How much “louder” will LIV Golf get in its second season?
IT WAS ALMOST a year ago, this writer Alan Shipnak published Phil Mickelson’s controversial comments about the PGA tour and the history of human rights abuses by the Saudi Arabian monarchy and alleged involvement in the death of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi. Mickelson, who allegedly recruited players for LIV Golf, told Shipnak that he was only working with the Saudis to gain influence on the PGA Tour.
“They are scary bastards to mess with,” Mickelson told Shipnak. “We know they killed Khashoggi and they have a terrible record on human rights. They execute people there for being gay. Knowing all this, why should I even think about it? how the PGA Tour works.
Mickelson, a six-time world champion, later apologized for his remarks. It has lost several longtime sponsors including KPMG, Workday and Amstel Light. Mickelson went into exile before returning to play the first LIV Golf event outside of London in June.
As soon as Mickelson’s comments became public, several PGA Tour participants who spoke to LIV Golf withdrew from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund-funded circuit. Major championship winners Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and others have pledged their support for the PGA Tour. As Rory McIlroy said at the time, “It’s useless in my opinion. I just don’t see any reason why anyone would leave.”
Shortly thereafter, however, Johnson, DeChambeau, Reid and others made a dramatic turnaround, receiving guaranteed signing bonuses reportedly worth up to $150 million, and moved to LIV Golf. Over 30 PGA Tour members eventually defected, leading to a suspension by tour commissioner Jay Monahan. LIV Golf and some of its players filed a federal antitrust lawsuit and accused the PGA Tour of a monopoly; the tour countersued and LIV Golf allegedly violated its contracts with the players.
Make no mistake: if the motivation for the LIV Golf during its first season was to be a revolutionary in a sport that had largely remained the same for over 50 years, then it succeeded. Thanks to the deep pockets of Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, which invested more than $2 billion in the venture, LIV Golf was able to host eight tournaments around the world with $25 million in purses, the richest in the history of the sport. He even snatched reigning Open Championship winner Cameron Smith from the PGA Tour days after he competed in his Tour Championship.
While its team format and 54-hole tournaments with no cuts and shotgun starts weren’t for everyone, especially traditional golfers, LIV Golf players seemed to have fun, especially those who were getting very rich. As Johnson and his 4Aces teammates celebrated with a champagne shower on the 18th hole of Miami’s Trump Doral, after winning the $50 million LIV Golf Tag Team Championship in October, LIV Golf seemed to be gaining momentum. Arguably the new course is the biggest story in men’s professional golf since Tiger Woods arrived on the PGA Tour in 1996.
DAY EARLIER The first season of LIV Golf ended in October with the final round of the team championship. The three executives of LIV Golf met with several journalists to brief them on the goals of the new circuit for 2023.
Among their lofty aspirations are: signing deals with network TV, both domestically and internationally, to expand LIV Golf’s presence around the world; attraction of corporate and team sponsors; and developing a franchise model that they hoped would one day make 12 LIV Golf teams worth hundreds of millions of dollars each.
“Our goal is to move up to the league, build 12 teams and lift them from the spot, and clearly build on what we see on the field and the fan experience and the engagement we see,” then-Chief COO and President of LIV Golf. Atul Khosla told reporters about it on the same day. “And yes, we should start commercializing the product. You need to get on TV. We need to find corporate partners.
LIV Golf has announced an expansion to 14 tournaments and an increase in wallets from $150 million to $405 million this year. Behind the scenes, he watched a handful of other PGA Tour stars, including former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Patrick Cantley and Xander Schaffele, two of the top players from the US.
Days after the end of the 2022 season, LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman, a two-time Open Championship winner, told reporters via videoconference that his course was just getting started. He suggested that there has never been a new sports league that has achieved what LIV Golf managed to do in its first year.
“LIV has just begun,” Norman said. “From my point of view, it was a fucking year. It’s been a fucking beta season. It was a hell of a launch.”
Then, over the next few months, the LIV Golf’s momentum seemed to dry up. The league that promised to be “golf but louder” didn’t whimper much during the offseason.
