Civil war between PGA Tour and LIV Golf is just beginning

The Civil War in Golf has taken a break from the fighting, but it is far from over.

Two weeks ago, LIV Golf completed its first season at the Trump National Doral outside of Miami. Success is in the eye of the beholder, but in no time the new bully on the block has managed to lure in a handful of big names, including Phil Mickelson, world No. 3 and reigning British Open and Players champion Cameron Smith, as well as major champions Brooks Kepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, among others. The Saudi Arabian-backed series also ran eight tournaments and received more publicity than could have been dreamed of.

Of course, all of these things have been made much easier thanks to the endless resources of Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, but it’s clear that LIV isn’t going away anytime soon. The second act of the controversial tournament will begin in February, and 14 tournaments are scheduled until early September, compared to eight this year. At least half of them will be in the United States, including several on courses owned by Donald Trump after Trump’s Bedminster course was reset at the 2021 PGA Championship due to the January 6 Capitol attack (and before that his course Doral was abandoned from the PGA Tour in 2016). The rest will go around the world, although anything less than half will seem disingenuous to LIV’s claims of a world tour. A schedule announcement is expected in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, the PGA Tour will wrap up the fall portion of the 2022-2023 season next week at the Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia, which will also host a political board meeting on a range of topics including the LIV. happening. The PGA will resume its season in the first week of January and will follow a schedule that includes 13 elevated tournaments with purses of at least $20 million. This is just one of several ways the tour will funnel more money to its top players who, as part of the increase, are guaranteed to play the same tournaments together.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy
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The recent announcement of a joint venture between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy that includes “high-tech” golf on select Monday nights is another example of additional ways the tour will look to line the pockets of its stars. And for the first time, the top college graduate will be given a PGA Tour card right after the NCAA championship, and the top juniors will also receive points that could lead to a card as the tour looks for ways to prevent top amateurs from being captured. LIV.

What does all this mean and where will things go next?

First, the PGA Tour’s stance on who runs for LIV will not change. While McIlroy recently said it’s time for both sides to “find a compromise”, players leaving the LIV will still be banned from the PGA Tour. Whether players from the DP World Tour (formerly European Tour) who have moved to the LIV will be excluded from this circle will be decided in February.

While the PGA Tour declined to comment on the story, citing an ongoing antitrust lawsuit against LIV, sources inside the building said there was little chance that LIV and the tour would ever work together because the view is that LIV does not aim to be an addition to the tour, as its commissioner Greg Norman recently said, but the tour “will cease to exist as we know it.” Sources also said that Norman’s attempts to meet the tour are exaggerated, and that a Hall of Famer contacted and left a voicemail shortly before LIV announced their plans.

The Masters, PGA Championship, US Open, and British Open, meanwhile, are different beasts, as the four main events are not run by the PGA Tour, but by four different organizations.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan
USA TODAY Sports

R&A, which oversees the British Open, recently said in an interview with Golf Digest that it would not ban LIV players from competing in 2023, although it could make changes to its qualifications that would be announced early next year. The US Open may follow suit, while the Masters remain silent on the topic, although sources indicate past champions are unlikely to be banned. The PGA of America, which hosts the PGA Championship and the American portion of the Ryder Cup, has hinted that LIV golfers will not be eligible for next year’s Ryder Cup in Italy, but has also yet to take an official position on the PGA. Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, NY next May. It should also be noted that PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh has close ties to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan.

“More reasonable for [the majors] stay above the fray [when it comes to LIV] than to take a position,” one longtime and influential golfer told The Post. “The world ranking issue will solve that over time. It’s an unnecessary risk to draw a line in the sand.

“There are reasons to do it for moral reasons [for being financed by the Saudi Arabian government and calls of sportswashing], but then you have to be spotless on every level. It just can’t be done comprehensively, so it’s best not to get into the conversation.”

The LIV’s connection to Saudi Arabia remains a major problem, given the country’s abysmal human rights record. Even the biggest star LIV, Mickelson, confessed in a message to The Post before he left the PGA Tour for the LIV, that track is used for the country’s sporting image. There were also protests this summer from several 9/11 groups denouncing LIV for its ties to Saudi Arabia following the declassification of documents linking the country to the 9/11 attacks.

