The brand new Saudi-financed, controversy-trailed LIV Golf series, which is holding its first event this week at an exclusive club north of London, is the talk of golf. Not at all times, though, within the ways its organizers had hoped.
But what’s it? Who’s playing it? What’s all of the hubbub, and how are you going to watch it? Here’s what that you must know.
What’s LIV Golf?
The brand new series, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, is billing itself as “a possibility to reinvigorate golf” through wealthy paydays, star players and slick marketing. “Golf but louder,” goes considered one of its slogans.
LIV Golf’s organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the very best level of professional golf for nearly a century.
Its critics, which include among the world’s best players, have labeled it an unseemly money grab.
How much money are we talking about?
The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history — this week’s total purse is $25 million, with a $20 million pot for the person event and $5 million more to separate within the team competition. The winner’s share this week is $4 million, and the last-place finisher at each event is guaranteed $120,000.
And that’s on top of the looks fees and signing-on payouts individual players have accepted. Phil Mickelson is being paid a reported $200 million to participate, and Dustin Johnson, the highest-ranked player to sign up-to-date, is claimed to have been tempted by a suggestion price $150 million. Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, two other top stars expected to compete in the following LIV series event in Oregon, will certainly expect similar inducements to give up their PGA Tour careers.
Who’re the players?
The 48 players within the initial LIV Golf event weren’t exactly a who’s who of golf. There have been, in fact, big names and former major champions familiar to regular watchers of professional golf: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio García, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Graeme McDowell.
But the most important names in golf stayed away: Tiger Woods said no despite a suggestion of nearly $1 billion, per Forbes, and Rory McIlroy has publicly rejected the concept. And a lot of the LIV players are probably strangers to even deeply committed golf fans: The American James Piot, for instance, has only ever played in considered one of golf’s 4 majors, and missed the cut in it. David Puig is a 20-year-old Spanish amateur. Ratchanon Chantananuwat of Thailand is barely 15.
Not everyone seems to be (or, reasonably, was) a PGA Tour member, either, which was why only 17 members of the LIV Golf Series were suspended by the tour on Thursday.
Why did the PGA Tour suspend them?
The PGA Tour suspended the players since it requires members to request and receive a release to play in events that conflict with those on its schedule.
The punishments weren’t a surprise: The PGA Tour had clearly signaled months ago that it could take motion against any of its players who joined. So moments after the players hit their first shots within the debut event on Thursday, the tour dropped the hammer.
“In accordance with the PGA Tour’s tournament regulations, the players competing this week without releases are suspended or otherwise not eligible to take part in PGA Tour tournament play, including the Presidents Cup,” the tour said in a press release to its members. It said the suspensions also applied to any PGA Tour affiliates — circuits just like the lower-tier Korn Ferry Tour, tours in Canada and Latin America and, notably for the older players who joined the LIV series, the PGA Tour Champions series for golfers over 50.
As well as, the PGA Tour said, the players who’ve resigned their memberships within the tour might be faraway from the FedEx Cup points list — essentially ruling them out of the multimillion-dollar season-ending championship series — and are ineligible to make use of side doors like sponsor’s exemptions or past champion status to get into tour events.
But in a letter explaining the suspensions to other pros, the tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, also included a direct warning to any players weighing offers to play in LIV Golf events when the series shifts to america later this month.
“The identical fate,” Monahan said of the bans, “holds true for every other players who take part in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our regulations.”
How did the players react?
With a mixture of caginess, disappointment and disdain. While the bans were announced almost as soon because the players hit their first shots, a couple of didn’t learn concerning the suspensions until they’d accomplished their rounds.
Phil Mickelson, whose participation has aroused essentially the most interest, refused to comment, and the previous U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell said he had expected the punishment, and had already been in touch with lawyers.
Ian Poulter insisted that he and the others in the sector had not done anything fallacious, and said he would appeal. “It is not sensible how I’ve played the sport of golf for all this time, I’ve had two tour cards and the power to play all around the world,” Poulter told reporters. “What’s fallacious with that?”
