What is LIV Golf?
LIV Golf is a startup golf league bankrolled by Saudi Arabia via its Public Investment Fund.
The name LIV is from the Roman numerals for 54, which is both the number considered a perfect score in golf (birdie on every hole) and the number of holes to be played in LIV tournaments.
Greg Norman is the founding CEO and League Commissioner.
In March 2022, LIV Golf announced the creation of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, an eight tournament season with fields of 48 players playing 54 holes. Further, the tournaments are no-cut, with shotgun starts.
In each event, players compete both as individuals and as teams. As is common in professional golf, the player with the lowest stroke total at the end of the tournament is the individual champion.
For the team portion, the best two scores for each team count for the team total in the first two rounds. In the third round, the three best scores count. Low score is the team winner.
At the end of seven events, an individual season champion will be named based on season point accumulation.
The eighth LIV tournament will be the Team Championship with a seeded, four day, four round, match play knockout.
The first seven tournaments will have a purse of $25 million, with all players receiving a payday. Individual prizes will account for $20 million of the purse; $5 million will be distributed to the top 3 teams.
The top three individual players for the season will be part of an additional $30 million payout. The Team Championship finale will have a $50 million purse.
It also should be noted that — as of this writing — LIV Golf does not seem to have a television contract.
The current LIV Golf schedule follows
|LIV Invitational Location||Date||Course|
|London||June 8 – 11, 2022||Centurion Club|
|Portland||June 30 – July 2, 2022||Pumpkin Ridge|
|Bedminster||July 29 – 31, 2022||Trump National Bedminster|
|Boston||Sept. 2 – 4, 2022||The Oaks at the International|
|Chicago||Sept. 16 – 18, 2022||Rich Harvest Farms|
|Bangkok||Oct. 7 – 9, 2022||Stonehill|
|Jeddah, Saudi Arabia||Oct. 14 – 16, 2022||Royal Greens G&CC|
|Miami (Team Championship)||Oct. 27 – 30||Trump National Doral|
The league has been controversial for a number of reasons.
First, its primary source of funding is from Saudi Arabia, a country that commits egregious and unapologetic human rights violations. Of note, the Saudi government convicts, tortures and executes people for homosexuality, for exercising free speech, for protests, for apostasy and for witchcraft (seriously? In the 21st century?) among other things. Torture includes amputations and flogging with hundreds of lashes. Executions are done by beheading and crucifixion. Saudi agents murdered and dismembered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Women are denied basic human rights.
The suspicion is that — along with other sporting events bankrolled by Saudi Arabia — the kingdom is attempting to buy legitimacy and good will that will distract from their behavior.
To be fair, the PGA TOUR has held tournaments in China over the years. China’s human rights record is hardly better than Saudi Arabia. Further, few seem to have qualms about using all of the products manufactured in that repressive and genocidal regime.
The other portion of the controversy is that the PGA TOUR and European Tour (DP World Tour) have taken a strong stance against the startup, apparently viewing it as an existential threat.
PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan has said that any tour member who competes in the league faces a suspension from the PGA TOUR that could include a lifetime ban.
The PGA TOUR and European Tour formed a “strategic” alliance ostensibly in response to the creation of LIV. Indeed, Monahan was given a seat on the board of the PGA European Tour.
|LIV Tournament||Date||PGA TOUR Tournament||European Tour Tournament|
|London||June 8 – 11, 2022||RBC Canadian Open||Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed|
|Portland||June 30 – July 2, 2022||John Deere Classic||Irish Open|
|Bedminster||July 29 – 31, 2022||Rocket Mortgage Classic||Hero Open|
|Boston||Sept. 2 – 4, 2022||TBD; In 2021 there was no tournament||Made In Himmerland|
|Chicago||Sept. 16 – 18, 2022||TBD; In 2021 it was the Fortinet Championship||Italian Open|
|Bangkok||Oct. 7 – 9, 2022||TBD; in 2021 it was the Shriner’s Children’s Open||Open de Espania|
|Jeddah, Saudi Arabia||Oct. 14 – 16, 2022||TBD; in 2021, it was the CJ Cup||Andalucia Masters|
|Miami (Team Championship)||Oct. 27 – 30||TBD; in 2021 it was the Bermuda Championship||WGC-HSBC Champions|
The threats from the PGA and European Tours seem to have had an effect. The inaugural field is not exactly star studded.
The biggest name in the field is Dustin Johnson. Also signing up are Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Grame McDowell, and Martin Kaymer, all of whom are Major Championship Winners.
