Thoughts on LIV Golf

Photo by Richard Stott on Unsplash

Let’s just say this upfront: golf does not like change.

Sure, we all appreciate the advancements in equipment technology, newest instruction techniques and learning gadgets. But, leave the game alone. We golfers are traditionalists at heart—in love with this timeless game and all its rich history.

So when a disruptor of sorts comes along and wants to “shake things up,” our tendency is to recoil.

Such is the case with LIV Golf, a Saudi-bankrolled “start-up” golf league that is headed by former World #1, Greg Norman. Don’t let the media’s bias and demonization of the league sway your thinking: LIV has some of the world’s best players, including world #2 Cam Smith and Dustin Johnson.

After taking in a few of the events (offered free online through YouTube), and listening to player interviews and commentary about LIV, I’ve decided to offer my own two cents on the subject. I’d love to hear yours as well.

Pros about LIV Golf

Like everything, you cannot always poo-poo the new. There are often real positives with change. It’s just hard for ourselves – especially us golfers – to adjust and acclimate.

There is a lot to like about LIV:

  • For now, free coverage of the events.
  • The introduction of the league is causing widespread (needed?) changes to the PGA Tour and other tours around the world (these changes are mostly benefitting players).
  • More money is available to players (winners of LIV events take home $4 million).
  • Arrangements of players (and caddies) are taken care of.
  • The introduction of team golf as a companion to individual play (this one is exciting).
  • Loosening of “stuffy” golf rules and decorum (players are allowed to wear shorts, there is music on the course throughout play, for example).
  • All players are on the course at the same time (and finish around the same time) via shotgun starts.
  • Worldwide events (not just U.S.-based), opening the game up to new eyes.
  • 54-hole events (some may say this is a con).
  • No cut events (as of this writing).

And this is just what is at the forefront of my brain. I’m sure there are more to name. Many of the top players in LIV have also been handsomely paid for signing on. For example, it’s been reported that Phil Mickelson (one of the league’s “recruiters” and early adopters) was awarded upwards of $200 million to join. Bryson DeChambeau also was awarded a similar (but lesser) cash haul. It’s hard to fathom that type of money for golf pros. Harold Varner (a more recent signee), has called his sign-on bonus life changing money.

Cons of LIV Golf

With the pros, come the cons. And there are plenty prominent ones to mention here:

  • Association with Saudi Arabia (and their publicized human rights violations).
  • No world ranking points awarded (as of this writing – though, LIV is desperately working to resolve this).
  • While players are getting rich, they are losing standing in OWGR points – thereby slowly and surely – unable to qualify for majors.
  • Players are being blackballed by many tours, including the DP Tour and PGA Tour – not to mention the media and some fans.
  • Events feel more like exhibitions than meaningful events (this could change as LIV builds a history).
  • There is no pathway to qualify for LIV (though, this is also changing through its association with the MENA Tour and Asian Tour).
  • LIV could become a “retirement” tour – where players from other tours go to pad their retirements as they wind down their careers.

Probably the two biggest things (I believe) LIV has against it is the PR obstacle of its association with Saudi Arabia and the fact it could just become a “cash-grab” league.

My thinking on LIV

As a person who has tried to play professionally, I understand the great advantage that LIV presents to someone just starting their playing career. There are no guarantees in professional golf (and this is also the romantic quality of pro golf), but LIV provides top collegiate players (and even minor tour players) a place to play against some of the worlds best players AND a healthy paycheck. As LIV continues, it will be an attractive proving ground for these types of players.

For years, if you aren’t playing on the PGA Tour, DP Tour, or the Korn Ferry Tour (and playing decent), you are going to be struggling to play pro golf. Golf Twitter is loaded with examples of players who are just breaking even or losing money playing on minor tours.

The PGA Tour has never had guaranteed money to guys missing cuts or for even making it to the Tour (which is an exceptional accomplishment alone). Now, they are changing that as an answer to some of the benefits LIV provides.

