The controversial LIV Golf circuit concluded its inaugural season last week with the team championship at Trump National Doral Golf Club, Miami.
The new circuit, which will be funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and helmed two-time Open Championship winner, is now open. Greg Norman, has plans for a 14-tournament League in 2023.
LIV Golf experienced many highs, including the attraction of former major champions Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin JohnsonAnd Bubba Watsonreportedly more than $100 million in guaranteed contracts, away from the PGA Tour
There were also many lows, such as Phil Mickelsons controversial comments regarding Saudi Arabians and PGA Tour, and Norman himselfs description of the Saudi monarchys alleged involvement with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.
LIV Golf is looking for a TV or streaming partner and corporate sponsors as it enters its second year of operation in 2023.
Norman took part in a video conference with ESPN and other media outlets on Tuesday. Heres what Norman had to say about LIV golfs future.
How would you rate LIV Golf’s inaugural season?
Norman: The LIV process has just begun. It was a great year, from my perspective. It was a very productive beta season. It was a great launch. It was the first year of a new sports league that has achieved as much as LIV Golf.
We are extremely proud of the achievements we have made. Our long-held dream to create a league that puts fans and golfers at the top has been realized. Professional golfers are finally being paid what they deserve. Fans are enjoying new and exciting golf. Our events are a great experience. [like]Nothing else. Its fun, and thats how golf should be. To be honest, I cannot wait to see what next year brings. I am already preparing with my entire team.
This was a beta-test period, as you mentioned. How much will revenue expectations rise in Year 2
Norman: First, we are looking at broadcasting. Were currently in talks with a few broadcasters. There will be an increase in revenue when that happens. There are many sponsors waiting for this. Before we start the 2022-23 seasons, we expect to have a broadcast company.
A lot of broadcasters are quite bullish about the content we deliver. If you look at the average golfer who watches, the PGA Tours average viewer is 58. [viewer] is like 65 ½ [years old]. In just eight events over a year, it was below 45. This was one our goals and a target in our business plan. We wanted to reach a younger audience to show what we could do.
How was LIV Golf possible to reach a younger audience.
Norman: Its all part of what we do through music and players having more fun. LIV has a [much]Lighter touch. The footprint of the players is much lighter. I listened to players. I was a player for more than 40 years. I tried to let my voice be heard about my concerns or opinions on where golf should go. I listen to my fellow players and am open to their opinions and thoughts. When I hear them ask me, How about shorts? How about music? This is what you can do. What about rangefinders? I listen to them. If it makes their world easier and more fun, Ill entertain the idea. As I have approved all three requests from players over the course of the year, I am confident that I have. [show].
How does it compare with a PGA Tour event of the same type in the U.S. if you take a look at YouTube viewership and the LIV Golf website?
Norman: As we speak, were analysing all that data. From our perspective, we have over 1,000,000 viewers per competition day on YouTube. Take a look at [only]The YouTube numbers are not capturing the true number of viewers streaming to our website. They are overlooking the numbers of people watching on TV and other platforms all over the world. Each week, we are on 180 channels around the globe, I believe. We need all that data too, right? Its also important for sponsors. But I do know that other broadcasters have been watching us closely and are very bullish due to the numbers that theyre seeing.
Why hasn’t a TV deal been made yet? Why haven’t sponsors purchased in yet?
Norman: Its very easy. Its a betayear, right? They wanted to see how the year went. Its understandable considering that weve only played 24 rounds of Golf. Its not a lot of golf, is it? So, [during]They sat back during our beta season. To be honest, there were a few. [TV networks]They wanted to take Miami. They had seen enough. The whole thing evolved. All of it is part of the negotiation.
Sponsors are the same, right? We now have more sponsors. I have personally received calls from sponsors of non-elevated PGA Tour events feeling like they are dying on the vine going into 2023.
Other sports, such as the NFL or NBA, have free agency. You stated that you are bringing free agency to the game of golf. What are your thoughts about free agency in LIV golf?
Norman: Its a priority. The franchise model, creating that and growing it, I believe that this year being the Beta year was a validation by the players and fans I spoke to about their teams. Ive had many conversations about next year, even up until an hour ago. We discussed how to improve the team, team value, and franchise value from a fan perspective. To be completely honest, were even discussing trades today and how that structure works. We also discuss the comparisons to the NHL, NBA, and other sports. All of these are on our list.
I actually called a three-day summit on franchises down here in my West Palm Beach office [Florida]We will be focusing on the first week of December in order to cross all our Ts as we enter 2023.
How important was it for LIV Golf to land Cameron Smith the reigning Open Championship winner!
Norman: We spoke before he accepted to board. He understood the circumstances. He understood the importance of being able to spend more of his time at home. This is a result of his personal and family circumstances. It also gives him the freedom to play as much or as little golf as he likes outside of the 14 tournaments. He understood the potential of building a franchise in Australia. To be completely honest, he was excited about the opportunity to build a franchise in Australia.
Rumours have circulated that other PGA Tour members may defect to LIV Golf prior to the 2023 season. What can you tell me about this?
