- It is said that both Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are headed to LIV Golf.
- The Saudi-backed Junior Golf League is holding its first event this week in London.
- With more PGA Tour pros making the jump, LIV Golf is showing more power than some previously expected.
Just a week ago, the impending appearance of LIV Golf seemed like a joke.
“I definitely don’t think the field can jump up and down,” PGA star Rory McIlroy said.
“Look out on the field this week,” McIlroy said, of the PGA Tour Memorial Tournament. “Look at the course next week in Canada. It’s proper golf tournaments.”
Indeed, the field of the LIV Golf debut event leaves something to be desired. Aside from superstars Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, there is a noticeable absence of high-profile talent at the height of their preparations to launch in London this week.
Aside from Johnson, only three players currently ranked in the world’s top 40 will be among those contenders – Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na and Taylor Gooch.
But in the week following McIlroy’s comments, LIV Golf has undoubtedly strengthened his hand.
Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are the latest big names to make the jump to LIV Golf
While the Centurion Club’s 48-man field this weekend is still not filled with heavy hitters, it looks like more big names are on the way. PGA Tour fan favorite Ricky Fowler, who ranked fourth at number four but is now at 145, is rumored to have signed up for the start-up series, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. And on Wednesday, several reports indicated that two of the biggest streamers on the PGA Tour – Bryson Dechambeau and Patrick Reed – would be heading to LIV Golf in time to play in the second event of his schedule.
“Bryson has always been innovative,” DeChambeau’s agent Brett Falkoff told ESPN. “Having the chance to step onto the ground floor for something unique has always been of interest to him. Professional golf as we know it is changing, and it’s happening fast.”
Innovation may be one reason for DeChambeau’s interest in the new league, but another reason for him and every other player in the field is criticism.
The bag at this week’s London event is worth $25 million, with the event winner taking home $4 million. By comparison, this year’s Masters green jacket winner Scottie Scheffler earned $2.7 million for his efforts, as did PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas.
Furthermore, due to the uncut aspect of LIV Golf, every player appears guaranteed to leave with payday, with last place still receiving $120,000 in winnings for 54 holes of golf. Given that half of the pitch on every PGA Tour event comes home empty-handed after losing pieces, it’s easy to see the LIV Golf course draw.
Neither DeChambeau nor Reed rank near the top of the most famous players on the PGA Tour, but between Bryson’s bombing campaigns and Reed’s reputation as a provocateur, they both get a lot of attention anywhere, anytime.
DeChambeau’s departure comes just a few months after he, like Johnson, pledged allegiance to the PGA Tour in the wake of controversial Phil Mickelson comments that nearly derailed the new league’s launch track.
“While there has been a lot of speculation about my support for another Tour, I want to make it absolutely clear that as long as the best players in the world play the PGA Tour, so will I,” Dechambeau said at the time. “As of now, I’m focused on getting myself healthy and competing again soon. I appreciate all the support.”
As LIV Golf fills its roster with more talent on the PGA Tour, it becomes easier for more players to convince themselves that making the jump is worth it.
While the world’s top players still play on the PGA Tour – four of the world’s top 10 players will play at the RBC Canadian Open this week, while none of the top 10 players so far have committed to LIV Golf – as most notably the players make the jump, it will be It is easier for others to justify doing the same movement. There is strength in numbers.
There are still drawbacks to joining LIV Golf. The series is backed by the Public Investment Fund of the Saudi government, the sixth largest sovereign wealth fund with a total estimated value of $620 billion.
The project is largely seen as an exercise in sports washing – an attempt by the Saudi government to wash its reputation by aligning with high-profile sporting events enjoyed by fans around the world.
Several players, including Mickelson and Johnson, have already lost sponsorship deals in part due to their association with the new league.
Players also struggled to answer questions about the Saudi government’s participation in LIV Golf. Ahead of this week’s first event, several players got stuck searching for words to justify their presence on the breakaway round.
“I don’t condone human rights abuses at all,” Mickelson said on Wednesday. “I am aware of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, it is terrible.”
Asked if he would play in a tournament hosted by, say, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ian Poulter said, “Speculation, I won’t even comment on speculation.”
—SkySportsGolf 8 June 2022
But with guaranteed pay days, no deductions, and better money for a shorter schedule, it’s clear that LIV Golf’s promise so far has been enough to tempt a large number of players to make the move. And as more players continued to join, confused responses to questions about the finances behind the league began to fade into one.
When Mickelson was alone in his comments, saying he would work with the league despite being managed by a “scary prostitute,” it was shocking. But as more players line up to do the same, the effect diminishes.
The PGA Tour doesn’t seem to have the backing of the majors, and it’s one of their best defenses against players considering a move
It remains unclear whether LIV Golf will reach its breaking point against the PGA Tour. As it stands, the Tour still has the best talent in the world, with Rory McIlroy, John Ram, Thomas and Schaeffler publicly committed to staying with the Tour.
But if the talent balance continues to shift from one side to the other, the tour could run into trouble, and as things stand, it seems unlikely to help the big companies.
The four disciplines of golf – the Masters, the US Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship – are not controlled by the PGA Tour. As the biggest tournaments in golf, it has a lot of power right now. As things stand, the PGA Tour has threatened to cancel Tour status for players leaving to play with LIV Golf. But if these penalties do not apply to the four major currencies, they frankly weaken the influence of the round.
This week, the USGA indicated that players who have qualified for next week’s US Open will be able to play, regardless of their potential relationship with LIV Golf. If the rest of the majors follow this lead, players can see the LIV Golf model – roughly 12 league events plus four major weekends – as the perfect schedule.
Many LIV players have already given up their round cards voluntarily, trying to leave themselves the option to get them back. Free of repercussions later.
If things continue to trend in this direction, the PGA Tour may want to start getting creative with how they plan to fight LIV Golf, and fast.
There’s still a lot we don’t know, but plenty of answers should come this week
For months, LIV Golf has existed more as a ghost than a real threat to the PGA Tour.
But as the roster of players and the actual event grows, fans will finally be able to see exactly what the new league will look like from an athlete’s perspective.
LIV Golf still does not have a US TV broadcast partner, and will be available to stream online through YouTube, Facebook and its own website.
As McIlroy mentioned, the arena for this week’s London event isn’t that impressive, but it’s possible that each of the subsequent seven events could see better and better fields.
Moreover, there is enough money behind the project so that it can continue as long as the Saudi Public Investment Fund decides it is a worthwhile issue.
Currently, there is a course with the richest prize in golf history set to be played with almost none of the world’s best golfers in attendance. Where things go there anyone’s guess.