Many of LIV’s critics cite players turning their backs on human right violations and taking “blood money” for playing on the new league. Yet, there is a lot of hypocrisy in this statement. They are overlooking the fact the PGA Tour has backed a league in China. China may have even more grotesque human right violations than the Saudis. And, the DP Tour plays events in Saudi Arabia.

Some of the more vocal top professionals (like Rory McIlroy) are starting to see the need for both sides to come together and work out a solution. Yet, the “big tours” are not ready to do so. What type of arrangement could be made remains to be seen – but I also see it as an important step to negating the growing ill-will in the game of golf right now. It’s not a good thing that some of the best players in the world are being excluded from big events, just because of where they play. And, the game’s best players will readily admit they want the strongest fields each time they tee it up, to see how their game stacks up.

The PGA Tour has a lot of limitations on players when they play its tour. They cannot just go play where ever they like or split all their time with multiple tours (and most players would have a hard time doing so). They want to retain their preeminent status as the best place to play.

But when some of the best golfers are moving to a new league to play – you cannot remain the best place to play.

I would like to see LIV golfers be allowed to play in majors and also be awarded OWGR points (when LIV has met the needed criteria set forth and allows others to join its league through qualifying means).

Here’s to hoping the changes in golf are not only a good thing for players and fans, but the game itself.

What are your thoughts on LIV Golf?

Update 1/20/23: LIV Golf recently announced they have secured a broadcast deal with the CW Network (Not known for their sports broadcasting, but still a win for the league.) From the sounds of it, the deal is a revenue-sharing one in which CW will not pay LIV for the rights to broadcast, and LIV will not pay the network.

31 comments

  1. Avatar
    Tracy Wesley says:

    I have long admired professional golf and by that I mean seeing players play 36 to make the cut and play 72 holes. To me playing 54 holes of golf doesn’t make it a traditional professional golf tournament. The attire is also a thing (for me) in my profession I am required to dress in a certain manner. Sure I can perform in shorts and a polo, but the jobs requires a suit. The team format is different and we typically get to see it at different times. I don’t need nor want to see it week in and week out. Financially I see the benefit of joining, but it does seem to be a golf exhibition with great players playing.

    • Avatar
      Aaron says:

      All good thoughts, Tracy. Your point about LIV being an exhibition is definitely shared by others. It just doesn’t have any legacy yet.

  2. Avatar
    Jim Stevens says:

    Have no use what so ever in attending or watching LIV Golf exhibitions. Have written off every golfer that sold their soul to join LIV Golf.

    Take no part in supporting anything associated with Saudia Arabia.

    • Avatar
      Aaron says:

      Thanks Jim. Playing devil’s advocate, how would you determine you aren’t supporting them by purchasing gas? (and how would you know you aren’t inadvertently buying gas (oil) from Saudia Arabia)?

      • Avatar
        AK says:

        You can’t know for sure, but in the USA only about 1.5-2.5% at any one time is Saudi Crude. Most of the consumption in this country comes from the USA and Canada.

    • Avatar
      Fred condit says:

      Turn a blind eye to the monster in the room China.
      Have you watched a LIV event .
      If not I would hold my criticism.
      Only reason it is not on television is PGA has the networks held hostage by contracts .
      That maybe are in violation of antitrust laws.
      If given a chance LIV will find a place with golfers.
      No one and I mean no one thought 24 hours of golf on TV would survive except Arnold Palmer.

    • Avatar
      James C says:

      I know it’s not a “cut” per se but I believe LIV may be implementing a relegation system like the Premier league in Soccer (football). Once they have enough players signed, they can basically run two LIV leagues where the poor performers at the end of the season are sent down to the lower league and the high performers in the lower league are sent up.

  3. Avatar
    Freddie Greene says:

    LIV is based on greed from a country that has blood on their hands. I hope every one of the players that signed on fall flat on their face. I have not and will not watch LIV golf.

    • Avatar
      Louis Burgos says:

      Like if your opinion would matter. Money moves everything in life. Time for a change from rules that are 200 years old. Love the new format. But that’s just me. Blood money you say. I say let’s fix our house before we start fixing someone else’s home. But I respect your opinion.

