The new golf tour is controversial. The LIV series, funded by millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, is starting in London from Thursday. Is this the beginning of a new era in golf?
The clearly structured golf world has begun to falter over the decades. The controversial new tour, the LIV Golf Invitational Series, aims to provide fierce competition to established tours in North America and Europe.
The Saudi Arabia-funded tour, starting in London this Thursday, is causing headaches for those responsible for the PGA Tour and DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour). It’s about power, prestige, loyalty and lots of money.
Saudi Arabia bets on importance of sport
The new golf chain is criticized because millions are diverted from the state into the Persian Gulf. The background is that the country, which has been criticized for its human rights violations, is trying to repair its reputation with lucrative sporting events. The money comes from the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Among other things, PIF holds a majority stake of 80 percent in English Premier League club Newcastle United. The lucrative Formula 1 is already making its rounds in the desert state. And now golf is about to help brighten Saudi Arabia’s image.
According to rumors, stars from the United States and Europe are made to participate in the new tour with a three-digit million amount. Several top players, such as superstar Tiger Woods or Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, immediately declined the lucrative offer and clearly identified with their old employers. “Woods turned down a deal that was incredibly high. We’re talking about a nine-figure high amount here,” LIV CEO Greg Norman told the Washington Post. Australian Norman – nicknamed “Jaws” – was one of the best golfers in the world in the 80s and 90s.
Dustin Johnson “Face of the LIV Tour”
Others, however, fell short with Norman’s proposals: including former world number one Dustin Johnson of the United States. Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s son-in-law heads the LIV tour. Johnson announced that he had resigned from the PGA Tour. The 37-year-old can no longer compete in the Ryder Cup, the traditional continental comparison between the best golfers in America and Europe.
Some of Europe’s older, deserving Ryder Cup heroes are also competing in the first LIV event at the Centurion Club in north London: England’s Lee Westwood (49) and Ian Poulter (46), Spain and Germany’s Sergio Garcia (42) Top golfers Martin Kemmer (37). “It’s a great opportunity to play a different kind of golf tournament. The new format is exciting,” the two-time major winner said in an interview with Sky TV. Kemar currently has full eligibility to play only on the DP World Tour. “I’d be lying if I said money wasn’t the motivation. It’s too human.”
Kemmer: “Money was an inspiration”
Earlier in the week, Phil Mickelson, another prominent American golfer, reaffirmed his commitment to the 48-strong field in London. The PGA and DP World Tour had previously threatened to sanction participants in the LIV series. How these penalties can come out is still open. The organizers of next week’s US Open announced on Tuesday that LIV Tour participants can take part in the major tournament in Brookline/US state of Massachusetts.
LIV Tour also wants to score points with players and fans with a different format. Seven of the eight tournaments will be played over three days instead of four. There is no cut and all players start at roughly the same time to make the round shorter and more attractive to spectators. The final event is then a pure team tournament lasting four days in late October in Miami on a golf course owned by former US President Donald Trump.
The first seven events will have a team rating in addition to the individual rating. The individual contest in London is concluded at US$20 million – the winner receives US$4 million, the final still US$120,000. For comparison: Scotty Schaeffler received US$2.7 million in prize money for his victory at the famous Masters in April.
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