Norman: We are having an open discussion. The outsiders who are watching LIV today can see how these guys talk to one another. They dont speak to each other. They do communicate with each other and LIV members feel liberated. Todays PGA Tour players want to be liberated. Those conversations continue.
We need to make the right decisions internally. There are not many spots left, I can assure you. There are many happy campers who have signed contracts for one or two years and want to stay longer.
What percentage of your current players will you be bringing back next season?
Norman: I would estimate 85 to 90% of the players.
What happens to players who aren’t welcomed back or are relegated to the reserve team?
Norman: Lets be real with you. That is up to the team captain. The team captain needs to talk with them to find out if they are willing to continue working with the team and to negotiate. Its up to them. We are given recommendations by a principal player, who he wants to have on the team, and who he has spoken with. They contact us to get that recommendation. We then have to look at it from the league perspective and discuss it internally.
If 85% to 90% of your current players are returning, how many players would you like to add in 2023?
Norman: We are looking to find seven players.
What was the most difficult thing you had to do during LIV Golfs inaugural year?
Norman: Norman, I have one word for you: disappointment. It was the PGA Tour and DP World Tour that caused the disappointment. I do know the history. I know the history. As you can see, our model is quite different from the PGA Tour. However the Tour is still using the same things that we were doing.
It was disappointing for a player who had been so involved in the development of golf around the globe for so many years. Our business model was designed to work in the ecosystem. We didnt create our business model to do the opposite of what others have done — to kill off us. We wanted to be part of the ecosystem. We still have the abilities and will continue to try to work within the ecosystems.
When was the last time Jay Monahan, PGA Tour commissioner, was reached?
Norman: Jay was probably the first person I contacted around mid-year. You know what? I think they have the ball in their court. Weve tried many different angles and many fronts through many institutions. Weve sat down together, and Ive spoken to some the most prestigious institutions. Its very, very disappointing to see this vitriol and this ill will feeling.
I can tell yall guys, with my hands on my heart, that all the PGA Tour and DP World Tour players who play for LIV want to go back and play the PGA Tour. Some of them are now saying No, no…no, no! They all wanted to return to the PGA Tour in the beginning. It wasnt as if they said, No, were never going back to the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour created the angst, but we didnt create it. Why does competition cause heartbreak? Why is competition so destructive? Why is competition so divisive? We all need competition.
Have you spoken to any majors regarding whether LIV golfers will still be allowed to participate in them in the future?
Norman: I havent had any conversations. I applaud [R&A CEO Martin Slumbers]He made the statement that it would open and LIV golfers were welcome. [at The Open]. Id love to know what criteria changes or new criteria are made. You have to see it from the perspective of majors, right? Do you really have a major if youre losing 13 of your top-50 players? Do you have the best players in the world? No. Our guys want the opportunity to compete in the major championships. They love them and want to play them.
Switzerland should be the home of majors. The majors shouldnt have ever entered the ring of divisiveness and vitriol. So I was happy to see what Martin Slumbers did, and I had not spoken with anyone else recently.
What are your thoughts on LIV golfers being awarded Official World Golf Ranking points. According to reports, Peter Dawson, OWGR chairman, said that he wanted LIV players to get points. Is this true?
Norman: Look, no question about it, its definitely a hurdle. We know that. Its not right for me personally. I see it from the golfers point of view, and I dont believe its right. [LIV Golf has]13 of the 50 top performers in the world are not represented by the OWGR, so they are missing 13 out of 50. Peter Dawson was a person I spoke to. Ive been close with Peter Dawson for a long, long period of time, since he was head of the R&A. He knows whats best for golf, what LIV means and thats exactly what it is. We need to grow the game, and LIV is helping us do that. Other pathways are available for growing the game. I have had personal conversations.
Just to be clear, Peter Dawson did tell you that he wanted LIV players to earn OWGR points.
Norman: Yes, I have had conversations along these lines with Peter.
To earn OWGR points, there are some guidelines. LIV Golf can meet a few of these guidelines, even though they dont have all to be met. LIV Golf could make some changes to improve access to tournaments or have a cut. Is it possible to do any of these things?
Norman: We are on a 2-pronged approach. In July, we applied through LIV for OWGR points. We worked closely with OWGRs technical committee. We felt we had all the necessary boxes checked, so we submitted our application. We also discovered other opportunities through the MENA Tour to help a development tour that was still in the mud after COVID. We actually got in touch with them and studied it for a while to confirm that it was there. We are confident that we have checked all boxes to earn OWGR points when we look at the approach or avenue we chose.
I understand that OWGR must go through a process with a technical group, and that there is a time limit. All that is clear to me. However, it is detrimental to other tournaments because we have used a dual-pronged approach when applying for points. It is detrimental for the PGA Tour as well as the majors. It is clear that the OWGR was not prepared for a new entity such as LIV Golf. Sometimes, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. When someone comes along with an amazing business model that works and has been proven to work, like we have over the past eight tournaments, you have to be flexible and adaptable to allow a new entity in.