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On Tuesday, a source sent us a LIV Golf communiqué describing the format of the Saudi-funded league’s $50-million team championship at Trump Doral. (*Deep breath while I cope with having written that sentence.*) There’s a lot to digest:
- On Friday, the teams ranked fifth through twelfth in LIV’s season standings will compete against each other in match play.
- The four higher-ranked teams will pick their opponents.
- Each contest will consist of two singles matches (one of which will be between team captains) and one foursomes match. No ties.
- The teams that win two of the matches will move on.
- On Saturday, the above format will be repeated with the teams ranked first through fourth and the winning sides from Friday. The higher seeds again pick their opponents.
- On Sunday, the last four teams standing will compete in 18 holes of stroke play. With apologies to Pat Perez, all players’ scores will count toward their team’s scores.
- Shotgun starts all around.
I remain hopeful that LIV will fail for reasons I’ve been over many times. But assessing this format purely on its merits, I’d say it’s good. Verging on very good. It’s all a bit busy, but I like the pick-your-opponent twist, the mixture of singles matches and foursomes, and the captains’ showdowns.
The one thing I find odd is the reversion to stroke play on the third day. As it turns out, there’s a story behind this aspect of the format. Initially, LIV planned for a four-day, all-match-play team championship in which the final two teams would face off on Sunday. But as SI Golf’s Bob Harig reported yesterday, LIV is close to landing a media rights deal, and its soon-to-be broadcast partner balked at the idea of a finale featuring only eight players. Sixteen-man stroke play was seen as a safer bet.
This is the first time LIV has had to alter its product in order to placate a corporate ally. It won’t be the last. Take the PGA Tour, which has made so many compromises in so many risk-averse board rooms that it presents essentially the same tournament every week. Even the WGC Match Play, the Tour’s lone annual match-play event, nearly became the WGC Not Really Match Play three years ago.
As LIV becomes more mainstream, it will be pressured toward blandness in the same way the PGA Tour has. And anytime Greg Norman’s organization gets an opportunity to sell out, you’d better believe it will.