Tour Confidential: LIV Golf’s championship format, TV deals, lawsuits and Bryson DeChambeau 

Cameron Smith last month at the LIV Golf event in Chicago.

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Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss LIV Golf’s team championship format, television deals, lawsuits, Bryson DeChambeau and more.  

1. LIV Golf finally revealed its team championship format, with a mix of stroke play, match play and alternate shot, for a share of $50 million. What are your thoughts on the format, and will it be enough to help bring attention to the start-up league?

Liv golf celebration
LIV Golf unveiled its $50 million team championship. Here’s how it works
By: Sean Zak

Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): Match play and, especially, alt-shot are great breaks from the same old, and LIV is smart to adopt them. But ultimately, the league is  up against the same challenge faced by all of professional golf — there’s a relatively small number of players who really move the needle. If those players aren’t in the mix and the event itself has no real weight of its own, the competitors could be playing blindfolded while doing handstands and the viewing public is mostly going to respond with a collective shrug. That’s my way of saying that Pat Perez and Charles Howell playing alternate shot is more interesting than Pat Perez and Charles Howell playing stroke play. But it’s still not THAT interesting. As for the big purses, I think thatas;ldakfsj … sorry. Nodded off at the keyboard. 

James Colgan, assistant editor (@jamescolgan26): LOL, Sens. I think it was a smart, great move by LIV to adopt some of golf’s criminally underused team-play traditions. I don’t, however, think those team-play traditions will make me (or anyone, really) care about a competition in which the only thing at stake is a boatload of cash. The outlying political implications of the event would only seem to depress broad interest further. 

Sean Zak, senior editor (@sean_zak): I think the competition will be a ton of fun. At least that is until it’s Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace going against Cameron Tringale and Bernd Wiesberger for the decisive match. That doesn’t do much of anything for me. Could we get DJ’s 4 Aces against Cam Smith and Marc Leishman? Perhaps! I’d tune in for it. 

2. According to a report from Golfweek, LIV Golf is nearing an unconventional deal to pay Fox Sports to air its tournaments on FS1. LIV Golf, however, refuted the report, saying it was “incomplete and inaccurate” and added that LIV is actually ahead of schedule in its quest to lock-in broadcast rights. Considering everything, what are the chances golf fans see LIV Golf outside of YouTube for its 2023 schedule?

Sens: My goldfish could land a TV deal for 2023 if it had enough money to toss around. I’d be willing to wager heavily that LIV gets one. The question is what kind of deal. It would be interesting to know more about the back-room calculus involved — if you land a deal, but it’s a bottom-of-the-barrel kind of deal that has a whiff of desperation to it, is that worse than not getting a deal at all?

Greg Norman
Report: LIV Golf exploring Fox Sports deal to buy airtime for events
By: Jessica Marksbury

Colgan: The chances are 100 percent. But if LIV can’t find someone willing to pay for their TV rights in *this* market, it should be a tremendous warning sign about their long-term prospects. Networks/streamers have spent some $50 billion (with a B!) on sports rights in the past five years. If LIV can’t get ANYTHING, how can they earnestly expect to be breathing in five years?

Zak: James has been covering this beat well for I can’t add any expertise beyond his!

3. Perhaps the biggest lawsuit in the history of the PGA Tour will wage on without Phil Mickelson’s involvement. Mickelson and three others asked to be dismissed as plaintiffs in LIV Golf’s lawsuit against the PGA Tour. What does it say or mean that Mickelson is no longer a part of it?

phil mickelson
The lawsuit against the PGA Tour just lost its star plaintiff: Phil Mickelson
By: Sean Zak

Sens: Like my former law school classmate, Saul Goodman from the University of American Samoa, I do not specialize in this area of jurisprudence. But credible attorneys I’ve talked to tell me this will shield Mickelson from quite a bit of discovery. He could still be deposed, but the scrutiny wouldn’t be as intense — if there are skeletons in that closet, they’d be less likely to be exposed. But I also take this as a measure of Mickelson’s confidence in the case itself. How does a guy who got paid so many millions to join LIV argue that he has suffered ‘irreparable harm’ — the legal standard that the plaintiffs will have to meet? It’s a tough case to make. Not great PR for him to be part of this, either.

Colgan: I think the crumbling lawsuit — along with Phil’s why-can’t-we-be-friends rhetoric — shows LIV’s lawyers have serious doubts about their case against the PGA Tour. If those suspensions stand, it makes the case for LIV all that much more difficult. 

Zak: I found the sequence particularly interesting. The week where both sides are hammering out the details of discovery, Mickelson (who no doubt has the most to lose) bails. Was he simply an honorary plaintiff for name’s sake? I think so. What remains is bizarre. Bryson’s team refused to respond to my question on if he intends to remain. I could see it becoming strictly LIV Golf as the remaining plaintiff, which is sort of how this whole thing has been moving toward this entire time. 

4. Bryson DeChambeau finished runner-up in a Professional Long Drivers Association World Championship, ultimately finishing second to Martin Borgmeier. Does DeChambeau get enough credit for the success he’s had dipping his toes into long-drive competitions while not playing on regular tours?

Bryson DeChambeau celebrates after hitting his final drive on Saturday in Nevada.
Bryson DeChambeau ALMOST won a long drive World Championship, finishes runner-up to Martin Borgmeier
By: Josh Berhow

Sens: DeChambeau has been an absolute stud on the long-drive circuit. It’s been impressive and fun to watch. But a cursory Google search also shows that he has gotten plenty of attention for what he has done. Like most well-known athletes/entertainers, he has not exactly been ignored. What more does he deserve? A ticker-tape parade? What hasn’t gotten as much attention is whether/how long drive has affected his body and/or the rest of his game.

Colgan: I was in Mesquite for Bryson’s long drive bid last year and came away struck by the sport’s long-term prospects, especially if Bryson continued on his trajectory. Now, a year later, I was struck from afar by how few fans were at the event compared to last year, and how little traction the event received publicly. I think a lot of that has to do with Bryson’s past 12 months and with how little we’ve heard from him during them. 

Zak: Bryson can’t win in popular golf circles. In YouTube-landia, he’s appreciated, but that’s basically it. On Twitter, no love. On Instagram, no love. It’s not a direct answer to the question, but it kinda is: Bryson should get more love that he does for the long drive work, but he never will. He’s dug too deep a hole in his other public-facing arenas. 

5. Landmand, a new course in Nebraska, offers a friendly suggestion on how to rank its holes in handicapped matches based on the wind conditions. What’s another player-friendly innovation you’d like to see courses adopt?

landmand scorecard
This course’s clever stroke-index allocation alters hole difficulty by the day
By: Josh Sens

Sens: I’ve long hoped that a struggling public course somewhere with nothing to lose would recast itself as the ‘pace-of-play’ course. Enforce a maximum of 4 hours per round. Maybe slightly faster. Offer incentives (discounts on tee times/free drinks at the turn) for players who finish in time. If you can’t play within the time limit, play somewhere else. You might alienate a small number of golfers. But a great number of golfers would see that as a very player-friendly innovation. 

Colgan: In a similar vein to Sens, I’ll steal one from my Uncle Norm, who wants golf courses to use GPS to charge greens fees like an Amazon Go store. Those who play faster than the suggested time earn a cheaper rate, while those who play slower pay a steeper one.

Zak: Get rid of 90 percent of golf carts. This is pro-golfer, I swear! The game was meant to be walked. If you wanna bring your beers, get a cooler with wheels. American golfers would benefit from the exercise.

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