What is LIV Golf? A simple primer on the controversial new golf league

What is LIV Golf? Here's everything you need to know about the Saudi-backed golf league.

Getty Images

The LIV Golf league is finally here, a living breathing enterprise.

Officially known as the LIV Golf Invitational Series, the Saudi-funded league will stage its first tournament this week at Centurion Club, near London. There has been plenty of back-and-forth about the series over the past several years, but this week marks the first time the public will get a look at the upstart league in action.

If you’re just catching up, here’s a simple primer on the history of the league, who’s playing in it and why it’s so controversial.

What is LIV Golf?

phil mickelson
Phil Mickelson set to make public return, will play LIV Golf London event
By: Sean Zak

LIV Golf is the organization staging the LIV Golf Invitational Series. Two-time major champion Greg Norman is the CEO and commissioner of the league, which is aiming to be an alternative arena to the PGA Tour for the world’s best players. LIV Golf is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is among the most lucrative sovereign wealth funds in the world, with an estimated value of $600 billion.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series has eight events on its calendar for the 2022 season, the first of which is taking place this weekend outside London. Other stops on the tour include Portland, Ore.; Bedminster, N.J.; Boston; Chicago; Bangkok; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Miami.

Why is it controversial?

LIV Golf is controversial because of the source of its funding — Saudi Arabia’s PIF. The PIF serves as the financial arm of the Saudi government, which has committed numerous human-rights violations. The most notable case in recent years was the assassination and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter and outspoken critic of the Saudi government.

In an attempt to cleanse its reputation, the Saudi government has invested heavily in sports organizations and events, ranging from Premier League soccer to the WWE, a practice colloquially known as “sportswashing.” Sportwashing is commonly utilized as a propaganda technique to to distract the public from its violations and abuses.

greg norman
As LIV Golf league inches closer to launch, inconvenient truth only compounding   
By: Alan Bastable

Who is playing?

Several PGA Tour pros are in the field at the first LIV Golf event, headlined by Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. Other confirmed pros include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Hudson Swafford, Kevin Na, Talor Gooch, Richard Bland, Sam Horsfield and Louis Oosthuizen.

Bryon DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are reported to be committed to the league as well.

What is the format?

The 48-player field will compete against each other in a stroke-play format over 54 holes. There is no cut, and golfers will all play at the same time, with a shotgun start in use. The 48 participants are also split into 12 four-man teams, selected by a team captain via draft before the event begins.

How much will players earn?

The $25 million purse for the London event is the largest in golf history. A bulk of the prize fund ($20 million) is up for grabs in the individual stroke-play portion of the event, while the remaining $5 million will be shared between the top three teams.

Where will it be broadcast?

The only way to catch LIV Golf’s London event is online. LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook will carry live streaming coverage of the tournament. Coverage begins at 9 a.m. ET/2 p.m. BT on Thursday.

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.