LIV Golf is like … the Ryder Cup?! Questions, observations on the Saudi league
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Now that we’ve got all of the talking points out of the way, too — the ones you’ve probably heard ad nauseum recently — let’s try to make sense of this weekend’s news that seemingly came out quicker than a hosel rocket. The PGA Tour, in Illinois, and LIV Golf, in Oregon, went head to head on American soil for the first time this week, and, among other nuggets, we heard comparisons to the Ryder Cup, we read a rumor of when future signings could happen and we watched bizarre vignettes. That’s a lot, so let’s begin.
First things first: Did Talor Gooch compare the LIV event to playing in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup?
His complete quote, as he stood with his winning team afterward: “I haven’t played a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, but I can’t imagine there’s a whole hell of a lot of difference.”
Justin Thomas, your thoughts?
“I’ve seen some funny stuff online, but this is one of the better ones,” he wrote on the Zire Golf Instagram page.
OK, with that, who were the winners?
Branden Grace, who shot rounds of three-under 69, 69 and 65 for a two-stroke win over Carlos Oritz, and the 4 Aces team of Gooch, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Pat Perez.
Grace earned $4 million, and the team split $3 million.
How did the team aspect look?
This has potential. If players are locked onto teams (which appears to be coming as soon as next year) and there are individual backers of teams (which is being efforted), team play adds another level to an event. Golfers normally out of an individual tournament still have a lot to play for; on Saturday, Ortiz dropped a lengthy putt on the final hole to boost his team to third, and money, and the reaction from his teammates was engaging.
Did any players sign with LIV this weekend?
Yes, Paul Casey.
Didn’t Casey once come out against playing in Saudi Arabia?
Yes. In 2019, when the European Tour played an event in the country, Casey withdrew. The former UNICEF ambassador then told the Independent:
“It just didn’t sit well with me. I’ve not talked too much about it and I’m not sure I want to, but certainly signing a deal and being paid to be down there, I would be a hypocrite if I did that.
“Anybody who says sport isn’t political, that’s rubbish. Sport is very political, and we’ve seen it through the years. I’m glad I took a stance, more so if it highlighted the issues within the region, especially next door in Yemen.”
Did any players re-up with the PGA Tour?
Yes, Will Zalatoris.
Are there odds on the next players to sign with LIV?
The current favorites? Patrick Cantlay and Hideki Matsuyama, at +350.
When will we hear about the next LIV signing?
Soon, according to Kenny Harms, Kevin Na’s caddie.
This week, Harms posted multiple videos from the event, and in one, he answered a comment with this:
“Let’s see which field is better in four weeks,” he wrote. “I’ll take NJ LIV field and you can take the Rocket Mortgage. I’ll go one better I’ll take every field for the rest of the year against all the PGA tour fields they play against. Just so you know four more guys are signing next week. Then after the tour championship there will be another five to ten.
Did Perez say this was the greatest thing he’s ever been a part of in golf?
His complete quote: “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever been part of in golf. Even though I’ve won three times, it doesn’t matter.”
Did Perez shoot an 80 on Saturday and make nearly a million dollars?
Yes. He finished 29th and earned $153,000, and as a member of the winning team, he brought home another $750,000.
Did Grace compare himself to Tiger Woods?
In a way.
When asked afterward what the experience was like for him on the 18th hole as he finished his victory, Grace said: “I’m no Tiger, but that was as close as I’m going to get to feeling what Tiger feels like. Coming down the 18th with everybody just surrounding you, chanting your name, it was amazing.”
Did Grace stop a post-round interview to go to his bag, grab a Presidents Cup towel, make sure the logo was pointed at the camera and wipe himself repeatedly?
Coincidence? Maybe. He was doused with champagne, after all. Remember, though, that the PGA Tour operates that team event, which will be played in late September at Quail Hollow.
Here’s the video, which starts after Grace returns to the camera:
So the players seem pretty happy, hey?
Yeah, that seems to be the vibe.
And possibly a little carefree?
Consider this exchange between Golf Digest’s Dan Rapaport and a player on the range: Rapaport, as part of an excellent piece for Golf Digest, wrote that he complimented a player on a shot on the range, only for the player to snap, “Yep, it will.
“But, who the f**k cares if it doesn’t?”
Remember, there are no cuts, and most players have signed large, guaranteed contracts.
How is Phil Mickelson playing?
Not well. In Portland, he shot rounds of 75, 76 and 76, and in London, where the first LIV event was played, he shot 75, 76, 76. These rounds bookend a 78-73 showing at the U.S. Open.
As has been the case since his return from a self-imposed four-month break, Mickelson’s comments in Portland were dry.
“My game seems a lot better than I’m scoring,” he told Golfweek. “Hitting a lot of good shots, then I’m making a lot of mistakes that are costing me five or six shots a round that I haven’t done when I’m playing my best.
“I’m not discouraged.”
Was Phil Mickelson heckled?
