June 30 to July 2, followed by another tournament at the end of July in New Jersey. In all, five of the remaining seven tournaments are scheduled to be held in the United States. One will be in Thailand and the other in Saudi Arabia.

Source…

Ah yes, Saudi Arabia. Here I will mention the source of funding once – and only once – and touch on the third barrier to this problem. The series was funded by the Saudi royal family’s Public Investment Fund, worth $620 billion. How much will be allocated to LIV is anyone’s guess, but it’s safe to say the total is in the $4-5 billion range.

They have already guaranteed Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau a combined $300-400 million just to agree to play according to published reports. CEO Greg Norman told the world that they also offered Tiger Woods “high nine numbers” but Woods turned down the offer.

Hey, Tiger Woods turned down half a billion dollars? Can you turn down half a billion?

Depth of Fields is 48 players, and no one comes for free, so it’s safe to guess that initial start-up costs are in the order of $1.5 billion for participants.

For the prize money, Charles Schwarzl won and took home $4.75 million from a $25 million bet total during last week’s opening gala in England. This total represents more than 20% of what he earned in 11 seasons on the PGA Tour. It was the biggest payday in sports history. In contrast, $17.5 million was the total purse at this weekend’s US Open – a $5 million increase over last year. Matt Fitzpatrick’s winning share of $3.15 million represents the largest payment in major tournament history.

LIV costs $25 million split across 48 players. The USGA total, which is under $7.5 million, was divided among 64 players who qualified for the weekend. The 92 who failed to make the cut received nothing. There’s no cut-off in the LIV, so if you’re in the field, you’ll get a check – above the attendance guarantee.

Andy Augeltree, who won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2019, graduated from Georgia Tech and turned professional the following year, earned less than $40,000 on portions of 3 seasons of the PGA Tour. He played in the LIV opener, finishing 48th – with a total of 24 over par – and “earning” $120,000.

LIV Golf financing is limitless. The portfolio totals $255 million for eight events compared to the PGA Tour’s $427 million for 47 tournaments and this total has jumped more than 15% compared to last year. That the money comes directly from the Saudi government, which is recognized as one of the world’s largest human rights abusers, is part of the conversation and anyone who chooses to participate is free to consider this fact.

For the purpose of this story, we will leave this part of the conversation aside. I’m not interested in removing everything that is written and wrong equations used to justify the funding source. Just say you don’t care. Stop with the “Okay, they did it” defense. You are no longer 4 years old. Plus, this is for someone else writing it. We’ll keep this on sport, as some of you prefer snowflakes.

justification…

Norman, a 20-time PGA Tour winner, two-time Open Champion and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, is the number one man on this new tour. Since he was announced as CEO he has talked about LIV being an “additive” for the golf table. He championed “game development” and opportunity for thousands of pro golfers.

First, there is no entity more dedicated to providing opportunities to professional golf than the PGA Tour. There are 42 official PGA Tour tournaments during the year-long wrap season. There are also 50 additional events spread across the three development circuits owned and operated by the Tour – Korn Ferry, PGATour LatinoAmerica and PGATour Canada.

Moreover, there are recognized tours in Europe (DP World Tour), Australia, South Africa, Japan and Asia all of which provide an opportunity for players.

The one thing that professional golfers don’t lack is opportunity.

No one has yet explained how LIV grows the game. To be fair, they don’t have to do anything for the sport other than organizing 8 entertaining tournaments. Well, 7 if you count the first snoring fest that happened 10 days ago. It is not their duty to create more golfers or golf fans or give back. But, when Norman used Game Mode, well, that’s what they mean and they have no intention of doing it other than playing it. Which, again, is fine.

for LIV being “added” to the current pro schedule. The initial schedule was supposed to be 15 events. This was reduced to eight as it became clear that finding enough players that the public would recognize would be more of a challenge than originally thought. But next year’s schedule is for 10 events, 14 of which are already on the calendar for 2024 and 2025.

This is not an “additive”. This is a complete table. LIV doesn’t overcook the cake, it’s a 7-tier double chocolate cake — dipped in hot fudge — on top of the cake.

