What is LIV Golf and How Does It Compare to Rival Leagues
By Thomas Calhoun
The PGA TOUR has always been considered to be one of the most prestigious and well respected leagues in the world, but on June 9th of this past year, the golf landscape changed forever. Just three weeks ago, the first competitor to the PGA TOUR came around and immediately made waves like the sport has never seen before. World Golf Hall of Famer, Greg Norman has spent the last couple of years trying to develop a competitor to the PGA TOUR and he was finally able to make it happen as the CEO of LIV Golf Investments.
The PGA TOUR began in 1929 and has been the dominant force in golf for nearly 100 years - until now. The LIV Tour is considered to be a startup competitor to the PGA TOUR and is being funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. There are a few key differences between the two golf leagues that are important to note. To begin, LIV stands for 54 in Roman numerals and the reason behind the Tour name 'LIV' is due to the tournaments being set up over the course of three days totaling 54 holes of golf. The 54 hole idea came about as many players and fans both agreed that four day tournaments took too long and efficiency could be increased.
To continue the trajectory of making tournaments more efficient, the LIV Tour is also implementing a shotgun start, meaning all players start at the same time but from different holes. According to Golfbit, a shotgun tournament will save an average of three hours per day, making for quicker days and an overall quicker tournament. The final major difference in PGA and LIV tournaments is that there are no cuts throughout the weekend. What this means is that any player that finishes the tournament after three days will get paid a portion of the prize money. For example, there were 48 players in the field at the first LIV event, the top player made $4,000,000 and the last place player walked away with $120,000. In order to get paid a prize on the PGA TOUR, you have to be in the top 50 percent of the field after the first two days. This change was put in place so that every golfer that plays for the LIV Tour has the chance to profit off of the work they put in.
In addition to the change of rules and regulations, the LIV Tour has also spent a monstrous amount of money to influence players to leave the PGA TOUR and play on the LIV Tour. Having what some consider to be “unlimited money” available to spend on these athletes and increase the purses of each tournament is something that the PGA just can’t compete with. According to The Sporting News, Phil Mickelson was paid $200 million to leave the PGA Tour and be the face of the LIV and the former number one world player Dustin Johnson was offered north of $150 million.
With there being no cuts in the LIV tournaments, players have the opportunity to make more money per week than they would have with the PGA. For example, Charl Schwartzel won the first LIV event a couple of weeks ago and brought home a whopping $4 million. Not only was this the largest tournament that Charl has ever won, but he tripled his career best tournament winnings. The purse numbers in the LIV tournaments are larger than any of the PGA tournaments which provides players yet another reason to change sides. However, there are many players that still hold true to the PGA and continue to speak out against its new rival.
Players on the LIV Tour are saying they joined because it is helping to expand the game of golf and bring the sport to different global demographics. While that may be true, many have speculated that these decisions were primarily made based on one thing: money. Players like Rory Mcllroy and Jon Rahm have spoken out on the new league and are committed to helping the PGA TOUR retain its stature and prominence. During an interview, Rory spoke about the money being thrown at players saying, “any decision you make in life that is purely about the money, usually doesn’t end up going the right way.” A lot of the top players in the world stand by the organization that helped them make the money that they have today and allowed them to play golf for a living. However others believe that playing golf professionally is a business, so it shouldn't matter where you are competing.
Looking at other leagues and their rivals around the world can provide an interesting perspective into how the LIV Tour and the PGA TOUR could one day work together to truly grow the game of golf. Take soccer in Europe for example, the Premier League and the Champions League play hand in hand and have grown soccer to the largest sport in the entire world while also simultaneously being successful. The two leagues have a round robin style tournament at the end of each season and it is one of the most viewed events worldwide. Players are often bought out and sold from team to team but there is never any exclusivity like we are seeing with the PGA TOUR.
The XFL and NFL are another example of two leagues that are competing for similar audiences and that have similar structures. They both have conferences, owners, trades, and similar basic rules. The NFL, formed in 1920, has obviously been around for a lot longer, and has teams with extremely devoted fanbases. Much like the LIV, the XFL is looking to make the game more fun and more viewer friendly. A few differences that the XFL has are a running clock throughout the game, no extra points, and the rule of forward passes. All of the latter are in place to make the game more fun to watch and easier on the players. Despite the fun new rules of the XFL, it is clear that they will never be able to capture the NFL audience or make as much money as the NFL, but it is good to have a competitor in any industry.
Competitive leagues are good for any sport because they provide some balance to the playing field. Having at least one other league to prevent a monopoly in a sport is important, as long as it is being managed properly. The LIV Tour becoming a reality has made golf more interesting as an international sport than it has ever been before. Between the new money, new rules and shifting of players, golf is at the front page of every sports news outlet. Maybe this is the way to grow the game by getting more eyes on the sport, but it could also be tearing its fans apart. If the two leagues found a way to compete on a center stage with one another rather than just argue, there could be an extremely productive outcome. There are lots of potential fun events that could take place between the LIV and PGA Tour similar to the end-of-season tournaments between the two soccer leagues in Europe. As of right now, the two leagues are just butting heads, but as the details get ironed out, it will end up helping the game of golf grow to an even larger worldwide sport.