BOLTON, Mass. — The LIV Golf event outside Boston was minutes from starting on Friday, and Greg Norman, the frontman for the insurgent Saudi-backed circuit, needed a recent, showy strategy to make an entrance within the rancorous battle for the longer term of men’s golf.
How about jumping from an airplane and parachuting onto the primary tee? Surely, Norman’s nemesis, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, had never done that?
So it was that the lots of of fans crowded around the primary tee lifted their eyes to the sky to look at as Norman, who was harnessed to a retired military parachutist, dropped across the backdrop of a transparent blue sky until he touched down in front of the tee.
Separated from his escort, Norman bolted upright and raised each fists triumphantly. As he marched toward the tee, a fan yelled: “Greg, the PGA Tour is completed. You probably did it, baby!”
Looking a bit stunned, if delighted, Norman turned within the direction of the voice. He pointed a finger and flashed the widest of smiles.
The scene might have been a metaphor for probably the most turbulent season in modern skilled golf history: When LIV Golf suddenly appeared on the horizon this spring, the danger was manifest because the circuit looked for a welcoming place to drop into an occasionally inhospitable sport. In a surprise, LIV Golf has not only landed on its feet, it’s defiantly celebrating.
Despite the quantity of 1 fan’s shout, the PGA Tour is removed from done and even from losing the clash with its rival. Last week, it began a muscular counterattack. But because the fourth LIV Golf event concluded on the International Golf Club on Sunday, the evidence was mounting that the rebel tour was not retreating either. In truth, it continues to seek out recent ways to be noticed.
Consider the nice dump-the-trousers crusade that unfolded here in Saturday’s second round. In its unceasing effort to be the anti-PGA Tour, which incorporates not having large tournament crowds or a broadcast TV contract, the LIV Golf leaders decided Saturday to permit players to wear shorts.
The PGA Tour doesn’t allow its members to point out legs in competition. The LIV Golf decision moved players on the circuit to say they felt freer, an odd selection of words for a bunch guaranteed no less than $120,000 (with expenses paid) for his or her appearance on the tournament.
“That is a protracted time coming in the sport of golf; I believe it just takes a disrupter like LIV to get things done,” Phil Mickelson said of wearing shorts.
There was just one snag within the dress code golfing revolution that LIV Golf hoped to ignite. Nearly all of the golfers kept their pants on. Perhaps these guys like golf tradition greater than anyone suspected.
I actually have now spent six days (two tournaments) contained in the LIV Golf bubble since late July, and there are particular evident, noteworthy truths. One is that the rival circuit is clearly attracting a younger, more boisterous crowd than the standard PGA Tour gallery, portions of which could be reserved and sometimes removed, i.e., watching from an air-conditioned corporate box. LIV Golf’s chief motto is “Golf, but louder,” and with a recurring thunderous soundtrack of Beastie Boys, Twisted Sister and AC/DC, the circuit resides (no pun intended) as much as its billing.
Asked in regards to the thumping music that could be heard on all 18 holes, Sergio García quipped, “I’m trying not to bounce an excessive amount of.”
Cameron Smith, who’s ranked second in the boys’s worldwide rankings and who was the breakaway tour’s splashy recent acquisition last week, refuted the suggestion that the music is a diversion or a gimmick. “To me,” Smith said, “it seems like the course has a little bit of heartbeat.”
The LIV Golf leadership can be convinced that the important thing to the tour’s success is its team concept, which is recent to golf. The goal is to duplicate the success of the Formula 1 team model. However the LIV Golf teams had a clunky rollout earlier this yr when team members kept changing, which further confused potential fans who already couldn’t discover or remember the 12 team names, let alone their four-man rosters.
For example, I finished 10 fans on the golf course Sunday and asked them to call only one LIV Golf team. Three could do it, six couldn’t and one grinning guy astonishingly began rattling off the team names one after the other until I noticed he was looking over my shoulder at a scoreboard with all of the team names and scores.
But next yr, LIV Golf, whose major shareholder is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, will expand the variety of tournaments, and the four-player teams will remain unchanged tournament to tournament, barring injury. Players on each team may even wear matching outfits of some sort, like a uniform, to drive home the team concept. The plan can be to make teams have a unifying theme: 4 Australians led by Smith, a South African team headed by Louis Oosthuizen, and other teams sure by nationality. LIV Golf has heavily recruited Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, in hopes of heading a Japanese team.
The LIV Golf crowds at events are still sparse despite tickets being exceedingly low cost on the secondary ticket market. The attendance, which LIV Golf doesn’t announce, is roughly one-fourth of what could be expected for a PGA Tour event.
The LIV Golf version of a fan village alongside the golf course has considerable energy, with myriad golf skill contest booths and food trucks which may evoke a county fair. There also appears to be a bar, with a line, at every turn.
But there’s something else noticeable in regards to the fan village. An enormous screen was showing the golf happening over on the course. I checked several times over three days, and while there have been lots of of fans standing and sitting around contained in the village, it was rare to see anyone even glance briefly on the screen.
The competition, for all its newness, does resemble an elite golf tournament with the type of booming drives and deft short games that only the world’s best players hit. Dustin Johnson won the 54-hole event on Sunday in a playoff over Joaquin Niemann and Anirban Lahiri.
But especially early on, a few of the usual tension of a PGA Tour event, where the understanding is that a victory could be career-changing, was missing. On the driving range and the practice putting green before play begins, the atmosphere was unusually light and carefree — as if most of them knew that that they had already been paid handsomely with guaranteed, upfront money. Which, after all, is the case.
But LIV Golf is in its infancy, and its baby steps have included the successful, stunning recruitment of a large variety of distinguished golfers — a flock that only a few thought could possibly be assembled so rapidly. The circuit has now played half of its scheduled tournaments, and it isn’t going away.
Monahan, the PGA Tour chieftain, is extremely unlikely to contemplate Norman’s jumping out of an airplane a challenge that he must reply to in kind. But gaudy gestures aside, the brand new reality of men’s golf is that neither LIV Golf, which appeared to drop out of nowhere, nor the established PGA Tour is backing down.