June 30, 2022

What is the LIV Golf Series? Rules, format, prize money, controversy surrounding new tour events

The biggest controversy to hit professional golf since the PGA Tour and PGA of America split in 1968 is here. And that involves superstar players, legal challenges, bans and suspensions, and plenty of geopolitical intrigue.

Oh, and money. Heaps and heaps and tons and almost incomprehensible sums of money.

Welcome to the LIV Golf Series, a global tour of eight events and a total of $225 million in prize money available. Players include some of the sport’s superstars, as well as many lesser-regarded professional golfers. And that $225 million is far less than what was handed out as collateral to players for opting out of the PGA and DP World Tours, but participating in the new startup. guaranteed by the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Let’s go here.

Who plays?

Lots of names you know, but even more so any casual golf fan wouldn’t. Phil Mickelson ($200 million guaranteed) and Dustin Johnson ($125 million) are the two big fish crossing the pond in London for the first event and many more, with Rickie Fowler is rumored to be joining very soon.

The reason for the guaranteed money is both the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour threatened players with bans from participating in any LIV event.

If you drill down into the roster, it’s not exactly a who’s who of tee-to-green royalty. Chase Koepka, younger brother of four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka, came through the Challenger Tour to earn his DP World Tour card in 2017. He went on to finish 182nd on the Order of Merit that season, with just one finish among 10 first. From there he missed nine cuts in 12 attempts on the Challenger Tour and failed to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 and 2021.

Yet he and all of his other competitors are guaranteed a minimum of $120,000 just for showing up at any LIV Golf event and finishing dead last.

The 20th-place golfer at the RBC Canadian Open, held the same weekend as LIV’s first tournament in London, will win $115,275. This player will have to face a group of 156 participants, as well as survive a cup on Friday that guarantees that only the top 70 players and ties will earn money.

The full list of players for the opening event in London is here.

Wait, how much money?

More than any professional golf event besides the PGA Tour Championship to end the FedEx Cup playoffs. One mile away.

The first seven stops of the LIV Tour will net the field $25 million: $20 million under the regular stroke play format you know, and an additional $5 million under their “team” format.

The winning golfer takes home $4 million in each of the first seven events, and last place gets the aforementioned $120,000.

The final stop will be Team Championship, a tag team match format at the legendary Blue Monster of Doral in Miami. $50 million will be offered there, with the winning team splitting $16 million and the bottom team receiving $1 million.

Additionally, the top three individual players throughout the season will split an additional $30 million: $18 million for first, $8 million for second, and $4 million for third.

What is the team format?

Before each of the first seven events, 12 players will be named captains and will draft three teammates.

The lowest total score among those 12 teams split another $3 million on top of the $20 million in stroke play, second place splits $1.5 million and third place takes home $500,000.

Only the top two scores from each team count for the first two rounds, and the top three scores for the final round.

For the Tag Team Championship, the final event of the season at Doral, the purse doubles to $50 million for the 12 four-man teams in a match play format, but cash prizes instead of a draft will determine the teammates. Only the top 48 players of the season will qualify and all must play at least four events.

Anything else we need to know?

All events except the Team Championship will be played in a shotgun format, with players all starting at the same time on different holes.

Sounds great for gamers! So what is the problem?

There are two major issues for players signing up to participate. The first is the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund is the sole funder of LIV Golf. Wholly owned and run by the Saudi royal family and the country’s government, the the nation’s human rights record is one of the worst in the world.

Incidents such as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggithan Phil Mickelson referenced in the interview that caused him to temporarily step back from the spotlightmeans that a successful LIV Golf Tour brings both money and sportswashing distraction to an oppressive regime.

The less moral but more pragmatic issue for players is that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have threatened to suspend or ban players who participate – although the the legality of this at least in the US is certainly up for debate. PGA Tour players are designated as independent contractors for employment purposes, and the Tour’s ability to regulate where those under its auspices choose to ply their trade is a matter that has yet to be challenged before courts.

Lawyers on both sides will do much to determine this, and LIV President Greg Norman guaranteed that his Tour will pay for any legal challenges by a player, win or lose. “I will break it down into three very simple things: we will defend, we will reimburse and we will represent,” he told the media in May.

So is it going to work and stay a thing?

There’s only one way to find out. Currently, the LIV Tour does not have a broadcast deal in the United States, and sponsors are limited. But if they can keep flooding top players with piles of cash, they just might overwhelm the PGA Tour and rob their top players. Everything remains to be seen.



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