Sergio García, the Spanish player who had renounced his tour membership when he joined the LIV Golf Series, essentially said he didn’t care what the PGA Tour did. “I resigned every week and a half ago,” he said, “so regardless of the PGA Tour says doesn’t — doesn’t go together with me because I’m not a member.”
That led to the next exchange with a reporter:
Are you banned anyway?
No, I’m not banned because I’m not a member of it.
Not in line with Jay Monahan?
Well he received my letter. That’s as much as him. It doesn’t hassle me.
Do the players have real grievances?
Among the players who’ve signed as much as the LIV series, and even many which have not, consider they’re getting a raw deal from the PGA Tour. The largest stars contend their earnings needs to be more commensurate with their status in the sport, and so they have identified how the most effective players in other sports earn excess of golfers do.
Players and their representatives have often identified how golf’s primary tours are capable of secure a whole bunch of tens of millions in television rights fees because of the star power of a handful of top tour professionals. But the cash they make, nevertheless famous they’re, needs to be earned in the identical way: through prize money. The profession prize-money earnings of golf’s highest achievers, top stars like Woods or McIlroy, are reminiscent of what the world’s best soccer players or an elite N.B.A. stars can earn from their teams in a single yr. (To be clear: Each Woods and McIlroy have been capable of make multiples of those on-course earnings through personal endorsements; Woods is reportedly now a billionaire.) Each have also earned sizable bonuses from the PGA Tour’s recent program meant to measure a player’s appeal and recognition across the calendar yr.
But anger and motion are various things: McIlroy is arguably essentially the most high-profile opponent of the breakaway event amongst current tour players, and he has made several pronouncements that cash mustn’t be the primary driver of golf’s development. And Woods also has spoken up in favor of the PGA Tour, reminding the world that much of his global fame is because of his achievements at tour events.
How do the LIV Golf events work?
LIV Golf has arrange what are essentially shorter tournaments with smaller fields — three rounds as an alternative of 4, and with only 48 players competing as an alternative of the rosters on the PGA Tour, which might be 3 times as large some weeks — and featuring concurrent individual and team play events.
With the small field, there isn’t any cut midway through the event to lop off the stragglers, and each round starts with a shotgun start, meaning players tee off from each hole on the course concurrently after which proceed across the course’s layout from there.
The LIV Golf individual competition will feel, in some ways, like a conventional golf event: three rounds, lowest rating wins. The team event will see the players drafted by captains into four-man squads (teams with odd names, let’s be honest, like Fireballs and Majesticks) that can contest a separate competition, and for a separate prize pot, each week.
This week’s leaderboard, for instance, lists individual scores and team affiliations.
How is that different from the PGA Tour?
With rare exceptions, PGA Tour events generally consist of 4 rounds of stroke play, by which players compete against each other to post the bottom rating. And while the LIV Golf format might feel unusual for players and viewers, the last word goal — circle the 18-hole course in as few shots as possible — is identical.
A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series
Card 1 of 6
A recent series. The brand new Saudi-financed, controversy-trailed LIV Golf series is holding its first event, which began on June 9, outside London. But what’s it? Who’s playing it? What’s all of the hubbub, and how are you going to watch it? Here’s what to know:
What’s LIV Golf? The series is an upstart skilled golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the very best level of professional golf for nearly a century.
Who’s playing it? The 48 players within the initial LIV Golf event weren’t exactly a who’s who of golf, and plenty of of the most important names in the game, similar to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away. But there have been big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García.
What’s attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The primary tournament’s total purse is $25 million, and the winner’s share is $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event is guaranteed $120,000. That’s on top of the looks fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.
How can I watch the brand new tour? Despite its high-profile golfers and its big-money backing, LIV Golf has not yet secured a broadcast rights agreement in america and might be shown on lesser-watched streaming services in much of the world. In america, this week’s tournament might be available via live streams on LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook.
What number of events are there?
