The World of Sport has always had the formation of alternative professional leagues. We’ve experienced the American Football League, the American Basketball Association, the World Football League and other venues. These leagues were funded by wealthy tycoons looking to provide competition for the established professional leagues. These leagues wooed players such as Julius Erving, Pat Riley (yes Pat Riley) and a host of other NBA favorites to provide the competition for the established leagues offering big money and large contracts. All of these efforts eventually resulted in consolidation into the major leagues or dissolution and now the professional golf world (the PGA ) is faced with a new competitive league–the LIV Tour. The big difference between all prior leagues and the new LIV Tour is the source of the funding. The LIV Tour is sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government and there will be no shortage of funding for this tour. This Tour is all about the money and the elephant in the room is the source of all of this money. The source of all of this money is essentially the American and European consumer, who are paying record amounts of money for fuel and creating record profits for the energy sector including the source of a lot of it–Saudi Arabia. Energy prices have spiked and continue to rise as Saudi Arabia has no intention of raising production to lower energy prices. I have to snicker when I hear the players joining this tour that are doing it for the good of their families. How much money is enough? Dustin Johnson has been offered $125M to join the tour and he has accepted after earning a total of $90 million in his entire career on the PGA Tour. I can’t believe that he can state with a straight face that this decision is “best for my family.” Really, what it’s really about is money. Phil Mickelsen is apparently the beneficiary of a $200M offer to join the tour will now be able to take care of some of those gambling debts. As many as 9 major championship winners will join the LIV tour. My take on all of this is that the players are independent contractors and are entitled to do what they want to do with their careers. These players have been very successful and have the qualifications to form a new league. The golf fan will have to decide whether or not to watch these guys, which I’m sure will be initially on streaming platforms. I’m sure the Golf Channel and Fox’s Sky Sports Channel will follow this tour but it will be interesting to see if the golf fan connects the source of the funding for this tour to their own pocketbooks as they spend $7/gal. for gasoline in California and $5/gal. in the rest of the country.
I think its important to let the fans decide and avoid the horrible discourse that permeates other more important issues in the country. It seems to me that this league has the opportunity to create another emotional divisional branch of society as to whether you support the tour or not. I’m not interested in that type of discourse. Prominent players in the world of golf such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Speith have openly criticized the tour but they recognize that the players have got to decide for themselves. The LIV Tour will have a $25M purse for every tournament with all players getting a check so no fear of making a cut.
Essentially, this tour will be a rich buffer between the PGA Tour and the Senior Tour as many of these players’ career have peaked but still have a lot left before they flame out. Players such as Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter are great players but their days of beating the youngsters on the PGA Tour have probably passed. I’m sure Greg Norman has bigger ambitions to take over and dominate the PGA Tour prospectively and this can only be done by getting the tour exposed at the national TV level. The golf fan, as in all the other sports, will decide whether this tour will be successful and a permanent part of the infrastructure. I am anxious to see how the gods of Augusta National will hand out their invitations. Will they invite a former winner of the Masters who is no longer a member of the PGA Tour? One thing is for sure–the funding source for this tour is the world consumer of fossil fuels and this factor is a bottomless pit. If the golf fan isn’t bothered by sponsoring the tour, the nature of professional golf is apt to take a very unnatural turn–not sure with the result will be but the game of golf will persevere.