Golf: the LIV circuit in three main questions

The new LIV circuit will present the first event in its history starting today at Centurion Club from London. While this new player in the world of professional golf was initially met with skepticism, he is now seen as a rival who could bring down the PGA Tour. Beyond the headlines, questions remain unanswered.

Why?

To understand today’s negotiations, we must go back to the origins of the creation of what has become the PGA Tour, in 1968. At the time, it was the PGA of America who headed the circuit and two clans clash over the redistribution of income, which has increased tenfold over the decade due to the retransmission of tournaments in more and more countries.

On the one hand, regulars on the circuit want an increase in scholarships, while on the other, club professionals want the windfall to be devoted to the development of the sport. Common ground was quickly found and the PGA Tour operated independently in 1969.

Over time, both entities will find their account. The purses of the various tournaments increase substantially, while the PGA of America continues to do excellent business by organizing the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, in particular.

But more than 50 years later, a new schism appears between the players and the entity which controls the circuit. And unlike in the past, a third party has completely changed the balance of power: the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), whose value is estimated to be around US$620 billion.

The PIF is not its first investment in the field of sport, given that it notably acquired Newcastle United in 2020 and part of the McLaren Formula 1 team in 2021. PIF is also no stranger to hosting an F1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia since 2021 and major boxing bouts in the kingdom.

Experts call this phenomenon “sportswashing”, which consists of a country using sport to wash away its reputation. Saudi Arabia is also in the crosshairs of several international organizations for its breaches of human rights. The regime is notably suspected of having participated in the assassination of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

But still?

In their criticisms, the opponents of the LIV circuit accuse the superstars who have agreed to join the new entity of playing the ostrich in exchange for hallucinating sums. The amounts are enough to make you dizzy, according to information published by various media.

Phil Mickelson (200 million $US) and Dustin Johnson (125 or 150 M$), have indeed gone through the checkout before having hit the slightest ball. The amounts offered to Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood or even Ian Poulter have not yet leaked.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Westwood, who is 49, did not show up. Quite the contrary. “It’s my 29th season,” he said. If there is a raise at my age, I would be stupid not to take it, or at least not to think about it before refusing it. »

Other golfers were quick to point out that the North American and European tours had variable outrage and had no remorse in accepting money from the Saudis or other countries where democracy may be deemed flawed in the past. . That the only reason the PGA Tour is protesting is because they see the rug slipping from under their feet.

” The [circuit de la] PGA and the [circuit européen] are worried about the origin of the funds because it suits them well in order to protect their circuits, said Grégory Havret to golfplanète.fr. I find it paradoxical to see them take offense today when it didn’t bother them at the time. In this case, we can also discuss Qatar, China, countries where we have been playing for 20 years. »

Finally?

Very clever the one who can predict the future of things. Many golfers will watch the first tournament of the LIV circuit carefully and may even join it. Golfers like Johnson and Kevin Na have resigned from the PGA Tour, but all indications are that they will still be able to play the US Open June 16-19 in Massachusetts.

Major tournaments are historically the ones that get the most attention from fans and if dissenters can take part in them, it will be a huge blow to the PGA Tour. They would have to give up the Ryder Cup, however, but the competition would lose a lot of interest without the presence of the best golfers in the world. Few remember, but the Ryder Cup was played out in indifference before players from continental Europe joined those from Great Britain and Ireland to take on the Americans in 1979.

This is not the first time that a newcomer has wanted to break a monopoly in the world of professional sports. Historically, players have always benefited from it, but one thing is certain, the world of golf is set to change. Moreover, an overhaul of the PGA Tour schedule was already in the air before the arrival of the LIV Tour. Will this be enough to survive?

Leave a Comment