The LIV Golf Invitational Series, otherwise known as the LIV Golf League, is a new golf tour that is headed up by former Australian golfer Greg Norman, with funding coming from the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.
Ever since LIV Golf was announced, it has been met with criticism and backlash due to its source of funding and Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights violations. However, that hasn’t stopped some of the world’s best golf players from defecting from the well-established PGA Tour (to which LIV Golf is now a rival) in return for some seriously large paycheques.
The PGA Tour itself has been particularly direct in its stance on the LIV Golf tour, stating that any PGA players, both current and future, who choose to join LIV Golf, will be suspended from playing PGA Tour events.
Despite this, some of the world’s most well-known golfing stars have already signed contracts with LIV Golf, which have already seen them earn more money just for joining than they’ve earned throughout their entire PGA Tour career. American golfer John Daly – who hoped to join LIV Golf himself but was turned down by Greg Norman – has said he believes the prize money on offer to be completely fair and justified.
In this LIV Golf guide…
What is the LIV Golf Tournament?
The LIV Golf League has been setup as an alternative to the PGA Tour, but presents itself in a different format. By this, we mean LIV Golf offers a more arena-style of sporting event, since it puts players into various teams of four, each with a captain.
And, because of its immense financial backing, LIV Golf offers golfers the chance to earn some serious money, even if they don’t win. While prize money purses for winners can be between $20 – $25 million, players on the LIV Golf tour can also earn money just for their appearance. There is also an additional $5 million for the winning team, to be split between its members.
What does LIV stand for?
LIV Golf might seem like an unusual name. After all, PGA makes perfect sense (Professional Golders’ Association) but you might not know where the name LIV came from.
It’s actually pretty simple. LIV is a reference to the Roman numeral for 54 (L – 50, I – 1, V – 5. IV – 1 before 5 = 4). 54 is the score a golfer would achieve if every hole on a par-72 course were birdied (one stroke under par) and it is also the number of holes that will be played at LIV Golf events.
When did LIV Golf start?
Initial discussions for LIV Golf began in 2019 and at the time, it was going to be known as the Premier Golf League. Following discussions with investors from Saudi Arabia, the Premier Golf League changed its name to LIV Golf Investments and officially launched in October 2021.
The first season of LIV teed off in 2022, consisting of eight 54-hole tournaments and featuring 48 players. Players are split into 12, four-man teams and the field of players can differ from tournament to tournament.
LIV Golf format
LIV Golf players compete in events in teams of four, with there being 12 teams in total. Players compete as individuals and as a team for both points and prize money. LIV Golf select team captains before each event and these captains get to choose with other LIV Golf players they want on their team.
At the end of each LIV Golf event, the player with the lowest 54-hole stroke play total is the individual winner. The winning team is decided by taking the best two stroke play scores from the first two round, and the best three from the third and final round. Whichever team ends up with this figure being the lowest, wins.
The same team names are used throughout the LIV Golf season, but each week they can be populated by different players and captains. The 12 LIV Golf teams are:
- Niblicks GC
- Fireballs GC
- HY Flyers GC
- Punch GC
- Smash GC
- Cleeks GC
- 4 Aces GC
- Torque GC
- Majesticks GC
- Crushers GC
- Stinger GC
- Iron Heads GC
LIV Golf prize money
As previously mentioned, one of the appealing aspects of LIV Golf (and one of the main reasons behind players defecting from the PGA Tour to join the new league) is the incredible amount of prize money on offer.
The total prize money purse across the eight events in the season stands at a huge US$255 million. For each team event there is US$25 million on offer. $20 million of this prize purse is shared between the players taking part in an event, and around $4 million of it is presented to the winner.
When the Team Championship is played, which is a final event that LIV Golf says will be a seeded “four-day, four-round, match play knock-out,” to be held at the Trump National Doral Miami in October 2022, there is US$50 million on offer as part of the prize money purse.
$16 million of this will be presented to the winning team for them to share. But, even the team that finishes last will still walk away with $1 million.
LIV Golf vs PGA Tour
While many see LIV Golf as a direct rival to the PGA Tour, former golfer and now CEO of the league, Greg Norman, has come out and said it wasn’t devised to directly compete with the PGA Tour.
He says the schedule of the tournament was carefully thought out so that it wouldn’t compete with major PGA Tour events or any other international team events.
Despite this, the PGA Tour still saw it (and still does) as a direct competitor and so took the drastic decision to announce any PGA Tour player who defected to the series, would be sanctioned.
The official statement said, “Members who violate the tournament regulations are subject to disciplinary action,”
“As communicated to our entire membership on 10 May, PGA Tour members have not been authorised to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour tournament regulations.”
On 9 June 2022, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan took this one step further by suspending any players who took part in the new series, saying (as per ESPN), “These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons,”
“But they can’t demand the same PGA TOUR membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platform as you. That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners. You have made a different choice, which is to abide by the Tournament Regulations you agreed to when you accomplished the dream of earning a PGA TOUR card and — more importantly — to compete as part of the preeminent organisation in the world of professional golf.”
The PGA Tour ultimately said that any players who joined LIV Golf would no longer be allowed to compete in PGA Tour events.
LIV Golf responded to these actions by saying it, “deepens the divide between the Tour and its members.”
“It’s troubling that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing,”
“This certainly is not the last word on this topic. The era of free agency is beginning as we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London, and beyond.”