UPDATE: Phil Mickelson has joined the field for LIV’s London event.
Also on the list are recognizable names such as Lee Westwood, Kevin Na, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Peter Uihlein.
The complete list of LIV Players follows:
|Last Name||First Name||Country||OWGR||Career Highlights|
|Bekker||Oliver||RSA||96||Seven career wins|
|Bland||Richard||ENG||67||Two career wins|
|Buranatanyarat||Itthipat||THA||Three-time winner on the Asian Development Tour|
|Canter||Laurie||ENG||119||One professional win|
|Chantananuwat (Am)||Ratchanon “TK”||THAI||Youngest to win an OWGR event|
|Du Plessis||Hennie||RSA||133||Three professional wins|
|Fisher||Oliver||ENG||One professional win; 16 top-10 finishes|
|Garcia||Sergio||ESP||57||Major champion; 36 career victories|
|Gooch||Talor||USA||35||Two professional wins|
|Grace||Branden||RSA||123||14 professional wins|
|Harding||Justin||RSA||109||11 professional wins|
|Horsfield||Sam||ENG||74||Three professional wins|
|Johnson||Dustin||USA||15||Former World No. 1; Two-time major champion|
|Jones||Matt||AUS||69||Four professional wins|
|Kaewkanjana||Sadom||THA||118||Former Asian Tour Order of Merit leader (2 wins)|
|Kaymer||Martin||GER||Former World No. 1; Two-time major champion|
|Khongwatmai||Phachara||THA||136||Youngest player to win pro event (2013)|
|Kim||Sihwan||USA||139||Two Asian Tour wins|
|Kinoshita||Ryosuke||JPN||89||Three professional wins|
|Koepka||Chase||USA||Six professional top-10 finishes|
|Kozuma||Jinichiro||JPN||106||Two professional wins|
|Larrazabal||Pablo||ESP||70||Eight professional wins|
|Madappa||Viraj||IND||One Asian Tour win|
|McDowell||Graeme||NIR||Major champion; 16 victories|
|Mickelson||Phil||USA||72||Six-time major champion; World Golf Hall of Fame|
|Morgan||Jediah||AUS||2021-22 PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit|
|Na||Kevin||USA||34||Nine professional victories|
|Norris||Shaun||RSA||68||12 professional wins|
|Ogletree||Andy||USA||2019 U.S. Amateur Champion|
|Oosthuizen||Louis||RSA||21||Major champion; 20 professional wins|
|Ormsby||Wade||AUS||Four professional wins|
|Otaegui||Adrian||ESP||Three professional wins|
|Pettit||Turk||USA||2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Champion|
|Piot (Am)||James||USA||2021 U.S. Amateur Champion|
|Poulter||Ian||ENG||92||19 professional victories; former World No. 5|
|Puig (Am)||David||ESP||Seven top-10 finishes in 2021 (NCAA)|
|Ritchie||JC||RSA||10 professional victories|
|Schwartzel||Charl||RSA||126||Major champion; 23 professional wins|
|Smyth||Travis||AUS||International Series Order of Merit Qualifier|
|Snyman||Ian||RSA||International Series Order of Merit Qualifier|
|Swafford||Hudson||USA||95||Four professional wins; 12 top 10 finishes|
|Tanihara||Hideto||JPN||16 professional victories|
|Uihlein||Peter||USA||Former No. 1 Amateur; Four professional wins|
|Vincent||Scott||ZIM||91||Four professional wins|
|Westwood||Lee||ENG||78||Former World No. 1; 44 professional wins|
|Wiesberger||Bernd||AUT||94||13 professional victories|
|Windred||Blake||AUS||Earned first professional win in 2021|
|Yuan||Kevin||AUS||International Series England Qualifier|
It remains to be seen whether the PGA TOUR has the stomach to ban Dustin Johnson. Still, it would send a strong signal and perhaps deter others.
The first event is opposite the RBC Canadian Open. Both Johnson and McDowell are sponsored by RBC. That likely isn’t going down well in the corporate boardrooms.
Potential loss of sponsors is likely offset by large appearance fees. Golf reporter Ryan French from the Firepit Collective says that one of the amateurs (James Piot?) in the field received $6 million up front and $250k per start.
Imagine what they’re paying Dustin Johnson.
LIV Golf is not the first challenge to the existing golf tours. Nor is it even the first time Greg Norman has tried to challenge the existing golf tours.
In 1984, Norman tried to launch an alternate World Tour. That one didn’t get out of the gate, but did lead to the creation of the WGC tournament series.