LIV Golf Investments promise more than $400 million in “total seed money” for eight events in London, Portland, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Bangkok, Jeddah.
By Kent Gray
Build it and they will come – slowly but surely. That’s the level of Greg Norman’s conviction in the new Saudi-financed LIV Golf Invitational Series which went from long rumoured to finally confirmed concept overnight, albeit without a single player named.
Set to debut at The Centurion Club near London in June, the series will feature eight events in 2022 – half of them in the U.S. – with individual and team components and a whopping $255 million in prize money.
With Norman as commissioner, the events will showcase a fan and broadcast friendly format where 48-player fields (divided evenly into 12 squads for the team aspect) will contest shortened 54-hole tournaments with shotgun starts and no cut.
Trumpeted as the “building blocks of a next-generation golf experience”, the first seven “regular season” tournaments will offer $25 million purses – $20 million to be shared by the field and $5 million between the top three teams. By comparison, the PGA Tour’s richest ever event was the just-completed The Players Championship at $20 million.
An overall individual champion will be crowned at the conclusion of the seventh event, slated for Royal Greens Golf & Country Club near Jeddah in October, and will earn the majority share of a bonus $30 million pool for the top three players. The series will then culminate with a match-play Team Championship in late October at an as yet confirmed venue but with an eye-popping $50 million purse locked and loaded.
Here’s the schedule released overnight:
June 9-11: Centurion Golf Club – London
July 1-3: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club – Portland
July 29-31: Trump National Golf Club Bedminster – New Jersey
Sept 2-4: The International – Boston
Sept 16-18: Rich Harvest Farms – Chicago
Oct 7-9: Stonehill Golf Club– Bangkok
Oct 14-16: Royal Greens Golf & Country Club – Jeddah
Oct 28-30: Team Championship (Venue TBC)
The most critical components, namely confirmed players and how and who will broadcast the series globally, were glaring omissions in Wednesday’s announcement from the Norman-fronted and Saudi-bankrolled LIV Golf Investments. But Norman is adamant even some of the most gun-shy stars will eventually find the league’s lucrative charms impossible to resist, despite PR gaffes in recent weeks.
He reportedly emailed invites to 250 golfers, all of them male, on Tuesday night and was delighted with the feedback according to a Golf.com report.
“I’ve got to tell you, from a player’s perspective, the amount of response [has been] unbelievably positive,” Norman said. “I’m talking about single-digit ranked players in the world, emailing me first thing this morning, just so excited to hear about what we have to say and what we’ve got.”
Whether that bravado translates into tangible big-name signings remains to be seen.
The series was recently declared “dead in the water” by Rory McIlroy after a swathe of top-name players pledged their allegiance to the PGA Tour following disparaging comments by pro-breakaway Phil Mickelson against the Saudi Government, in effect LIV Golf Invitational Series’ Saudi financiers. Mickelson also called out the PGA Tour for their “obnoxious greed” and admitted he was effectively using LIV Golf Investments, funded by the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund (PIF), as leverage against the PGA Tour.
Mickelson has not been seen or heard from since posting an apology of sorts to social media. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, meanwhile, has doubled down on his promise of suspensions and possibly even lifetime bans for players who join the Saudi series and recently insisted the U.S. circuit – and by association its strategic partner the DP World Tour – had “moved on”.
That was before Wednesday’s announcement. Norman remains convinced the Saudi league would win any potential legal battle over the rights of players, as independent contractors, to pick and choose their schedule.
“I believe players will increasingly make progress in achieving their right to play where they want and when they want,” Norman told Global Golf Post.
“We will help in any way possible. But in the interim, we see a global pool of talent we can tap into to develop and promote. In many ways, we’re a start-up enterprise. We have a long-term vision that will start modestly and grow. Mark my words: Players, including the game’s biggest names, will increasingly join us. And make no mistake: We are here for the long term.”
The ability for players to tee it up where and when the want is something Norman has been battling for since the mid 1990s when he teamed with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch in an attempt to create a “World Golf Tour”. The concept was squashed by then-PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem but Norman’s resolve has endured.
“For decades, I fought for the right of a player to have the opportunity and choice to go play wherever he wants without having restrictions,” Norman said. “I remember when I was the No. 1 player in the world, trying to get the right to go back and play in my home [Australian] tour. And I fought for home-tour release rules. Why do we have to apply for a waiver for that? You know, players can apply for a waiver and get it. And I’ve heard as recently as of this year that some European tour players just went and played without even getting a release.
“The players see their opportunities. They’re independent contractors. They have this freedom of choice. I’ll just sit back and give them the new opportunities.”
LIV Golf is providing more than $400 million in seed capital to ensure those opportunities in 2022. It is also promising “additional announcements forthcoming”, critical among them sure to be the announcement of players for the London event. The sports world will be watching via livgolf.com – and for the reaction from the PGA Tour-DP World Tour alliance. As Norman keeps saying, “this is just the beginning”.