Eight this yr, but plans to expand to 10 next yr and much more in subsequent seasons are being drawn up. The primary seven events this yr make up what LIV Golf is asking its regular season. The eighth might be the team championship and include a four-day, four-round seeded match-play event.
Those season-ending championships all include their very own multimillion-dollar paydays for eligible players.
What’s with that name?
LIV (rhymes with give) Golf selected Roman numerals for its name. If it’s been some time because you studied those at school, LIV translates to 54, which is the variety of holes each player will complete in each event’s three-round format, which is one fewer round than a typical PGA Tour workweek, but for lots more cash.
(Before you ask: Essentially the most recent N.F.L. championship game was Super Bowl LVI, or 56.)
How can I watch?
Despite its high-profile golfers and its big-money backing, LIV Golf has not yet secured a broadcast rights agreement in america — essentially the most lucrative marketplace for televised sports — and might be shown on lesser-watched streaming services in much of the world. (Here’s a full list of non-U.S. options.) That doesn’t mean you possibly can’t watch in america, though: This week’s tournament might be available via live streams on LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook.
Normally, television networks would have jumped at the prospect to point out live sports during slow times on the calendar; witness one more spring football league being shown on television. But ESPN, CBS, NBC and Amazon are in the primary yr of a nine-year agreement that has them collectively paying a whole bunch of tens of millions of dollars annually to the PGA Tour to point out tournaments. Those networks can have their fill of golf. They can also not need to court controversy, nor anger their business partner, the PGA Tour.
History suggests, nevertheless, that if LIV Golf does prove to be successful, major rights agreements won’t be far behind. With consumers continuing to slowly abandon pay television, live sports is just concerning the only form of programming that delivers large, and lucrative, audiences anymore. And the streaming services which can be luring those consumers away know that live sports is the most effective ways to get recent customers, and keep old ones.
So is that this just a conceit project for Saudi Arabia?
Not exactly. We asked Ben Hubbard, who covers the Middle East because the Beirut bureau chief for The Times and has written a book on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, to clarify the dominion’s motivations in a bit more depth. His response:
Saudi Arabia’s backing of the brand new series is the newest example of the best way oil-rich Gulf monarchies use their vast wealth to take a position in sports and cultural institutions in hopes of raising their countries’ international profiles and shifting how they’re viewed by people in Western countries.
Saudi Arabia’s investments in international sports and culture have accelerated rapidly since 2015, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his ascent to turn out to be the dominion’s de facto ruler and spearheaded an enormous overhaul aimed toward opening up its economy and culture.
For more that a decade, that effort has included governments hosting Formula One races and skilled boxing and wrestling matches; opening branches of world-class museums and universities just like the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Georgetown University in Qatar; and buying up European soccer clubs. (Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which the crown prince leads as chairman, acquired the Premier League club Newcastle United last yr.)
In investing in golf, though, it seems that the Saudis are in search of to win over a distinct category of sports fan, in line with Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, who studies Gulf politics on the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
“They’re searching for an older, more skilled market to attempt to make inroads to, a wealthier demographic,” Ulrichsen said.
That group includes fans of former President Donald Trump, and maybe even Trump himself, with whom the crown prince enjoys a detailed relationship.
Two of the LIV Golf Series events, in reality, might be at Trump-owned courses: the primary in late July, on the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and the season-ending team championship in October, at Trump National Doral Miami.
How has that gone over?
Not at all times well. One among LIV Golf’s biggest signings, Mickelson, provoked outrage in February when he praised the series as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” whilst he called Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights “horrible” and used an expletive to explain the country’s leaders as “scary.” The project’s primary architect, the previous player Greg Norman, made things worse a couple of weeks later when he dismissed Saudi Arabia’s murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi by saying, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes.”
The tour’s next 4 events are in america, starting with a stop at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside Portland, Ore., from June 30 to July 2, after which tournaments in Latest Jersey, Boston and Chicago. Trips to Thailand and Saudi Arabia follow, before the season-ending event in Florida. The total schedule is here.
Kevin Draper contributed reporting.