The best player on the PGA Tour plays an average of 20-25 events per year. You need to play 15 to maintain your position. The four majors (The Masters, PGA Championship, US Open and Grand Prix), as well as the three playoff events at the end of the season. So, in theory, a player can enter at least 8 “regular” tour events, play all 4 disciplines, and as long as they advance to the 30-player Tour Championship, maintain their membership in the Tour.

Norman’s nose grows like Pinocchio when he calls Liv “added.” Several players signed contracts to run the entire schedule. I’m pretty sure they didn’t give Mickelson $200 million to turn up a few times. So, as an “additive,” Norman must believe these guys will suddenly fancy playing 30 weeks out of the year.

There is an excuse “this will give me more time to spend with my family”.

seeds of anger…

Here is where we remind you that Norman, the public face of LIV Golf, has had an ax to beat on the PGA Tour for nearly 3 decades. Until then, it’s not necessarily against the tour, per se, any more than its last commissioner, Tim Finchim. And I will admit that the shark (Norman’s nickname) is justified in his long-running rage.

In 1994, Norman—who was then the first draw on the PGA Tour, I think Tiger Woods before there was Tiger Woods—had plans for eight events, a limited field, and a big money tour. It was secured by an unorthodox source and the commissioner was furious.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Norman had made an agreement with FOX Sports, which never broadcast golf, to pay $112 million in broadcast rights to the series. Each event will carry a $3 million purse, $1 million more than what the Masters offered. Finchem was so angry about the idea that he threatened to suspend any player who agreed to play in the series. Because the round was already a golden goose for these guys, and Norman’s maneuvering wasn’t strangely loud, the players refused and the idea was missed.

So it wasn’t.

In 1996, Finchem announced plans for a world championship golf tournament that would bring the best players in the world together for four high-dollar, no-cut events and limited courses. There will only be four tournaments, wrapped up in the PGA Tour schedule, with three events in the US and one overseas.

Norman has been on a slow boil ever since. And his scheme – with the help of an unlimited amount of money – think the loads of sand in the desert – is the perfect storm to inflict massive damage on the PGA Tour. Make no mistake, Norman isn’t interested in being an extra. The shark came out for blood. He wants his pound of meat from The Tour and Jay Monahan is the man in charge now.

Norman believes that if you throw enough money at professional golfers, they won’t care where the money comes from, only the checks will come true. And he will be proven more right than wrong as more and more players begin to defect from the LIV series. As of now, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau are the tour’s biggest successes.

Johnson was the number one player in the world a year ago. He is a two-time major champion (2016 US Open, 2020 Masters), and has earned over $100 million in his career on the PGA Tour. DeChambeau won the 2020 US Open, is the tallest driver in the game and has served as a lightning rod for rules issues (he once tried to get a free shot due to ants shooting near his golf ball) and juvenile brawls with fellow players (who can forget ‘Brooks’ “).

Anyone else in the LIV stable, including ring leader Phil Mickelson, is no loss on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia? / Lee Westwood? Graeme McDowell? Patrick Reed? None of these guys are moving the needle and everyone except Reed is clearly in the back nine of their competitive careers.

In fact, the best thing about LIV is that DeChambeau and Reed won’t be on the PGA Tour anytime soon. Silver bushings are everywhere.

This is where we are today. There will be more players who bite the Saudi apple. Money is very tempting. The cake is too rich to be irresistible. And with each split, it becomes easier for the next player to say, “Okay, (fill in the blank) he did, so…”.

Publicly, LIV claims – through Norman – to be interested in developing the game. In fact, they break it. In the long run, the PGA Tour, their players and most importantly their sponsors will suffer. Meanwhile, LIV events will continue to be little more than a hit and a laugh show, albeit with oceans of money swimming in past 54 holes you can only stream online.

However, with the money spigot wide open, Norman is betting that enough players will be pulled to rock bottom. And he might be right enough to do enough damage to the sport that has helped him make hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. All to filter the result.

justified or not.

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