One of the hottest things across the landscape of sports right now, the LIV Golf Tour, continues to make headlines. Launched in early June, the series is backed by the public investment fund in Saudi Arabia and fronted by Chief Executive Officer and World Golf hall of fame member, Greg Norman. Home to eight invitational tournaments, the tour features 54-hole stroke play events while also combining a unique team format. Along with this, the venture has a $255 million purse, with each contest featuring a $25 million payout. Already drawing stars like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, the tour wrapped up its third event last weekend at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. Won by Henrik Stenson in his debut, here are five reasons why LIV Golf is growing the game.
1. Forcing the PGA Tour to Adapt Its Business Model
The PGA Tour is already undergoing wholesale changes to its current business model to counter LIV Golf. Offering no cuts and guaranteed money to all its competitors, Charl Schwartzel earned over $4 million by capturing the inaugural event in London. This was the largest payout ever given to a golfer. In comparison, Tony Finau won just $1.5 million for capturing the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. Recently announcing a $100 million purse increase for the 2022-2023 season, commissioner Jay Monahan also laid out a revamped tournament schedule. This means that eight events will offer over $15 million in prize money. The FedEx Cup playoffs will also be trimmed down from 125 players to the top 70, with only 30 reaching the final weekend.
Long operating under a performance-based model, players on the PGA Tour need to make the cut to get paid. This means that if they have a poor weekend on the course, they are left going home empty-handed. In comparison to this, LIV Golf has chosen to offer competitors with millions of dollars in guaranteed money, meaning the last place finisher at any event is assured to walk away with $120,000. Deadlocked in a battle to retain their star talent, Monahan also reported the details of a series of international tournaments that will be held next season. Set to take place in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the events will be capped at 60 competitors, with the focus on ensuring money for players regardless of their performance.
2. Using a Team Format to Create Rivalries and Storylines
Following in the footsteps of the popular Formula One racing, LIV Golf has implemented a team setup to pair with its traditional individual format. Grouping players into units of four, the teams are determined prior to the event. Twelve captains are chosen to select their players in a snake-style draft. Following this, during the first 36 holes of the tournament, the two best stroke play scores will count towards the total score for each team. Likewise, during the third and final round, the three best scores are taken. After 54 holes, the squad with the overall lowest score is determined the winner
A mainstay amongst the vision of the company since its inception, LIV Golf's team format gives people a greater sense of engagement by allowing them to identify and root for a particular team. In addition to this, it also provides rivalries and storylines, which can increase the excitement amongst fans for upcoming events. Beginning to float the idea of clubs based on nationalities, the company is reportedly pursuing current world number 16 Hideki Matsuyama to headline an all-Japanese team. Furthermore, they have also approached 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith, former Masters champion Adam Scott, and Marc Leishman to form an all-Australian team. .
3. Condensing Tournaments to Help Reach a Wider Audience
Golf's television ratings have seen a drastic decline throughout the 2022 season. The final round of the PGA Championship saw 5.27 million viewers tune in. This was a 21 percent reduction from the number of people who watched Mickelson capture the tournament at Kiawah Island a year ago. Along with this, the U.S. Open also saw a dip in ratings after returning to Torry Pines in 2022. The 2.9 overall rating was the lowest for the major since 1988. Faced with the age-old question, the PGA Tour and its partnering networks have been searching for ways to improve their overall product.
Enter LIV Golf, whose 54-hole tournament sees players tee off at the same time on a pre-assigned hole under a shotgun start format. Consulting with multiple television companies prior to the launch, the organization concluded that in order to create a smaller broadcasting window for its viewers, every golfer on the course could be shown at the same time. Furthermore, it also allows people to follow their favorite players throughout the tournament. A longtime criticism of golf fans everywhere, often, viewers are limited to watching featured groups or the final pairing of the day. As a result, they are unable to follow players lower down on the leaderboard or those making a Sunday push.
4. Implementing a Promotion and Relegation System
Laying the groundwork for the future, according to reports, LIV Golf will implement a relegation system in October 2023. During that season, the company will track its golfers via a player ranking list, and anyone that finishes inside the top 24 at an event will earn points to keep their place on tour. However, the bottom four players will be relegated at the end of the year. Used by the PGA, the system is designed to clear space for competitors across the world to earn a spot in the tournaments. Moreover, it also allows for new faces to play in the field to keep the product refreshing to consumers.
Lastly, the Saudi-backed league is also set to introduce a promotions event in which amateur and professional players all across the world can compete to qualify for the tour. Set to take place over a three or four-day period, the tournament is expected to have nearly 100 players in the field. They include reigning amateur champions, the top 17 players in the Official World Gold Rankings, and the number 2-32 ranked players on the money list from the International Series.
5. Changing the Traditional Atmospheres Present at Golf Tournaments
Operating under the motto "Golf but Louder," Norman and company are aiming to attract new audiences. With 65 and over being the average age for golf viewership, they are seeking to offer a unique experience for fans. The tour breaks down the traditional environment present at golf tournaments for decades by providing a festival-like atmosphere, with music playing music from speakers during the action and a t-shirt gun during breaks. In addition to this, spectators can also enjoy different competitions, air shows, and a golf simulator to show their skills. Focused on offering an up close and personal experience with the players, after the completion of the action, fans can also enjoy concerts each night.