Was Dustin Johnson really asked: Why is my father’s love conditional?
During Friday’s press conference, that was the first question Johnson was asked, in fact. It came from comedian Griff Pippin of the Country Club Adjacent website, and he and his mates went on to ask multiple questions.
(An email to the LIV Golf communications team has gone unanswered.)
What was the broadcast like?
Fast; you saw a lot of shots, though there are no commercials.
Colorful; the picture quality was great, and the graphics popped.
Loud; the announcers do a fine job of heightening the moment.
But isn’t there a lot of “cheerleading?”
That, too. There is an extreme overemphasis on telling you how great the golf is.
And the player vignettes simply seem to be commercials for more players. Is there any other reason that this one was produced?
How exactly is the money paid out?
This was a topic early in the week, when Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee tweeted that Charl Schwartzel’s winnings from the first event went against his signing bonus. Chamblee has since deleted the tweet, and on Wednesday, a LIV spokeswoman said that “the prize purses are in addition to. There is no draw at LIV Golf on any finances.”
If you’re further interested, the Fire Pit Collective’s Alan Shipnuck did an excellent deep dive on the money here.
Did LIV donate money to charity in Portland?
Yes, $1 million, which will go “to support local environmental and community-based organizations.”
Will there be any news this week?
It’s very, very likely.
On Monday and Tuesday, Tour and LIV golfers will be playing at the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland. In tournament play, the Tour and DP World Tour are co-sanctioning the Scottish Open — where LIV players have been banned, though they are threatening legal action.
Did Sergio Garcia go on a tirade at news of the DP World Tour ban?
Yes, according to the Telegraph. James Corrigan reported that “Sergio flew off the handle, shouting, ‘This Tour is s***, you’re all f****d, should have taken the Saudi money.’”
What will the reaction be like among the players of opposing sides after all this?
TBD, of course, but quotes from Justin Thomas and Padraig Harrington could guide us.
“I think it’s just one of those things where maybe if I walked past that person earlier and said, hey, or asked how they were doing, I maybe just won’t do it anymore,” Thomas said on the podcast. “It’s not like something where, you know, I’m flipping them the bird, or I’m trying to make their life miserable by any means.
“I’m just, you know, it’s one of those things, you just, some people might not feel like they need to give the time of day anymore, is would be my only guess.”
Here’s Harrington at the Irish Open:
“I actually don’t have any problem with the guys who have gone to LIV golf. They are gone to go and do their thing,” he said. “Everybody’s got to make their own choices, but you make a choice. You make your bed and you sleep in it, that’s it. It was very clear that the guys who didn’t go, especially guys who could have gone, who possibly would have had offers on the table, they have taken a big decision not to take the money.
“The guys have gone because there was an incredible amount of money on the table. No other reason. No other reason,” he continued. “It’s not going to make their golf better. It’s not going to do anything more that they could have done playing anywhere else. They have gone for the money, and there’s great money on the table. They are professional golfers, and everybody has got to make that decision. I have no problem, and those guys are going to remain my friends. I certainly have no issue with what they have done.”
Is LIV going to expand?
Next year, the plan is to play 14 events, up from this year’s eight. The goal is to also have all 48 players under contract.
The official name will also change, from LIV Golf Invitational Series, to LIV Golf League.
So what happens to existing LIV golfers now when new players sign on?
Essentially, they move on.
That actually happened this week. Pablo Larrazabal, Oliver Bekker and Oliver Fisher played in London, then played on the DP World Tour’s Irish Open. Larrazabal and Bekker were subject to the fines and the suspension, while Fisher told Golf Channel he wasn’t punished because he wasn’t qualified for the DP World Tour’s event the week of the London tournament.
Is LIV Golf going to be on TV?
It wants to be.
For now, LIV will remain on YouTube, Facebook and its own webpage. But in an insightful piece in the Sports Business Journal, a LIV executive said: “We absolutely know we need TV partners.”
Does LIV need to turn a profit?
Yes. In a way. This was a big part of the Sports Business Journal story. The Public Investment Fund, the backer of LIV, has deep pockets, but not endless.
Though the exchange below, started by GOLF’s Dylan Dethier on Twitter, is notable. Will the money run out? Or could investing in golf lead to money elsewhere?
Were there protests outside of the LIV event?
And according to Rapaport of Golf Digest, they’ll continue at future LIV events. In Portland, 9/11 Justice, a group of people whose loved ones were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, held a press conference, and a member of the group told Rapaport:
“Every tournament you’re gonna have to deal with us, more people, our stories. We’re not going away.”
When’s the next LIV event?
It’s July 29-31. A Sunday finish this go-around. It goes head to head with the Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, which should attract a stronger field than the John Deere this week. That’ll be interesting.
The LIV event will be played at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. That’ll be interesting. The course was on track to be the host of this year’s PGA Championship until the PGA of America pulled it following the events on Jan. 6 involving its owner.