The Future of Professional Golf
By: Daniel Atkinson
The PGA Tour has been the premier golf league showcasing the best golfers in the world for nearly a century. However, this past weekend, the PGA Tour was threatened.
The newly created LIV Golf Series hosted its’ inaugural invitational Centurion Golf Club outside of London. Former PGA Tour Pro and Masters champion, Charles Schwartzel, won the individual competition and took home $4 million dollars. Schwartzel was not the only PGA Tour member who participated as he competed against Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Sergio Garcia. So, what is LIV Golf and why are some of PGA’s biggest stars leaving the tour for this new golf venture? With the next event taking place at the end of June, here is what you need to know.
Founded in 2021, LIV Golf–based on Roman numerals for 54 holes of golf–is a tour organized by LIV Golf Investments which consists of eight events across the world. The new series is funded by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), a sovereign wealth fund aiming to transform the global economy by investing in new economic sectors and opportunities such as The Walt Disney Company and Electronic Arts. With the backing of the PIF, the LIV Golf series is set to host tournaments with the biggest purses in golf history. Each event will have a purse of $25 million, with $20 million paying out to the competition between individual players and the remaining $5 million split between the top three teams at weeks’ end. The winner’s share is set to be upward of $4 million with the last-place participant guaranteed a six-figure payout.
How is LIV Golf different from the PGA Tour? When comparing the two, the formats and payouts are fairly different. The PGA Tour has four rounds of play with over 100 players teeing off throughout the day with an established cut midway through the tournament. LIV Golf has three rounds with only 48 golfers competing the entire tournament start to finish as they tee off at the same time utilizing a shotgun start format. The second biggest difference is that there are teams involved in LIV Golf. Before each event, 12 captains draft three teammates where the top three scores will count towards the overall team strokes. This team play brings an exciting new element to professional golf.
These enormous payouts, along with the unique 54-hole format and short season, is what is tempting PGA professionals to join the LIV Golf series. In comparison, the PGA Tour has 48 events year-round where the average member participates in about 25 events. Furthermore, LIV Golf’s limited field allows for each competitor to receive a piece of the purse where those who miss the cut on the PGA Tour receive no compensation. These purses alone are making the Top 100 players in the world inclined to compete in the LIV Golf series. This list now includes Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, and the most accomplished of the group, Phil Mickelson.
The New York Times reported that Phil Mickelson was paid $200 million to participate in the LIV Golf tournaments. This number practically doubles his career earnings on the PGA Tour. Mickelson took Twitter to defend his decision:
“I also love the progressive format and think it will be exciting for fans. Just as importantly, it will provide balance, allowing me to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course. I am incredibly grateful for what this game and the PGA Tour has given me. I would like to think that I have given back as well but now I am excited about this new opportunity.”
Other top golfers like Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods have all declined to join LIV Golf. It was widely reported that Tiger Woods rejected a "high nine digit” offer to join LIV Golf that would have been close to $1 billion.
Following the conclusion of the LIV Golf inaugural event, the PGA Tour suspended each player who competed. Although the participants will not be eligible for tournament play, they are still allowed to participate in the Majors, such as the U.S. Open. As the U.S. Open and LIV Golf Portland are set to take place in the upcoming weeks, the PGA Tour must evaluate this new threat. Time will only tell if the historical purses of the LIV Golf series will continue to draw players from the PGA Tour and whether the PGA Tour will restructure their payouts in order to keep the top golfers in the world from leaving.