In the past year, golf has become increasingly divided regarding the threat of the new LIV Golf Series. The LIV Golf Series is a new series of golf tournaments that has been funded out of Saudi Arabia. Major champion Greg Norman is the face of the new series.
The formation of the new LIV Golf Series has caused a great deal of controversy and has divided opinion across the world of golf. A threat to both the PGA and European Tours, the LIV Golf Series is offering riches that far exceed what players can win on either Tour.
To paint a picture of what prize money is available. As per TheSportsToday.com, The winner of the first LIV Golf Series tournament will net a cool $4 million, there will be no cut so the player who comes last will still net $120,000 for simply turning up. Compare that to the US PGA Championship which is one of the biggest golf tournaments on the PGA Tour, where the winner will win just over $2 million.
With such great prize money on offer, players have been caught in a tussle over remaining loyal to their existing tours or jumping ship to join the new Saudi backed initiative.
The new LIV Golf Series has courted controversy across many different levels. Politically the situation in Saudi Arabia is a delicate one. The Saudi Government who are the reported backers of the new series have a poor human rights record with many of their policies on workers, gay and women’s rights being accused of being outdated.
In an attempt to distract from these accusations, the Saudi government have been accused of ‘sportwashing.’ Several of the world’s biggest sports have had a presence in Saudi Arabia with Formula One, golf, darts, snooker and football all having a presence or link to the country.
Due to the global popularity of the PGA Tour and its stars, the proposed LIV Golf Series has attracted publicity like no other. The most outspoken star has been Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson has been a constant contradiction on the subject, so much so that Mickelson is taking an enforced leave of absence from the PGA Tour due to his support of the series – foregoing his opportunity to defend his US PGA Championship that he won in such dramatic circumstances last year.
According to reports, Mickelson was one of the first stars that the Golf Series approached. A supporter of the breakaway tour, Mickelson is believed to have played a part in shaping the infrastructure and has played a part in trying to recruit more of his colleagues to play.
Mickelson has been incredibly outspoken about the PGA Tour calling the Tour out on their policy about media rights as well as hitting out at the general schedule and prize money. Mickleson would go as far to say that the PGA Tour was run like a ‘dictatorship.’
After courting controversy about his stance, Mickelson tried to win back favour by stating that he was using the Saudi series as a way of trying to influence the PGA Tour in making specific improvements. Despite Mickelson’s U-turn, it didn’t have the desired impact that he wanted and the American was still out of favour.
Seeing the reaction to Mickelson’s views, fellow top players such as Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa and Bryson De Chambeau were quick to remove themselves from any associations with the new LIV Series, leaving Mickelson even further isolated.
There is a huge question mark regarding Mickelson’s involvement in the first LIV Golf Series event which is due to be held at the Centurion Golf Club in June.
Lee Westwood, Kevin Na, Jason Kokrak and Sergio Garcia are amongst the biggest names rumoured to be taking part in the first tournament.
Who has spoken out against the new LIV Golf Series?
Ahead of the first tournament, Norman revealed that each player within the top 100 had been contacted to play. As a part of the legislature behind both the PGA and European Tours, the tours are working together to block their players from competing.
It looks like a matter that will ultimately end up in court.
A few players such as Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Tiger Woods have all lent their support to the PGA Tour. For these stars who have millions of followers across social media, have numerous business interests and are perceived as role models, it’s a very tight line that these stars have to tread.
The top players in the game are certainly not short of cash, and the accusations that have been thrown at the players thinking of joining the Golf Series, is how much money do they need?
By signing up for the new initiative, golfers who want to try their hand at winning new millions are being labelled as accepting dirty and corrupt money. The reputation of Mickelson seemingly chasing another payday has gone down like a lead balloon and other players may not wish to suffer a similar fate.
The other main accusation that has been thrown at Mickelson and the new Golf Series is that it won’t impact the players at the very top of the sport but those less well-known names.
If the Golf Series takes off and attracts the world’s best players, what will happen to the sponsors behind the European and PGA Tours? What will happen to the television and commercial revenues? If these factors were to decline it could harm the livelihood of thousands of professional golfers.
This issue has caused great ire amongst the pros on both the PGA and European Tours who are accusing both Mickelson and the Saudi administration of damaging their earning potential.
With the first event just weeks away it will be fascinating to gauge both the interest and aftermath. With one player guaranteed to win a huge payday, it may convince others to join.
The PGA and European Tours have had a great time of things over the past few decades. Both tours look like they will need to make room for the LIV Golf Series as it looks like it isn’t about to disappear anytime soon.