The PGA Tour and the new start-up LIV Golf Invitational Series have been making the news and clashing recently. Let’s start with the differences between them and what it is about the LIV gives it controversy.
LIV isn’t an acronym but rather a roman numeral 54, which is how many holes golfers will play. In addition to the reduction from PGA’s 72 holes played across four days, LIV will only take three days of play. The PGA Tour also starts their tournament 1 group of golfers at a time, starting at hole 1 and ending on hole 18. LIV will do what’s called a “Shotgun Start” where each group starts simultaneously on a different hole, making for a much more exciting start.
The benefits of a “Shotgun Start” is that up to 18 different groups (usually made up of four) can start simultaneously, thus resulting in not only more things happening quicker but also the tournament not taking as long to complete. The potential issue is if a group takes too long or moves too slowly at a hole, it then holds up the whole field.
LIV will also only have 48 golfers playing in a tournament compared to the 120 or more that can be at a PGA tournament. The LIV will also not cut any of the players during the tournaments, meaning all 48 golfers will play the entire event. They will compete against each other in stroke play and make up 12 teams of 4. The 12 teams will also compete against each other for an additional purse, adding a team element to an almost exclusively individual sport.
Since the LIV is an invitation only golf organization they will decide and invite the 48 players to each event. Meaning of course that it may not be the same 48 golfers at every tournament. The captains of the 12 teams will be chosen at random the week of the tournament. The captains will then use a “snake” order to fill out their teams using the invited 48 players.
The way the team scoring works is, on the 1st and 2nd day the top two scores will be counted and three scores being counted on the 3rd and final day. On a personal note, the team element certainly adds something new and exciting to golf. The final tournament of the year is the “Team Championship” and marks the end of the season. That event will be a 4-day, 4-round, match-play bracket.
The purse or winnings of each event also differs between LIV and PGA. The LIV having only 48 golfers per event allows for an average take-home purse of $500,000 which is almost doubling the average for PGA’s event The Masters. In LIV’s first event in London is $25 million, with $20 million going to the individual competition and $5 million going to the top 3 teams.
The PGA tour hasn’t done much ever to try and increase their viewership or appeal to a new audience. LIV is doing something different with a sport that hasn’t really changed in 100 years. The LIV is offering their golfers more money, more ways to earn money and with their new format a potentially better product. But let us first uncover the controversy.
Golf legend Greg Norman is the CEO and the Commissioner of the league. But that’s not where the controversy is for LIV, it’s in the funding. LIV is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund or PIF. The PIF is the “financial arm” of the Saudi government and is also considered one of the most lucrative sovereign funs in the world having an estimated value of $600 billion, not a typo, $600 billion.
Saudi’s PIF is where most of the real controversy comes from regarding the new LIV golf league. Saudi Arabia has committed many human rights violations, with one of the most notable ones coming when they executed Jamal Khashoggi a Washing Post reporter for speaking out against the Saudi government.
Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in sports, perhaps in an attempt to change their world image. But some people think it’s an attempt to “Sportswash” their human rights violations and crimes. They’ve done deals with the WWE and they invested into the Primier Soccer League. “Sportswashing” is a term used when sports are used as an attempt to distract the public from its violations. But it is possible that this is an attempt for them to grow on the world stage, as unlikely as it may be.
In part 2 I will discuss the PGA tour, the suspension of PGA players and a countersuit by the players against the PGA tour. Thanks for reading, Johnathan D. Edmonds
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