WITHIN SIX WEEKS At that meeting in Miami, Khosla and another of the executives present, director of communications Jonathan Grella, were no longer employed by LIV Golf. There were two other important departures: Matt Goodman, the league’s president of franchise, and Kerry Taylor, its director of marketing. Sources told Sportzshala that the departure was not voluntary. Golf Saudi CEO Majed Al Sorour also stepped down as Managing Director of LIV Golf, although he remained on the board.
As the LIV Golf League kicks off its second season at the El Camaleon golf course in Mayacob, Mexico on Friday, decisions are currently made by a small number of executives surrounding Norman. Gary Davidson, Richard Marsh and Jed Moore, three executives from Performance 54, an international golf marketing and consulting group based in England, now lead LIV Golf with Norman.
In their latest lawsuit, attorneys representing the PGA Tour argued that Norman was nothing more than a “front man” as CEO of LIV Golf and Yasser Al Rumayan, the governor of PIF, was the “de facto CEO”.
“The PIF and Mr. Al Rumayan have near-absolute power over LIV, which is a creation entirely of their own making and created to serve their interests,” the lawyers wrote in the PGA Tour’s response to LIV Golf’s amended complaint. “PIF established LIV; PIF funds LIV; PIF decides which golfers LIV can hire and how much to pay them; PIF endorses LIV’s media deals, sponsorships, branding and even logos. LIV cannot spend any significant amount of money without permission from the PIF.”
Lawyers for the PGA Tour argue that Al-Rumayyan acts as the LIV’s chief executive, “receiving regular reports from Norman, approving the LIV’s budget, making key strategic decisions, participating in recruiting players in the United States, and managing the day-to-day affairs of the LIV.” operations both in the United States and from abroad.”
“And even after signing contracts and accumulating debt, PIF holds wallets: none of the LIV partners or golfers receive the money until PIF and Mr Al Rumayyan agree to distribute the money,” the lawyers wrote.
Lawyers for the PGA Tour claimed that the LIV management team meets with Al-Rumayyan weekly to update him on progress and priorities, and maintains a document entitled “His Excellency Tracking Actions” with updates on the status of the weekly meetings.
“Mr. Al Rumayyan was personally involved in making decisions on the little things, from the LIV scoring mechanism, the cost of hotels and flights for the players and their caddies, the promotional video and logo, and the calendar and structure of the LIV tournaments, “on the spot.” events (e.g. concerts) at LIV events and [t]technologies related to the event, including broadcasting and … data analytics, ”PGA Tour lawyers wrote.
The PGA Tour claimed that Norman was seeking Al Rumayan’s approval “before taking any meaningful action on behalf of the LIV”.
“Mr. Al Rumayyan should endorse Norman’s public statements, including those relating to LIV’s future plans and involvement and recruitment of golfers,” the PGA Tour said in a response. “When a decision had to be made on the LIV launch date, Norman presented options to Mr. Al Rumayan and said he was “looking forward to [Mr. Al-Rumayyan’s] direction.’ Norman also directly and immediately informs Mr. Al-Rumayan of all sensitive developments, including recruitment of players, terms of negotiations with players, competition with the Tour, the filing of this lawsuit, and, in one case, unspecified “confidential and sensitive” information. it was known only to four other people.”
In recent weeks, LIV Golf team officials have expressed concern to Sportzshala that LIV Golf executives are not communicating with them regularly and postponing important decisions. For example, LIV Golf revealed its 2023 schedule in three announcements – Nov. 30, Dec. 14, and Jan. 23. According to sources, one of the reasons for the delay was that the LIV Golf teams were postponing the need to return to Saudi Arabia for the second year in a row. Investors won this battle; The LIV Golf Team Championship will be held in Jeddah on November 3-5.
According to sources, the transfer of the tag team championship from Trump Doral did not sit well with former US President Donald Trump, who owns the club. The LIV Golf Tournament will still take place there October 20-22, as well as the Trump Country Clubs in Bedminster, New Jersey and Sterling, Virginia.
Team officials also complained that the rosters were made public within three days – and only a week before the start of the season. The latest announcement was delayed by three days after Belgian Thomas Peters joined Hudson Swofford at the last minute, who underwent hip surgery at the end of the season.
In December, The New York Times reported that a Saudi-hired management consulting firm had written a report in 2021, codenamed Project Wedge, suggesting the new league would have to sign 12 of the world’s best golfers and make deals with broadcasters. in a…