IT WAS ALMOST Alan Shipnuck published Phil Mickelson’s controversial remarks about the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabias history with human rights abuses and alleged involvement at the death of Jamal Khashoggi, Washington Post journalist. Mickelson was allegedly recruiting LIV Golf players and told Shipnuck he was only working with the Saudis to gain leverage with PGA Tour.
Mickelson stated to Shipnuck that they are terrible motherf—ers to get involved in. We know that they killed Khashoggi, and have a terrible record on human rights. People are executed over there because they are gay. I dont know why anyone would even consider it. Because this is a rare opportunity to reshape what the PGA Tour does.
Mickelson, a six time major champion, later apologised for his comments. Mickelson lost several long-standing sponsors, including KPMG and Workday. Mickelson went into self exile and returned to LIV Golfs inaugural event in June outside London.
After Mickelsons comments became public, many PGA Tour members who had been speaking to LIV Golf backed out of the circuit that is being sponsored by Saudi Arabias Public Investment Fund. Major championship winners Dustin Johnson, Bryson deChambeau, Patrick ReedOthers pledged their support to PGA Tour. As Rory McIlroyFamously, he said it at the time, It is dead in the water, my opinion. I cant imagine why anyone would go.
Johnson, DeChambeau, Reed, and other golfers made a change after receiving guaranteed signing bonuses worth up to $150 million. Jay Monahan, the tour commissioner, would suspend more than 30 PGA Tour members who defected. LIV Golf and some players filed a federal lawsuit against the PGA Tour alleging that the PGA Tour was a monopoly. The tour countered by claiming LIV Golf violated its contracts with players.
Make no mistake: LIV golfs original motivation was to disrupt an industry that had largely remained unchanged for over 50 years. It succeeded. LIV Golf, which was funded by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, was able to stage eight events in different parts of the world with $25m purses. This amount is the highest in the sports history. It even snatched the reigning Open Championship winner Cameron SmithA few days after he won the Tour Championship, he was interviewed by the PGA Tour.
LIV Golfs 54-hole tournaments with shotgun starts and no cut were not for everyone. However, the players who were very rich seemed to be having fun. LIV Golf seemed to be on the rise after Johnson and his 4Aces teammates celebrated their win with a champagne shower at Trump Dorals 18th hole in Miami. It could be said that the new circuit is the most significant story in men’s professional golf since 2010. Tiger Woods1996: Entered the PGA Tour.
THE DAY AHEADLIV Golfs inaugural season concluded in October with the final round its team championship. Three LIV Golf executives met to brief reporters about the new circuits goals and objectives for 2023.
They had high aspirations and signed television deals to increase LIV Golf’s visibility around the globe. They also secured corporate and team sponsors. And they created a franchise model that would eventually make LIV Golfs 12 teams worth hundreds and millions of dollars each.
Atul Khosla, then-LIV Golf COO, stated that the leagues goals were to establish 12 teams and get them off to the ground. He also said that the team wanted to build on the positive on-course experience and engagement he was seeing. Yes, we must start commercializing our product. Its time to go on TV. We need corporate partners. These are the milestones we must reach in order to move on to next year.
LIV Golf announced its expansion to 14 tournaments, and raised purses from $150 Million to $405 Million this year. It was also eyeing a few other PGA Tour stars such as past Masters champions. Hideki YamayamaJapan and Patrick Cantlay Xander SchauffeleTwo of the most talented players from the U.S.
LIV Golf CEO and commissioner was elected a few days later after the 2022 season. Greg NormanOn a videoconference, he stated that his circuit was only just getting started. He stated that LIV Golfs first year was the best yet.
Norman said, LIV is only just beginning. It was a great year from my perspective. It was a great beta season. It was a tremendous launch.
LIV Golfs momentum seemed slow to decline over the next few weeks. The league that promised to be golf, but louder didnt even make a sound during its offseason.
IN SIX WEEKS Khosla and Jonathan Grella, the chief communications officer, left LIV Golf after the meeting in Miami. Two other significant departures were Matt Goodman (the leagues president and chief marketing officer) and Kerry Taylor (its chief marketing officer). ESPN sources told ESPN that the departures were not voluntary. Majed al Sorour, Golf Saudi CEO and managing director, has also resigned. He remains on the LIV Golf board.
