LIV, Laugh, Love
Last week the 21-22' PGA Tour came to a somewhat kismetic close that ended in the PGA golden boy, Rory McIlroy, hoisting the FedEx Cup over his Nike fitted shoulders. When the tour returns next season, and every season thereafter, it will not look or feel the same as it has for the past ~93 years. This change is of course a consequence of the new market entrant, LIV Golf.
The name LIV is a reference to the roman numeral 54, the score if every hole was birdied on a Par-72 course. The organization is headed by 2-time major championship winner, Greg Norman, and backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia. In the last few months the LIV has made the news by offering absurdly large sums of money to PGA professionals to come and compete in their unique events.
From a players perspective, the LIV is an absolute no brainer. Unlike the PGA, the LIV is offering guaranteed annual compensation regardless of performance, and larger purse amounts for their tournaments. Bryson DeChambeau, one of the bigger names to have joined the LIV early in it's pursuit for players, is reported to be making a guaranteed $100m, and will still have the ability to earn more by doing well in the LIV tournaments that have an average purse size of $20m (so far), ~$10m higher than the PGAs average purse size. To put this in perspective, Bryson would have to win ~52 events in the PGA just to match his guaranteed compensation from LIV.
From a fans perspective, I think we have a lot to be excited about. Traditional competitive golf formats will be maintained, and new team style match play will be added. Additionally, the LIV has partnered with YouTube and Facebook to bring it's worldwide tournaments into the viewers home. LIV or no LIV network television is a dying breed, and this move will make watching the events more accessible and concentrated.
This sounds like great news that golf fans everywhere should at least be intrigued by, right? Wrong! The most popular narrative when discussing the LIV is that it is backed by a country that advocates for and supports terrorism and by participating you are essentially arming radicals with weapons of mass warfare. I'm not surprised by this rhetoric, and I don't disagree that the PIF of Saudi Arabia deserves criticism for it's lack of transparency as a Sovereign Wealth Fund. However, if we are going to shun the LIV and the players they recruit for being associated with a PIF backed organization then we will have to start re-evaluating more than just golf..... The PIF is among the largest Sovereign Wealth Funds in the world with total estimated assets of $620bn. Among the companies that the PIF is heavily invested in and/or partnered with, includes: Uber ($3.5bn), Blackstone ($10bn), Boeing ($714m), Facebook ($522m), CitiGroup ($522m), Disney ($500m), Bank of America ($485m) and many more. So... PIF owns a piece of how we travel, the places we live, the content we consumed and our banks! Not to mention they also control 70% of the worlds crude oil, produced by Saudi Aramco. But all we care about is that they stuck their noses into our beloved, beautiful game. I'm not asking for you to like the LIV, but I am asking that you do your due diligence before exiling Phil Mickelson for taking $200m to go play the same sport at a different course.