LIV Bangkok proves a truly ‘global’ tour is a double-edged sword

Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra won his first-ever LIV Golf event this weekend.

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On Sunday afternoon in Bangkok, Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra — a 22-year-old Spanish-born pro — won his first-ever LIV Golf event.

It was a blowout win for Chacarra, the kind the folks at LIV have undoubtedly been waiting to see for some time now. Chacarra is one of the youngest members of an uber-talented crew of twenty-somethings for LIV — a group that league hopes will form the glut of its future core. His victory checked a few more boxes for LIV, representing a grand introduction to a foreign market and providing Chacarra’s team, the Fireballs, with their first-ever team win. In a rare feat for the upstarts, Chacarra’s $4.7 million winner’s check was not the main story, but only the cherry on top of a very sweet Sunday.

That is, if you were awake to see it.

The bars weren’t open in New York City when Chacarra’s final putt hit the bottom of the cup at 4:25 a.m. local time. Even the city that never sleeps had opted for shuteye. The ones out on the west coast, where it was 1:25 a.m., were prepping for last call. In London, where LIV hosted its first event, Chacarra’s win might have interrupted breakfast.

Less than half of the 600,000 or so fans who tuned into the final rounds of LIV Boston, Chicago, and Bedminster on YouTube watched the final round of LIV Bangkok. The reaction on social media, where the upstarts have invested heavily in recent months, was decidedly muted. The reaction even appeared blunted in Thailand itself, where a decidedly smaller crowd turned up than for any of LIV’s previous U.S. events.

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These were expected outcomes, of course. LIV knew that bringing its tour to the other side of the world would blunt its signal with fans. This, after all, is what happens every time the PGA Tour heads to Europe for the DP World Tour or the Open Championship, or what happens each week for PGA Tour fans abroad who tune in at weird hours to see their favorite players.

“This is a global tour,” Sergio Garcia crooned in the wake of Chacarra’s win Sunday. “It’s not a Tour that is in the U.S., not a Tour that is in Europe. This is a global tour.”

To that end, he’s right. LIV is a global tour, but not everything that comes with a global tour is good for business. The viewing numbers and tepid interest represent also the other side of it, where the big, ambitious vision begins to run counter to any league’s primary business strategy: to best serve its fans. This comes at a time of particular business intrigue for the upstarts, who face a series of business decisions in the coming months that could significantly alter their long-term viability.

LIV’s YouTube numbers remain an area of particular intrigue for this reason. The league is locked in negotiations with potential partners for its media rights, and the potential value of any such deal is tied closely to the league’s ability to draw in significant audiences on a regular basis (thus drawing enough advertiser interest to justify paying for the rights).

Golfweek reported two weeks ago that LIV was nearing a deal with Fox Sports in which it would pay the network to broadcast its tournaments on FS1 — an agreement that would run counter to the traditional structure of sports rights deals. LIV has since disputed that report as inaccurate, but the report speaks to the importance the league has placed on securing a rights agreement, and the difficulty it has had in attracting a valuable partner to date.

In Bangkok, LIV theoretically showed the best of its argument for legitimacy in the golf world. A young, ascending player won a tournament in a new market loaded with big names, securing a life-changing payday under the watchful eye of his team captain and countryman, Sergio Garcia. But in doing so, LIV also showed the worst of the arguments against it. A small, sparsely attended tournament was held in the middle of the night (in the United States) and struggled to attract the viewing interest of even the event’s most ardent supporters.

On Sunday afternoon in Bangkok, worry hadn’t reached the winner’s circle by the time Chacarra and the Fireballs celebrated a defining victory.

“We feel very proud and very thankful to LIV to put their belief on us to try to bring the game of golf everywhere in the world and make it grow,” Garcia said. “To see all those kids out there supporting us and enjoying it, it’s what we always try to do.”

Perhaps that makes some sense. Back home in the U.S., worry was still fast asleep.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.