The first tournament in the new LIV Golf Series presented by Greg Norman and backed by financial interests from Saudi Arabia will take place at Centurion Club, near London, from 9 June. The event will be in direct opposition to the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour and the Volvo Scandinavian Mixed on the DT Tour, the new name of the European Tour.
The arrival of this new circuit will inevitably cause major disruptions to the game of professional golf. Through the vote of its Commissioner Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour circuit reminded its members that they cannot participate in LIV Series activities under penalty of disciplinary sanctions.
Dustin Johnson, the former world number one with 24 career PGA Tour wins; He announced his acceptance of the offer of the new department. Rumors surrounding his arrival at LIV suggest a signing bonus of $150 million USD. He will be joined by Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Charles Schwarzl, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.
However, the core of the PGA Tour players remains the same for now.
Will this competition change the picture in many ways?
First by offering a guaranteed income to the golfers who will be a part of it. We even approached the venerable Jack Nicklaus for his support. He reportedly declined an offer of $100 million. Not everyone will have the same reaction.
The schedule includes seven tournaments and a grand final. Scholarships offered in the range of $255 million. 25 million per tournament and four million guaranteed to the winner of a competition that will only contain 54 holes (hence the name of the circuit in Roman numerals). There will be no elimination and players will be integrated into teams.
It remains for the LIV circle to recruit young players. Future stars have opted for the comfort of the PGA Tour, but who knows how long budding golfers will withstand this influx of dollars from Saudi Arabia, which has clearly indicated its intent that it wants to improve its image in this way on the international stage. The kingdom has not always swam in calm waters in terms of human rights, it is far from it.
This will not be the first nor the last time we play on the flexible conscience of professional athletes. Several players have agreed to participate in the Saudi Arabia Invitational Championship on the European Tour over the past few years by raising millions upon millions of dollars. We will return to the abuse in the Khashoggi case, as many of the sponsors have already indicated that they were putting an end to their relationship with the dissidents. Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell, long associated with RBC, are now orphans of this important partner. This is also the case for Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen who lost their contract with UPS. This is sure to have a domino effect on all sponsors.
And we can’t wait to see where the major equipment manufacturers are, most of whom are star-linked for very important reasons. Callaway, for example, has already discontinued its alliance with Phil Mickelson, even if the latter has not yet officially indicated that he will be in London soon.
In fact, such a circuit was proposed by Greg Norman in the 1990s with the goal of pushing the boundaries of the PGA Tour circuit so that the best in the profession could reap more benefits. The commissioner at the time, Tim Finchem, responded by creating a World Championship Series dedicated to the world’s 50 best players. Norman never understood the insult.
Clearly, this new situation could lead to a merciless legal battle that could resemble the antitrust lawsuits filed against the NFL a few years ago. In this case, a large number of companies will be affected. Partners and sponsors, all stakeholders in the industry and especially the players themselves who are all “heads of companies” and who in many cases have very large sales numbers.
There are still many highlights that have yet to be clarified by the LIV leaders, in particular the broadcast rights to these famous tournaments.
One of the saddest aspects of the comments heard by those who opted for the new league is hearing many of them complain about being exploited. When you’ve tapped into one of the top professional sports pension funds, and you’ve earned tens and tens of millions of dollars if not more, you’ll probably feel a little embarrassed by uttering the word “exploit.” And by accepting bonuses they will only confirm in many cases that they are at the end of their career.
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