From ‘death in the water’ in February to 16 golfers contesting $34m (£29.3m) in a single day, LIV Golf has come a long way in a short time.
And after the conclusion of the inaugural season of the start-up tour, it’s clear that LIV and the schisms she has created will dominate golf’s headlines over the coming weeks as she seeks to add new recruits. for his second campaign.
It is operational despite vehement opposition from the sports establishment. LIV now has 110 staff working from offices in London, New York and Florida as it plans a 14-event global season in 2023.
The product is loud and brash, showcasing golf like never before.
Deafening, deafening music swept through practice setting green moments before the start on the final day of the final Tag Team Championship here in Miami.
The remaining 16 players in the competition were preparing to fight for the spoils generated by Saudi Arabia which, on Sunday alone, rivaled the total purses of the last three Masters combined.
LIV is the “loadsamoney” tour. On Donald Trump’s Doral Blue Monster course, he felt at home – overtly awkward and screaming. Finding real sporting glory was a more difficult task.
Everything was tailored to the team who would walk away with $16 million to $4 million per player. Dosh to stuff into already overflowing back pockets.
When Dustin Johnson landed the winning putt for his team of 4 Aces on Sunday, the American boosted his earnings from the eight-tournament course to $35.6 million, including an $18 million bonus for previously leading the individual classification.
Teammate Pat Perez, individually the 49th-ranked player out of 68 golfers to have appeared in LIV tournaments, appeared in six of the season’s eight events, grossing more than $8 million. The sums at stake are staggering and show the extent of the opposition facing the established PGA and DP World Tours.
LIV insists fans love him because they see “the best players in the world”. This is a claim of Trumpian proportions and not entirely based on fact; Hype and guts can often go hand in hand.
Open champion Cameron Smith is so far the only player to have made it into the world top 10 when he opted to join the LIV circuit.
Advocating for LIV events to get World Ranking points, the organisation’s chairman, Atul Khosla, told BBC Sport: “Are you trying to tell me that DJ is ending the year as not being one of the five best golfers in the world?
“Now that he’s won what he’s won, it would be hard for a golf fan to believe that’s accurate. It’s like saying, here are the best cities in the world, but London and New York don’t participate. not at these rankings.”
Johnson, who pledged his allegiance to the PGA Tour last February, prompting the “dead in the water” claim, moved to LIV on a relative slide, 11th in the world.
He had missed the cut at the US PGA Championship, finished 24th at the US Open and tied for sixth at the Open – some decent but barely beaten results in the world.
As for his performances on the LIV Tour, where he posted a victory and two third places, it is much more difficult to judge. Yes, there are a number of very good golfers on the tour, but there is a significant rump of not so good golfers.
Taking the rankings in June, when the start-up tour began at the Centurion Club near Hemel Hempstead, is perhaps the most accurate barometer of the circuit’s current strength. There were 13 current LIV rookies in the top 50 then.
Also consider limited field events played on 54 rather than 72 holes. As pure competitions, they pale in comparison to full four-round tournaments.
Jordan Smith’s impressive victory at the Portugal Masters and Victory for Seamus Power in Bermuda Sunday, both against relatively weak pitches but beating dozens of career abandoners, felt more useful although far less lucrative.
That said, there is a compelling argument to give LIV the world ranking points he needs.
The fields contain top talent, they’re properly regulated (although they’re opaque on the issue of drug testing), and they’ve become part of the professional firmament.
The weight points based on the shorter format and shallower lineups involved should tell us the value of each event. Maybe Khosla is right, maybe Johnson is one of the top five players in the world? Let’s find out.
The LIV chairman, who is now a much more visible spokesman than the increasingly peripheral commissioner Greg Norman, said the official world golf rankings, which include the PGA and DP World Tours among others at its board of directors, is “conflict”.
He said, “They made their position clear against LIV.”
It is undoubtedly true. The PGA and DP World Tours have admitted they face an existential threat from newcomers.
But for all LIV’s bravado, she has yet to break through. YouTube viewing figures were around 75,000 on the final day in Doral, while the previous day’s Japan v New Zealand rugby match saw 585,000 views on top of its traditional television coverage.
LIV has yet to secure TV deals in major US and UK markets and may end up paying for the platforms rather than receiving rights fees.
It still faces significant challenges. The momentum is self-generated and financed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
Those riches could guarantee new signings in the coming weeks, with reports suggesting top 10 American players such as Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are being targeted.
If they were to defect, it would be a serious blow to an already stripped Ryder Cup American team.
Meanwhile, arguably bigger contests will unfold tediously but vitally in courtrooms around the world. Lawyers on all sides are preparing for extensive and costly litigation that will stretch into 2024.
Men’s professional golf is damagingly fractured and there is not the slightest indication of when or how it might be restored.