LIV turns up the heat on the PGA Tour

Big money. Big names. Great places.

And he has a huge impact on the world of professional golf.

If year one was intriguing, expect year two to be bigger and bolder.

At the same time, the second edition of LIV Golf comes with questions of its own:

What has changed?

LIV Golf’s second year is, in many ways, its first real season, complete with a full 14-event schedule, enhanced focus on team play and the foundation laid last year.

Considering everything that happened around the launch of LIV — the whole thing was almost scuttled by Phil Mickelson’s controversial comments about the Saudis sponsoring the tour being just as “creepy” as LIV was ready to announce their players and events — playing eight events in 2022 was an achievement.

There was talk of not playing last year, letting things settle down and continuing all this year, but the decision was made to move on. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but LIV made it this year, which was the main goal.

When play begins in February in Mexico, expect interest to be on 12 four-player teams, each with their own captain, their own logo, their own merchandise, and if the LIV model works, their own investors.

Besides the money being thrown at players, LIV Golf has sold itself as transformative. That’s why it starts with the gun, the 54-hole, no-cut format, and the desire to make golf nightclub cool.

With the success of the Formula One model, LIV’s idea is to get fans into team play, not just for one week but through the 14-event schedule. Individual competition will continue. But the goal is to make multiplayer central to LIV’s story.

The team has played in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup but it is uncertain if that energy will carry over into LIV Golf.

The other question is whether any team can get Dustin Johnson’s 4 aces out of his way. Along with Patrick Reed, Tallor Gotch, and Pat Perez, Johnson’s team won five times last year, including the overall championship.

What about the broadcast deal?

These numbers are the most important next step for LIV Golf, and it is still not clear what will happen. LIV insiders suggest the deal will be announced before the first event in February.

Raised eyebrows late last year when COO Atul Khosla resigned from his post just weeks after saying his main goal was to secure a broadcasting deal for the organisation. No replacement has been announced for Khosla.

There have been rumors of buying time on other networks and talks with various streaming services, but it appears that selling LIV Golf to a broadcast partner has been more difficult than regulators expected.

Since its inception, LIV’s leaders have said they have been in discussions with several potential broadcast partners, but no deal has been disclosed. NBC, CBS, ESPN and Golf Channel cannot participate due to contracts with the PGA Tour.

There have been rumors of buying time on other networks and talks with various streaming services, but it appears that selling LIV Golf to a broadcast partner has been more difficult than regulators expected.

LIV has been successful in the past year via YouTube and its website, but this is not a legitimate long-term strategy. To understand how important it is to expand availability, expect LIV to find a deal sooner rather than later even if it isn’t everything the organizers hope it will be.

Will players still join LIV?

Players leaving the PGA Tour has been the dominant story, but this year it will be different. The idea is to have the 48-player field scheduled for the season prior to the first event.

There are more player announcements coming, but it won’t be a wave. LIV has seven locations available, some of which will likely be filled by players who managed them at last year’s LIV events.

Rumors still swirl about others who might be interested – Patrick Cantlay-Xander Schavelli chatter was the most pressing – but LIV isn’t hunting gamers so hard right now. Signing players now depends on how much commercial appeal they can add to the players already there.

Photo by Chris Trotman, LIV Golf via Getty Images

Will Greg Norman continue as CEO and Commissioner?

Norman managed to get attention at LIV Golf last year, not always in a good way, but the organization needed a high-profile and aggressive leader, and he did his job.

Is Norman polarized?


Is he the long-term leader?

He says he wants to be, regardless of whether Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and others say he needs to step aside to make any possible progress toward ending the ongoing turf war.

Norman carries the baggage of his past fights with the PGA Tour, which isn’t helping him, but he insists this is all about the future, not the past. He has successfully disrupted the sport, and now he is taking on the challenge of making LIV Golf a success.

LIV would probably hire someone to take on the CEO role and let Norman focus solely on the competition. But Norman’s move away from LIV Golf doesn’t seem to be part of the plan for now.

Is there a resolution on the horizon?

Until LIV Golf drops its lawsuit against the PGA Tour — and both sides have gone back and forth with lawsuits now — there’s no reason to believe any discussions will happen between the groups.

“They sued us” is a common refrain among PGA Tour officials and players and it’s true.

Although LIV’s federal antitrust suit against the PGA Tour is not due to be heard until January 2024, the LIV case against DP World Tour is on the agenda in the UK for next month, and could have a profound impact on potential next steps.

The case involves two players suspended from the DP World Tour for their involvement with LIV who are seeking the right to continue playing on their previous tour. It is similar to the case over the PGA Tour, although several former tour players have had their names removed from the lawsuit.

How the major tournaments respond to the LIV predicament and whether World Golf Ranking points will eventually be awarded for LIV events will also factor into the equation.

Don’t expect a breakthrough anytime soon.

Top photo: Michelle Yves Sandberg, Icon Sportswire
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC

Leave a Comment