LIV Golf players
Some of the most notable golfers to have joined LIV Golf include Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. There are currently 61 players who have signed a contract with LIV Golf or have played at least one LIV Golf event. Those players are:
- Dustin Johnson (USA)
- Cameron Smith (AUS)
- Marc Leishman (AUS)
- Abraham Ancer (MEX)
- Oliver Bekker (RSA)
- Richard Bland (ENG)
- Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA)
- Laurie Carter (ENG)
- Paul Casey (ENG)
- Eugenio Chacarra (ESP)
- Ratchanon Chantananuwat (THA)
- Bryson DeChambeau (USA)
- Hennie du Plessis (RSA)
- Oliver Fisher (ENG)
- Sergio Garcia (ESP)
- Branden Grace (RSA)
- Talor Gooch (USA)
- Justin Harding (RSA)
- Sam Horsfield (ENG)
- Charles Howell III (USA)
- Matt Jones (AUS)
- Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA)
- Martin Kaymer (GER)
- Phachara Khongwatmai (THA)
- Sihwan Kim (USA)
- Ryosuke Kinoshita (JAP)
- Brooks Koepka (USA)
- Chase Koepka (USA)
- Jason Kokrak (USA)
- Jinichiro Kozuma (JAP)
- Pablo Larrazábal (ESP)
- Viraj Madappa (IND)
- Graeme McDowell (NIR)
- Phil Mickelson (USA)
- Jediah Morgan (AUS)
- Kevin Na (USA)
- Shaun Norris (RSA)
- Andy Ogletree (USA)
- Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)
- Wade Ormsby (AUS)
- Carlos Ortiz (MEX)
- Adrián Otaegui (ESP)
- Pat Perez (USA)
- Turk Pettit (USA)
- James Plot (USA)
- Ian Poulter (ENG)
- David Puig (ESP)
- Patrick Reed (USA)
- J. C. Ritchie (RSA)
- Charl Schwartzel (RSA)
- Travis Smyth (AUS)
- Ian Snyman (RSA)
- Henrik Stenson (SWE)
- Hudson Swafford (USA)
- Hideto Tanihara (JAP)
- Peter Uihlein (USA)
- Scott Vincent (ZIM)
- Bubba Watson (USA)
- Lee Westwood (ENG)
- Brend Wiesberger (AUT)
- Blake Windred (AUS)
- Matthew Wolff (USA)
- Kevin Yuan (AUS)
Phil Mickelson was one of the earliest players to defect to the LIV Golf League, who signed a contract worth a reported US$200 million. Phil reportedly joined LIV Golf at the beginning of 2022, with initial murmurs taking place in February.
Mickelson had, before this, criticised the PGA Tour but was also critical of Saudi Arabia, telling biographer Alan Shipnuck, Saudi Arabians were, “scary motherfuckers to be involved with.”
And, even after he criticised the country’s human rights record, Phil Mickelson still decided to join LIV Golf and played the first event in London in June 2022. On his decision, Mickelson told reports,
“I understand that many people have very strong opinions and many disagree with my decision, and I can empathize with that, but at this time, this is an opportunity that gives me a chance to have the most balance in my life going forward and I think this is going to do a lot of good for the game.”
LIV Golf controversy
As already mentioned in this article, the LIV Golf tournament has been met with serious criticism. The majority of this criticism is aimed at the fact it is financed by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, but also because it is a direct rival to the long-established and much-loved PGA Tour.
Many protestors claim that LIV Golf is a prime example of ‘sportswashing,’ saying that the glitz, the glamour and the huge money on offer for players is all a ploy by Saudi Arabia’s political strategy to improve its global image.
At the centre of Saudi Arabia’s negative image is its human rights violations and the Government’s involvement – along with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman – in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was often critical of his country’s government.
It has also been suggested the Saudi family were involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York.
Will Cameron Smith join LIV Golf?
Update 30th August 2022
Cameron Smith has now announced his decision to join LIV Golf in a deal worth AU$140 million. Smith told reporters that the money on offer did play a part in his decision making, but said the biggest influence in making his decision was that, “[LIV’s] schedule is really appealing. I’ll be able to spend more time at home in Australia and maybe have an event down there, as well. I haven’t been able to do that, and to get that part of my life back was really appealing.”
Previous information as of 30th August 2022
There has been a great deal of speculation surrounding Australian golfer Cameron Smith and whether he will defect to the LIV Golf tour too. Following his spectacular win at The Open in July 2022, Smith was asked by reporters if he was planning to join Greg Norman’s LIV Golf tour. At the time, Smith said, “I just won the British Open and you’re asking about that? I think that’s pretty, not that good.”
Speculation has intensified since, as the The Telegraph reported, on the 9th of August, that Smith has now signed a US$100 million/AU$140 million contract to join LIV Golf. The UK publication added Cameron Smith will play his first LIV Golf event in Boston.
Cameron Smith was once again asked, during the FedEx Cup playoffs, about him moving to LIV Golf. He told reporters, “no comment,” and added, “You know, my goal here is to win the FedEx Cup playoffs. That’s all I’m here for,”
“If there’s something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it’ll come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy,” referencing the fact Australian golfer Cameron Percy told reporters that Smith had indeed joined LIV.
How to watch LIV Golf?
LIV Golf tournament events can be watched online at LIV Golf’s official website, or its YouTube and Facebook channels.