Is LIV Golf surviving past 2023? Its players may have revealed the answer
Phil Mickelson is selling … capes. Think Batman or Superman. They’ve been spotted inside merch tents at LIV Golf events, where Mickelson plays his golf, and are adorned with the logo of the HyFlyers, Mickelson’s LIV team.
Talk about your symbolism.
Actually, we’ll let the six-time major winner explain.
“It’s aspirational,” Mickelson said earlier this week. “It’s not for everybody. But it’s a cool thing about our team, and it’s the creativity of my wife, Amy, and what she brings. We envision a lot of little kids running around the golf course in capes, and that’s kind of what we’re hoping for, and have them dreaming about being a HyFlyer one day.
“I know we’re only one year into LIV, but where it’s going to be in 10, 15, 20 years, it’s going to be pretty exciting.”
And there you go: Mickelson and a few other LIV notables aren’t just thinking about today, they’re looking up, up and away and into the horizons, less than one month into the proposed bombshell arrangement that has brought together the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), which funds LIV. Of course, there are sides to this deal. Even contract language.
And folks who tend to think that a cape is a wonderful thought — for a group soaring off into the sunset.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? This week was actually quite notable in that LIV is playing its first tournament since the announcement, at historic Valderrama Golf Club in Spain. So let’s start with that bunch.
The LIV Golf side of the deal
In short, they’re optimistic. Think the Wolf of Wall Street scene where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character proudly claims: “I’m not leaving” — as the feds are just a short pitching wedge away from cracking his business empire.
Just look. Alex Miceli of Sports Illustrated has done wonderful reporting this week from Spain — you can read two of his stories on the subject here and here — but perhaps most telling was a photo Miceli snapped.
It was of Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor, sitting in a golf cart with Greg Norman, the LIV Golf CEO. The scene looked chipper; they were talking with Bryson DeChambeau. So despite LIV coming to the table with the PGA Tour, the established brand it has battled for the past year, things at least look comfortable. LIV may not be dying, despite thoughts to the contrary (more on that below).
But then just listen, too. Miceli also reported this week that Al-Rumayyan has said that LIV is “my f***ing baby,” which of course means that if he has a say — and if the PIF is in cahoots with the PGA Tour, he at least will have a word, no matter how the deal’s dust settles — LIV will play on. On Friday, Miceli also wrote that Al-Rumayyan met with players Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, DeChambeau and Mickelson, along with Norman and other LIV officials, and that Johnson, DeChambeau and Koepka left feeling optimistic.
That followed similar feelings from press conferences earlier in the week.
Said Sergio Garcia: “Yes, very confident. I mean, that’s what I can see. That’s all I can say. I think we’re in a good spot. I think there’s a lot of details that are not finalized yet, and there’s a lot of speculation. But I think it’s going to be a great deal for everyone, and I don’t expect us to not be here next year.”
Said Johnson: “Yeah, I’m excited for the future. I think with this agreement, the only thing that’s going to happen is LIV is going to get even better than what it is now, which it’s already great. I’m happy exactly where I am.”
Then there’s Mickelson, who said: “I think actions are a little bit stronger than words. I think if you just look at what LIV is doing and what we’re doing, I think that is more of a statement.” He presumably was referring to a multi-year deal LIV signed with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport of the Government of Andalucía, and a sponsorship deal agreed to between one of LIV’s teams and a crypto exchange.
The PGA Tour side of the deal
In short, they’re optimistic — that LIV is going away. Think the Wolf of Wall Street scene where the business of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is actually busted by the feds.
For one, there’s Rory McIlroy, as big of a star as there is on the PGA Tour, who a day after the deal was announced remarked: “I still hate LIV. Like, I hate LIV. Like, I hope it goes away. And I would fully expect that it does. And I think that’s where the distinction here is. This is the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the PIF. Very different from LIV.”
There’s also the language of the framework agreement that was sent to Congress. It was leaked last week.
Here, we’ll rely on GOLF’s Sean Zak, who expertfully broke down the five-page document with seven takeaways. For the purposes here, most notable among them was this:
“LIV Golf’s future, as well as that of team golf, is unclear. It’s not dead, but it’s certainly not guaranteed to survive, either. When PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan repeatedly mentioned an ‘empirical evaluation’ would take place on the prospects of LIV Golf, he was simply quoting the agreement:
“‘NewCo will be provided access to all information requested to facilitate this evaluation and assessment … so that the NewCo Board, with recommendation of its [CEO] Jay Monahan, will determine the ongoing plan and strategy regarding all NewCo operations…
“In other words, Monahan will hold many cards. Jimmy Dunne and Ed Herlihy — both proposed members of the NewCo executive committee — would also possess much influence. Will they want LIV Golf to exist as it currently does? Monahan said himself that is unlikely. Could the league be repackaged as the PGA Tour’s own version of team golf? That’s plausible. The agreement states that the parties ‘will make a good faith assessment of the benefits of team golf … and determine how best to integrate team golf into PGA Tour and DP World Tour events going forward.’”
Most of it still is, and Congress could also shut the whole thing down. We won’t have answers for a while, though pieces are coming together, through words and actions.
Said LIV’s David Puig this week: “I think it’s great news for everybody. Personally I don’t know a lot about the topic, but great news that we’re all friends again, and yeah, hopefully keeps getting better and we can find a solution or get together.”
Said LIV’s Joaquin Niemann: “Yeah, I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I think it’s great for golf to be all on the same page, but yeah, I think it’s too early to tell what’s going to happen. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen, though.”
Said LIV’s Mito Pereira:: “Yeah, I think they’re trying to do the best for golf, getting together and trying to build something really good. We don’t know much for now, but I’m sure they’ll figure it out pretty good.”
Said LIV’s Sebastian Munoz: “Same answer.”