But it doesn’t slow anything down. According to LIV, LIV has committed about $785 million this year. Sports Illustrated reportand is expected to shell out around $1 billion in 2023.

“I truly believe that what we do has a positive impact on the game,” LIV director of events Ron Cross, a former longtime PGA Tour executive who also worked at Augusta National, told The Post. “The energy we bring to the events, the format of the team, the players and the level of competition they play, all of these factors come into play.”

Greg Norman, CEO and Commissioner of LIV Golf
Greg Norman, CEO and Commissioner of LIV Golf
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This influence is debatable. Without a TV deal, online YouTube views in the States averaged tens of thousands this year. Tournament tickets often cost a few dollars – or even free – one fan at a tournament in Bedminster quipped that he “overpaid” for a ticket he bought for a dollar. But what is clear is that the organization is tying its van to a team and franchise format in hopes of attracting more sponsors.

Cross noted that this is how other sports are designed, and it works for the Ryder Cup (and, to a lesser extent, the Presidents Cup). But these events only happen once every two years and have built-in national pride and history. It remains to be seen if this will work for a league that hosts tournaments 14 times a year and players compete for nothing more than massive amounts of guaranteed money and the champagne opener that comes with the 54-hole, no-cuts. tournaments.

“I think we showed that he has an audience,” Cross said. “People like to fight not only for their favorite player, but also for their favorite team.

“The part that’s going to be the most interesting in the coming years is that people in baseball and football get excited in the offseason is trade and leeway and the drama of so-and-so staying with this team, or they will leave. go away and play for your opponent.”

This element of LIV is its fundamental difference from what sport has always been. Golf is essentially the same, but things around it are different.

“Total 48 guys [in the league] and having teammates, it feels like we’re together,” one LIV player told The Post. However, the same player also expressed concern that golf could take the path of boxing and suffer irreparable damage given the current gap.

Much will depend on whether LIV earns world ranking points for their events, which is an important route to the four main tournaments. Sources at LIV said they expect the issue to be resolved by February; others are less optimistic.

LIV Golfer Phil Mickelson
LIV Golfer Phil Mickelson
USA TODAY Sports

It’s also difficult.

First, the process is not fast even under the most favorable circumstances. On the other hand, the LIV doesn’t meet all the criteria for scoring, although the relegation and promotion that will be part of the 2023 season, along with its alignment with the MENA Tour and Asia International Series, among other changes, should take care of that. Even then, the seven-man world rankings include PGA Tour and DP World Tour executives.

“Even if they get points, will enough be awarded to make an impact?” one longtime agent asked.

More players are expected to forgo the PGA Tour in 2023 for the LIV. Who exactly is still unknown – there were rumors about Xander Schauffel and Ricky Fowler, but sources close to both confirmed to The Post that neither of them plans to join LIV. Meanwhile, Norman, who declined to be interviewed for the story through a rep, had previously said he was targeting seven more players for next year. However, there are indications that none of them will be among the tour’s current stars.

“In this moment [stars] whoever wanted to leave, he left, ”one of the players told The Post. “Those who are on the fence will always be on the fence.”

Golf bets?

Another major element of LIV revolves around the TV deal. As First week of golf in late September, the organization was close to buying airtime for its Fox Sports 1 events. Sources also confirmed to The Post that LIV would eventually appear on the network in some capacity.

Finally, there is the antitrust lawsuit LIV and several of its players have filed against the PGA Tour. In September, the PGA Tour counter-sued, accusing LIV of interfering with their player contracts. In addition, the Justice Department is investigating the PGA Tour’s alleged monopoly activities, allegations the tour denied.

Neither of these issues can be resolved anytime soon – the antitrust lawsuit’s tentative ruling date is set for July 23, 2023, when the PGA Tour seeks to have the case dismissed, and the trial date is set for January 2024.

“I see things going the same way for the foreseeable future,” one senior source told The Post. “I am not surprised [LIV] took off what they did. It was inevitable. It’s no wonder when you have a connection with the right people with unlimited resources. It would be a mistake to underestimate sophisticated people with unlimited resources.”

What will this mean for golf? Time will tell.

“The game will survive,” said another veteran agent whose stable includes several major champions and several LIV players. “This is one of the greatest games of all time. It’s just business.”

Or, as Sun Tzu and Gordon Gekko might say, the art of war.

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