A small group of executives are making decisions as the LIV Golf League begins its second year at El Camaleon Golf Course in Mayakoba, Mexico, on Friday. Gary Davidson and Richard Marsh are the three executives of Performance 54, an England-based global golf marketing and consultancy group. Jed Moore is also in control at LIV Golf.
Attorneys for the PGA Tour alleged in a court filing that Norman was a figurehead , as LIV Golfs CEO. Yasir al-Rumayyan (PIFs governor), was the circuit’s de facto CEO.
Attorneys wrote that Mr. Al-Rumayyan and Mr. PiF have near absolute authority over LIV. This is a creation entirely of their making and was created to serve their interests. The PGA Tour responded to LIV Golfs amended complaint. PIF created LIV; PIF finances LIV; PIF determines which golfers LIV can recruit and how much they will be paid; PIF approves LIV’s media deals, sponsorships and branding, as well as logos. Without PIFs approval, LIV cant spend any significant amount.
According to the PGA Tours lawyers, Al-Rumayyan is LIV’s chief executive. He receives regular reports from Norman, approves LIV’s budget, makes key strategic decisions and micro-manages LIV’s day-to-day operations while in the United States as well as from abroad.
The attorneys wrote that even after contracts have been signed and accrued debts, PIF still holds the purse strings. LIVs golfers or partners are not paid until PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan agree on the distribution of the money.
According to the PGA Tour attorneys, LIVs management team meets weekly in Al-Rumayyans office to update him on progress and priorities. A document called His Excellency Activity Tracker contains status updates from weekly meetings.
Mr. Al-Rumayyan is involved in decision-making regarding minutiae such as LIVs scoring system, hotel and airfare costs of players and their caddies to LIVs promotional video and logo, LIVs tournament structure and calendar, and the on-site activities (e.g. concerts) at LIV events [t]echnology surrounding the event, including broadcasting as well as… data analytics, PGA Tour attorneys wrote.
According to the PGA Tour, Norman sought Al-Rumayyan’s approval before taking any meaningful actions for LIV.
The PGA Tour responded that Norman must approve Normans public statements. This includes those relating to LIV’s future plans, golfer participation and recruiting. When it was necessary to make a decision about LIVs launch date, Norman presented options to Mr. Al-Rumayyan. He stated that he was looking forward to it. [Mr. Al-Rumayyans] direction. Norman also immediately and directly reports to Mr. Al-Rumayyan any sensitive developments, including player recruitment, terms of negotiations with players and competition with the Tour. He also files this lawsuit. In one instance, Norman received unspecifiedsensitive, critical information that was only known to four other people.
LIV Golf team officials have expressed concerns to ESPN over LIV Golf executives not communicating with them regularly and delaying important decisions in recent weeks. LIV Golf announced its 2023 schedule in three announcements, on Nov. 30, Dec. 14, and Jan. 23. Sources say that LIV Golf teams opposed the need to return to Saudi Arabia for the second consecutive year. This was one reason for the delay. The investors won the fight. The LIV Golf team championship will take place in Jeddah from Nov. 3-5.
Sources say that Trump Doral was not happy with the decision to move the team championship from him. LIV Golf will still be played there from Oct. 20-22. It will also be played at Trumps country clubs in Sterling, Virginia and Bedminster, New Jersey.
Team officials also complained that the rosters had been revealed three days ago, just a week before season start. After Belgiums announcement, the last announcement was delayed by three days. Thomas PietersIt was an added last-minute detail Hudson SwaffordSeason-ending hip surgery is currently being performed by,
The New York Times reported December that Project Wedge, a Saudi management consulting firm, wrote a report for 2021. The report, code-named Project Wedge, suggested that a new golf league would need to sign the 12 best golfers in the world, and secure TV deals in a sport that has declining audiences. Saudi advisers believed that Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson would be the most valuable players in the new league to maximize return on investment. McIlroy, Woods were two of the PGA Tour’s most vocal supporters. They helped to reshape the PGA Tour in response to LIV Golfs threat.