  4. Avatar
    Johnf says:

    I’ve stopped supporting all PGA events. They have shown themselves to be as accused, bullies. As to shorts, women PGA have been allowed to wear skirts for years, not allowing shorts is hypocrisy and sexism at it’s core. Millions of recreational golfers wear tasteful shorts every day. I even have golf sandals made by footjoy to complete the ensemble and wore both to play the TPC Scottsdale course several times.

    I think the shotgun starts and no cuts are great, no more boring finishes as we watch commercial after commercial as the last two groups finish up. Or listen to the boring chatter of the announcers trying to fill time.

    I’m not a fan of the teams, but they don’t detract overall so it’s not a concern of mine.

    Thanks for your personally presented opinions.

  5. Avatar
    Johnf says:

    Unlike others, I have written off the PGA. To me, it’s been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the PGA is the bully in all of this and I won’t support them until they change. It’s sad because The Players is about a 30 minute drive and i miss my yearly exodus.

    As for the 54 hole event, i rarely watched the first 36 anyway. sometimes I’d watch Saturday if i had the time. but i only made time for the final 18, so it makes no difference to me. An extra day just gives me the chance to be disappointed as my favorite player blows it and everything they did the first 3 days is wasted.

    I like how the coverage is on you tube and i can view it anytime i want to. The golf is still fantastic. i don’t get the team part of it, i don’t think it really adds anything.

    There is plenty of room for another league.

    If only the PGA and some of it’s players would turn down their egos a little bit and act like adults instead of spoiled children.

  6. Avatar
    Tom Mulea says:

    LIV golf was the tool that removed all the whackos from the tour. Thanks for that since most of those who went that route are pathetic fools who have little class and less moral values. While they enrich themselves they jeopardize the safety and freedom of women and others who may be of different beliefs. Norman is idiot 1 and he certainly is followed by closely rated idiots. While you feel justified to compare you are not comparing apples to apples. The other entities are not trying to purposely trying to harm other major tours and there in liars the difference. So while you try to minimize the difference is is significant. They will fail and succumb just as Norman has when the pressure to perform arises. It is a silly concept of golf played for blood money.

  7. Avatar
    Charles Fillmore says:

    Golf does not like change coming from an entity like LIV that is controlled by Saudi blood $ and whose primary objective is to dominate professional golf in the United States by destroying the PGA.

  8. Avatar
    Andrew says:

    Thank you for the article, Aaron. I just have a couple of thoughts

    LIV is 100% controlled by the Saudi Crown Prince. If Mohammed bin Salman wakes up one day and says I’m tired of giving billions of dollars to spoiled rich, mostly white golfers then LIV is finished, done, kaput. It’s an insanely designed proposition for any professional sports league to be based on the whims of one (barbaric) dictator with little regard for human rights.

    So, how do you get to play on the LIV tour? Suck up to Greg Norman, state your price and you’re in? Name another professional sports league with that type of qualifying process. Oh, and for every golfer added, someone gets booted through no fault of their own.
    I’m sure the “stars” have non-relegation clauses. They could shoot 78 75 80 every day and never get kicked off.

    Let’s follow where the supposed $100 million in charitable donations go. Call me skeptical

    Phil Mickelson – aging, gambling addict
    Dustin Johnson – suspended by the PGA for, what many think, was substance abuse
    Sergio Garcia – Fond memories of him spitting in the golf hole and tearing up greens
    Patrick Reed – about as well-liked by his peers as Sergio’s spit
    Bryson, Koepka, Bubba – not a lot of class or decorum in that group; broken-down bodies
    And…who…else…???

