LIV Golf is the story in sports these days. Good headlines and bad. From Phil Mickelson’s comments to PGA TOUR suspensions, there’s a lot to uncover and a lot of opinions to be had. Where do you stand on LIV Golf and how much success do you think it will have? Are you going to tune in? Have you already? Like yours truly, the SportsChump – a long-time friend of TWHS – is also a big fan of hitting the links (and following the game). He and I debate and compare LIV Golf and the PGA TOUR.
Let’s start with the Chump first.
SportsChump: ABA Comparison
In the 1970s, a rivalry league existed.
I take that back. This league not only existed, it thrived.
I am, of course, talking about the ABA. The American Basketball Association is no longer in existence but when it was, it threatened an already weak NBA in both attendance and star power. It had flashy, new-fangled rules, many of which were ultimately incorporated into the NBA. The ABA also landed major players by throwing dollar figures at them the NBA could not match. It was a fresh alternative.
Ultimately, the ABA was absorbed by the NBA and the rest is history.
SportsChump: Other Start-up Leagues
Other start-up leagues have tried to knock off the big boys. Multiple football leagues, from Arena Football to the USFL and XFL have tried to take a chunk out of the NFL’s already massive viewership. All failed.
The major professional sporting leagues of Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the NBA and the NFL are all but untouchable.
SportsChump On LIV Golf
As we mentioned earlier, golf has a new rival league that is ruffling some feathers – and that’s LIV Golf.
LIV Golf is attracting its sports biggest names and throwing inconceivable amounts of money at them. Some of this money was turned down. Others jumped at the opportunity.
The LIV, or 54, is a start-up, professional golf tour that is pulling players from the PGA by the day. Dustin Johnson just joined. He was reportedly offered $125 million just to join the tour. Other bigger names have been offered more than that.
So why is this controversial? Despite Greg Norman’s association with the new league (he’s the CEO of LIV Golf Investments), the league has received substantial backing from a Saudi Arabian wealth fund that allegedly had enough money to offer Tiger Woods “high nine figures.”
Other stars have also left, despite warnings from the PGA TOUR about being banned, expelled or somewhere in between. Those names include Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Talor Gooch and Louis Oosthuizen.
SportsChump Has Questions
It’s not yet what one would call a mass exodus but considering LIV pocketbooks had enough scratch to offer Johnson $125 million, which is almost twice what he’s earned over his 16-year golfing career, for many, this is as no-brainer a decision as they come.
Questions remain. How will we view these golfers as they jump ship? How will this new league market itself? Will the PGA TOUR maintain its hardline stance? Will these tournaments draw viewership? And where the hell is all this money coming from?
It is at times like these that we turn to our golfing guru, Kevin Paul. Kevin runs The Wife Hates Sports down the internet block and has yet to play 18 with me. One of these days.
Kevin, what in the wide, wide world of golf is going on here? I mean, the PGA TOUR must be shitting bricks with its biggest names disappearing daily. I know the PGA isn’t hurting for cash but the numbers we’ve heard floating around are simply obscene. How in the world did they not see this coming?
How did all this come about and on a scale of 1-10, how in trouble is the PGA TOUR?
TWHS: LIV Golf Scale Grade
It’s fair to fall somewhere in the middle on this at the moment. There are way too many unknowns. The only way I’d go as high as a “5” on the scale is because of the insane stacks of cash being thrown at these players. That’s the only reason. Money makes the world go round for so many people. Outside the greenbacks, there are a variety of ways to look at LIV and how it can (or cannot compete).
TWHS: Competition (or Lack Thereof)
So you say a lot of big names are following the cash and jumping ship? To a degree, that’s true. But let’s look at a few of the bigger names, their current OWGR, and overall likability.
- Dustin Johnson (15th in OWGR, Likability – Medium): DJ is clearly the biggest and most surprising name to jump ship. How likable is he by fans? He seems like a good guy, but always comes across as aloof. He’s so laid back that he looks half asleep, despite the monstrous drives. Some fans mostly like the fact that Paulina is a part of the package. With Spieth, Thomas, Scheffler, Rory, Brooks, Xander, and others still committed, the TOUR can absorb his defection.
- Phil Mickelson (72nd in OWGR, Likability – Medium to High): Phil was a fan favorite for years, but it remains to be seen how many bailed on him following the recent comments. There are rumors swirling about extensive gambling and ruffling the feathers of fellow TOUR members. The guy will be a legend in the game forever – but with some late tarnish. From a competition standpoint, he’s in his 50’s. Astonishing PGA Championship aside, he hasn’t been a consistent threat for years.