Pieters, who was No. 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking and won six times on DP World Tour, is no. LIV Golf signed 35 players during the offseason. Chiles other new players are: Mito Pereira, South Africas Sebastian Munoz (Colombia), Dean Burmester, New Zealands Danny Lee Brendan Steele. It was not the star power Norman had hoped for.
ON JAN. 19 LIV Golf announced that it had signed a multiyear U.S. broadcast TV and streaming agreement with CW to air its live tournaments. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. ESPN reported that it is a revenue sharing arrangement. Sources also indicated that LIV Golf would not receive rights fees from CW, but that it would continue to pay production costs as it did during its first season in 2022.
LIV Golf tournaments first rounds will be streamed via the CW app. The second and three-final rounds of LIV weekend tourneys will air live on Saturdays, Sundays, on the CW and the CW apps. The six international events in the league will be broadcast on tape delay every weekend in the U.S. The CW app allows fans to live-stream the events from overseas.
Thursdays launch of LIV Golf Plus (LIVGolfPlus.com) was announced by the circuit. This would allow viewers in 180 territories around the globe to watch live and for no cost.
The circuit is promoting its team concept. The inaugural season featured a rotating cast of players. However, barring any injuries, teams will have static rosters. On Wednesday, the players wore matching uniforms at the Mexico driving range. While competing on the PGA Tour, their shirts, hats, and custom golf bags were largely devoid of any sponsor logos.
Reply ⬇️ with your team 🙌@4acesgc_ @cleeks_gc @crushers_gc @fireballsgc_ @hyflyers_gc @ironheadsgc_ @majesticksgc @rangegoatsgc @rippergc_ @smashgc @stingergc_ @torquegc_#LIVGolf pic.twitter.com/XHsEdNDd2O
— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) February 14, 2023
Although the apparel and equipment companies didnt choose sides in the battle between LIV golf and the PGA Tour last season, their bottom lines are forcing them to make difficult decisions right now. Puma/Cobra decided not to renew its contract with DeChambeau. An Adidas spokesperson confirmed to ESPN that Adidas had ended its long-standing relationships and business relationship with Johnson. Sergio Garcia. Johnson was sponsored by Adidas shortly after he became a professional in 2007.
Johnson said that Johnson was with them for 15 years to reporters in Mexico on Thursday. Johnson said, We had a great partnership. Its still very good. We agreed to part ways. It was just not working. It was obvious that playing for LIV and the way things are, it was better for us both to part ways. As the captain of our team, it was easier to find a sponsor than wait another year.
Everything we do, especially going forward, will be about the team, and whats best for them. This is the goal, and it will continue to be the goal, from now on.
Representatives of a few apparel and equipment companies were contacted by ESPN to confirm that their contracts with golfers include annual event minima. If a player is currently playing on the PGA Tour, he may be required to participate in 20 tour events. Other qualifiers include tournaments that arent a team event such as the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup in which players don team uniforms and the event being recognized the OWGR.
According to representatives from the equipment and apparel companies last year, many players who jumped to LIV Golf didnt meet minimum event requirements and were not paid the full amount they would have otherwise been owed. One executive called last year Christmas because his company was being promoted for pennies on a dollar by a high-ranking player. Another equipment representative said that it was difficult for players to be evaluated accurately because there was not enough data on marketing and TV metrics. LIV Golfs events in 2022 could only be viewed on YouTube, the official website of LIV Golf.
Potential sponsors will have to be constrained by the fact that players are wearing their team logos on their shirts.
Thats what you were paying typically, said an equipment company representative.
WHY SO MANY PLAYERSLIV Golf players made the switch to LIV Golf after being assured that the new circuit would receive recognition from the OWGR. ESPN has been informed by sources that LIV Golf players will not receive OWGR points for Mayakoba results. A resolution is unlikely in the next few months. LIV Golf was informed by the OWGR that it must address a few issues in order to be included in the rankings. These rankings are used by the four major championships to determine exemptions and qualifiers. LIV Golfs 54 hole format and smaller fields shouldnt be a problem. However, it might need to make a 36-hole cut to meet the criteria.