    54 no-cut tournaments are exhibition golf and a joke. They all know it

    The saddest part is that they’ll probably get in, at least, 3 majors for becoming joke golfers

    The PGA certainly has its own issues, and there may be something to be said for having a “different” looser type of tournament on the PGA schedule

    I played a bit of mini-tour golf in another lifetime. I earned my right to play.
    Like most sports, (LIV) golf is scurrying down the rabbit hole of absurdity. classlessness, greed and lack of decent human ethics

    Andrew

    • Avatar
      Aaron says:

      A very detailed, thorough analysis, Andrew. Thank you for your input. I definitely wouldn’t call Cam Smith a “joke golfer.” He’s one of the world’s best, period. I think he is the one, among a few others (Nieman, Gooch, etc) who are head-scratchers and don’t fit in the bucket of bad attitude golfers, washed up pros.

  9. Avatar
    Howard Nossek says:

    America has so much blood on themselves Stole land enslaved black Call me I truly can go on.

    Liv is a good thing great for golf I mean great for the game

    P.S l love the game

  10. Avatar
    Howard Nossek says:

    No one and I mean no one can throw the first stone. Everyone deserves a 2nd chance who is the PGA, privilege, come on toughfen up. PGA is better off for this.

  11. Avatar
    Master Bear. says:

    The players committing to Liv are 1, greedy bastards,2 over the hill, 3 never won fuck all, 4no interest in golf history, 5 little spoilt unmannerly idiot, 6 playing for a begrudging past it, 7 Wanters off the best of both worlds, 8 no respect for pros looking to make it good. 9 forgetters of how they got to where they are in the first place. 10 playing silly old team events of no interest. 11 making excuses that they can spend more time with kids instead it’s more time for partying. 12 anything goes on golf course no respect. 13 no control of condition of players state. 14 it’s all a comedy show, 15 will never provide the entertainment pga events enthral us with on tv. I could just go on.

  12. Avatar
    AK says:

    I read the whole article, but my brain tuned out when it said a pro of LIV was “Worldwide Events (not just US based).”

    Is this a good place to point out that the PGA Tour will host or co-host more non-USA events on their schedule this year than LIV? This idea that LIV is a world tour is a joke, nearly 70% of their events are in the USA. Not to mention their worldwide events are mostly at just old DP/PGA venues.

  13. Avatar
    Chris says:

    The PGA is not bankrolled by a soverign nation. Their product is supported by tv rights and tournament revenues. No interest no revenue. PGA and USGA support youth and minority groups, have ties to charities leaving tour locations better than when they arrived. Have to ask why LIV exists. Certainly not to make money or make golf better. No business plan for that organization shows break even any time soon and nothing about the organization improves golf. Limited fields allow for shotgun starts so seeing no new faces. What if 10 current PGA players decide to switch, who gets bumped and would they be able to play back into field? No…LIV is an exhibition not a self perpetuating pool of talent. So why?

  14. Avatar
    Lee says:

    It’s funny how the PGA all of a sudden was able to come up with bigger purses that are only helping an elite few. That’s what Mickelson was complaining about all along. I like the LIV TOUR as they all start at the same time and have the same conditions and we get to see all the players not just the leaders or who the media want to show.

  15. Avatar
    Steven J Johnson says:

    Shotgun starts. Stupid team names like the “Bashers” , only three rounds….they wear shorts unprofessional in ANY professional golf event. Saudi Arabia butchered a Sovereign US citizen and then cut him up with a bone saw. Shall I go on?

  16. Avatar
    Burney Law says:

    I find myself hardly watching any golf or the Golf Channel now.
    I suspect there are many more like me. Would be curious about the ratings.
    I do make it to the driving range more often now so it’s not all bad.

  17. Avatar
    Steve Freese says:

    I am old enough to remember the first few super bowls were between the upstart AFL against the established NFL. I also remember the ABA and NBA. I think both turned out ok. As far as human rights go, I don’t think there is an American household that doesn’t have something made in China and their human rights record isn’t very good.

  18. Avatar
    Ken Larson says:

    I see LIV golfers as cowardly. They are avoiding competition in exchange for dollars. Not necessarily evil, but certainly hiding from 36 hole cuts, dodging major championships and running from golf history.

    That being said, the money is guaranteed and will make ones’ family secure, so why not? It just seems cowardly to me.

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