There are still no players, officially. But there is a schedule, or at least the start of one. With the PGA Tour’s marquee championship behind us, the Saudi-backed LIV Golf group popped out of its hole on Wednesday morning to release a schedule, which came via multiple media outlets.
The nuts and bolts, via Bob Harig: an eight event schedule, with each event consisting of a 54-hole no-cut tournament carrying a $25 million purse, $20 million for an individual contest and $5 million for a concurrent team contest. Apparently, the league itself would now go by LIV Golf Invitational. Here’s the proposed 8-event schedule, with four U.S. based events and four international events, culminating with a team championship at a TBC site (to be confirmed, not The Buck Club).
June 9-11: Centurion Golf Club – London area
July 1-3: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club – Portland area
July 29-31: Trump National Golf Club Bedminster – New Jersey
Sept 2-4: The International – Boston area
Sept 16-18: Rich Harvest Farms – Chicago area
Oct 7-9: Stonehill Golf Club – Bangkok
Oct 14-16: Royal Greens Golf Club – Jeddah
Oct 28-30: Team Championship – TBC
We now have more details, but this all remains on paper, in concept, or in the imagination. Things are progressing, as they say, but no one has played a shot yet. There are also the very obvious moral sportswashing impediments to enjoying, embracing, or consuming this product, which we’ve discussed repeatedly and will continue to do so.
But we now have a proposed schedule to pick over with some venues attached to the schedule. So we convened quickly to react to that and LIV’s continued push forward to attempt to disrupt professional golf.
What’s the best or most appealing aspect of this schedule?
Garrett Morrison: The notion of a short, focused schedule of small-field events has always been appealing to me, and it remains so. One of the main issues with the PGA Tour from a fan’s point of view is that there are too many events and too many players for coherent storylines to emerge. The concept of a super golf league addresses this flaw, and I remain hopeful that someone other than Greg Norman and the Saudis will succeed in carrying it out.
Andy Johnson: The metroplexes. While calling the International and Rich Harvest Farms in Boston and Chicago is quite liberal, delivering golf to major metropolitan areas is something the PGA Tour fails to do. It’s always been head-scratching why there isn’t a regular, annual PGA Tour stop in Chicago or Boston. Both cities are fundamental in the popularity and early spread of golf, have plenty of corporations to support sponsorships, and millions of people!
Brendan Porath: The Pacific Northwest! As Andy mentioned, this seems like a very targeted selection of locales, none of which have PGA Tour events this year (unless you’re counting the U.S. Open, which does offer FedExCup points but has never used preferred lies and is not owned or operated by the PGA Tour). The proposed dates are also a surgical choice opposite events you could consider “weaker” PGA Tour stops – Canadian Open, John Deere, and Rocket Mortgage Classic. Aside from the three major metro areas, the fourth U.S. venue is the continually neglected PNW. There is no regular or even semi-regular PGA Tour stop for the massive and massively populated swath of the country. As an aside, the only time, to my knowledge, the PGA Tour called in to Golf Channel about something I said on Morning Drive was when I said the Tour doesn’t have a tournament in the PNW. They were bothered that I neglected to mention the Boeing Classic, which, fair and fine. So if you count that Senior event for these purposes, then LIV is joining the PNW pro golf party. For me, that is a good thing, relatively speaking in this LIV world where little might be “good.”
What’s the worst aspect of the schedule?
Brendan: There’s a diversity of locales, but cascading homogeneity after that. These are lot of private clubs, in “remote” parts of metro areas, and architecturally speaking, well … I’ll let my esteemed colleagues take it from here…
Andy: While they nailed the city choices, the golf courses leave a lot to be desired. Rich Harvest Farms camped in Golf Digest’s top 100 for a number of years but it wasn’t because of the golf course. It’s a dumpster fire, to put it lightly. I think one of the stronger appeals for the SGL/PGL model was the idea that smaller fields of top players might be able to open doors to some courses we would not normally see host PGA Tour events. While this schedule does this, it’s going in the opposite direction! This is a list of courses that I have no interest in playing myself, let alone watching Jason Kokrak saunter about for three days. I suppose I should not be surprised that LIV has bad golf course architecture tastes when Greg Norman is captaining the ship.
Garrett: Any professional golf tour should visit a mixture of new and old venues. The LIV league falls way short on this count. The oldest course on this year’s schedule is the Pines at the International Golf Club, which was built by Geoffrey Cornish in 1957 and turned into a behemoth by Robert Trent Jones in 1972. (I’m assuming that the Saudi event won’t be held at the International’s Tom Fazio-designed Oaks Course.) The all-modern venue selection furthers the impression that this tour has no authentic connection or commitment to the history of the game.
What’s the biggest unanswered question for you surrounding LIV’s plan?
Andy: Who is playing in these tournaments? Are we going to get Asian Tour fields + Phil and Kokrak? I imagine there are a few players who will still make the jump. The guaranteed money is going to overwhelm a few players’ moral standards.
Garrett: To what extent will LIV try to obscure its connection to Saudi Arabia? The branding of the “LIV Golf Invitational” suggests a move in this direction and an attempt, feeble as it may be, to assuage players’ fears of a Phil Mickelson-style PR fallout.
Brendan: I remain extremely fascinated by the question of who will broadcast this. A quick check with some media and TV exec types yielded a near consensus that the major networks and ESPN are not options. Amazon seems unlikely given the Saudis past hack of Jeff Bezos’s phone, among other reasons. I proposed a DAZN-type streamer, but was quickly reminded that specific outlet is owned by a Russian oligarch with current issues that would make the LIV baggage seem small. But that type of streamer feels like the direction this would have to go. Do the Saudis simply fund and start-up some OTT operation? There just aren’t many options out there, but that may be irrelevant as some big rights-fee ROI is not the primary goal here, sportswashing is. As one producer said, “Good luck to them. It’s pretty tough building a first class production from scratch as Fox learned at Chambers Bay.”
Whether this schedule actually plays out, and anyone is able to watch it, is of course still TBD. But it’s at least something on paper to react to and discuss. With executives, a schedule, venues, and all the money you need now in place, it feels like players, or a player, are the next announcement coming down the pike. And then probably billable hours at some fancy law firms.