LIV Golf players didn’t receive points during their first season either, which caused many to fall in the rankings. Smith is currently at No. Smith is ranked No. 5 in the world, but other LIV Golf stars arent maintaining their high rankings. Johnson, a two-time major winner, is ranked number 1. 54 in the world. This is the first time hes not been in top 50 for 13 years. Brooks KoepkaFour-time major champion, he was ranked No. 1 for 47 consecutive weeks has fallen to 85th. DeChambeau, once ranked No. 4 in the world is now 114th. Bubba WatsonMickelson is 298th, and Mickelson is 189th Mickelson is now ranked outside of the top 200 for the first time since 1992, when he became a professional.
If [we]Watson said to ESPN that if you don’t receive world ranking point, then the world ranking system has a problem. Its broken. When you think about the golfers here, its obvious that you have to rank them too. We are some of the most talented in the world. If you say no, its a flawed system.
Six LIV golf players, Smith, Mickelson Johnson, DeChambeau Reed, Reed and Koepka have exemptions to each of the majors this season because they were past champions at least once in the last five years. Garcia, Watson, and others were Masters champions in the past. Charl SchwartzelAugusta National Invitations are available for life. Henrik Stenson Louis OosthuizenThey are eligible to participate in The Open until the age of 60. Martin KaymerExemptions for the PGA Championship or U.S. Open.
Abraham AncerSteele, Pereira, and Pereira are eligible for the PGA Championship if they finish in the top 15 at Southern Hills last year. Joaquin NiemannHe is eligible after achieving the Tour Championship last season; he is also ranked Number. 23 in the world; otherwise, he would qualify. Other LIV Golf players include Harold Varner III, Jason Kokrak Kevin NaIf you were among the top 50 world finishers last year, you are eligible.
Reed stated that it is always great to play at majors, especially at The Open. Were happy that they did the right things, so go out and play well at those events again, because once you go out, you win major championships, everything takes care of itself.
LIV Golf alleged, in its federal antitrust suit, that the PGA Tour was conspiring with majors governing body to keep LIV Golf players from the majors. However none of them imposed bans. LIV Golf players were not restricted by the PGA Championship. For the PGA Championship to be played, players must be a member of the PGA of America. Most players are members of the PGA Tour to meet this requirement. Seth Waugh, the CEO of PGA of America in the past, stated that players who have been suspended or arent in good standing on the PGA Tour wouldn’t be allowed to play.
Waugh stated in a Wednesday news release that his decisions are always based upon the best interests of the PGA of America. He also stated that he is committed to conducting the best championship possible. Sadly, the current division within the professional game is not beneficial for the sport or the future. We hope that there will be a resolution soon. As always, we will continue to focus on our mission to grow the game, improve the lives of our members and make a difference in the lives of millions of people every day.
Mickelson said in an interview with Sports Illustrated last week that the OWGR had lost credibility by not including LIV-players.
Mickelson said that there will be another ranking system that Mickelson believes is more credible, as it includes all the golfers in the world. This ranking system is no longer credible. I wouldnt be surprised to see tournaments stop using it for qualification. It is ultimately hurting tournaments more than it is the players. It can be a problem for major championships if you use it as a qualifying factor. If the system isnt getting all the best players, it will hurt the tournament even more. You might see tournaments drop it as a qualifying factor or change their ranking system.
ALTHOUGH LIV GOLF While it claimed victory in the majors tournaments, it has been dealt a few big blows by the PGA Tour in its ongoing legal battle. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman ruled on Tuesday that the tour can add to its countersuit the Public Investment Funds governor, Al-Rumayyan. U.S. Magistrate Susan van Keulen had previously rejected arguments by PIF lawyers that Al-Rumayyan and the fund were protected from subpoenas because they were agents for a foreign government.
Fridays case management conference is planned. Freeman may choose to delay the trials beginning, which was scheduled to start in January 2024.
Sources told ESPN that the U.S. Department of Justice opened an antitrust probe into the PGA Tours alleged monopolistic activities. It remains active. An arbitration panel in London will soon announce whether LIV Golf can compete on the DP World Tour.
The situation is still a mess a year after Mickelsons comments were published.
Thursday is LIV Golfs Open Day Pat PerezA reporter asked him his thoughts on the start of the season at Mayakoba where the PGA Tour used hold an annual event. His answer was concise.
Perez stated, I love it because the tour isnt here and were here. End quote.