- Bryson DeChambeau (28th in OWGR, Likability – Low): I think Bryson is a bit understood and can be likable. Most fans however do not appreciate him, outside of the flashy long drives. He hasn’t been a factor at all this year due to injury and mostly rubs fans the wrong way. Does his departure change much?
- Patrick Reed (36th in OWGR, Likability – Lower than Low): I have never met one Reed fan. The antics on the course and the violations, no one can be surprised he bailed for LIV.
- Sergio Garcia – See Patrick Reed (above). This guy treated my young son poorly during a practice round, so my image of him is below golf’s equivalent of the Mendoza line.
- Aging Veterans (Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell) – There are a handful of European players that shifted to LIV and each are on the backend of their careers.
There are rumors of others that could pivot to LIV (e.g. Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler), but that remains to be seen at this point. Despite a few big names, most are not considered fan favorites. The supplemental players committed to LIV are unknowns or entrenched in the twilight of their careers. All the top stars remain committed to the PGA TOUR – for now.
Does this current group make for a better product? No way.
TWHS: Gimmicks Come, Gimmicks Go
We all know gimmicks. They grab your attention temporarily, but often fizzle out quickly. LIV is a lot of that from what I can see. Upon watching the live feed of the first event, I picked up on a few things:
- The combination of Individual and Team Events are interesting and a clever change
- That gets far outweighed by the leaderboard and team names, which to me look like a NASCAR race leaderboard mated with the “Create a School” logos from the NCAA Football video game franchise
- Having both feeds going at the same time, nothing pulled me to LIV. The Canadian Open was more entertaining.
- In the end, it’s just golf – we are watching something similar that claims to be different, only with a lot less talent on the course. Fewer players, no cut, and big payouts. Last place gets 120K, posting scores that the SportsChump could post on a public 9-hole Par 3 course.
TWHS: PGA TOUR – What is Buried Beneath?
Like every league, there are flaws and disagreements buried behind the scenes. That’s clear with the PGA TOUR and we may not know just what all those issues are. No sports league is perfect and it’s clear that many trail the NBA and the way it attacks issues quickly and effectively.
The suspensions and some of the drama to come out of this may paint the PGA TOUR in a negative light, and you can’t help but wonder if others will head to LIV as a result. It’s not something to speculate on, because there has to be more going on behind the scenes. Can the conflicts be resolved? Maybe this brings quicker solutions.
One thing is quite clear, there remains a lot of backing by the TOUR’s top players. The most notable quotes have come from big names such as Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. JT weighed in recently:
🗣️ “I know the PGA Tour is the best place to play in the world”
Justin Thomas shares his thoughts on players leaving the PGA Tour to join the LIV Golf Series 👇 pic.twitter.com/QZFmJzrRTu
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) June 8, 2022
TWHS: Saudi Backing vs LIV Golf Schedule
Finally, what is most interesting (and misunderstood) is the LIV schedule of tournaments. Most people heard the Saudi funds being thrown at players. They know the dirty background and blood money. They also know the controversial comments thrown out by Phil Mickelson a few months back. People hear a new league backed by the Saudis with a tournament opener in England. As a result, it’s frequently assumed that: 1) All LIV tournaments are outside the United States and 2) Departing for the LIV tour is un-American and these big names are taking blood money and bailing on their country. People in this country bleed red, white, and blue – and that’s why these comments are being made. But do they know this about the upcoming LIV events?
- 2nd Event: Pumpkin Ridge, Portland, Oregon
- 3rd Event: Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster, New Jersey
- 4th Event: The International, Boston, Massachusetts
- 5th Event: Rich Harvest Farms, Chicago, Illinois
- 8th Event: Trump National Golf Club Doral, Miami, Florida
Do they know that five of these events are also being played in the United States? Do the diehard political backers know about the 3rd and 8th events? Let’s face it, we are politically divided more than ever these days. Would these facts change the popularity of LIV or not?
Getting back to the original question, it’s really the money that could make LIV a threat. I mean, just look at what Charl Schwartzel hauled in during the opening tournament of the LIV Golf tour.
Charl Schwartzel earns the largest paycheck in golf with his victory at the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/rXWAPMyhA0
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) June 11, 2022
Outside the cash, there isn’t much on the surface – at least, not at the current time. If you ask me, this is just an extensive rich version of the XFL, being played on a golf course instead of a football field.
It’s only a matter of time before the PGA TOUR wins this battle.
Then again, money talks. So time will tell and we’ll see if the landscape changes.
For now, the rivalry is clearly there for the time being. Look no further than Rory’s zing of Greg Norman following his victory at the RBC Canadian Open.
PGA Tour wins. McIlroy 21. Norman 20. pic.twitter.com/zrggS7l1Zt
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) June 12, 2022
Image Credit: LIV Golf
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