Sports | July 6, 2022 11:54 am

To Last, the LIV Golf Invitational Series Needs to Step Up Its Game

LIV Golf's third event will take place at the end of the month in New Jersey at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman watches play on the driving range
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman's league has not been up to par thus far.
Jonathan Ferrey/LIV Golf via Getty

You can’t buy class, but you can buy golfers — as Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has made abundantly clear with the way it has stocked the proverbial pond of the LIV Golf Invitational Series with so many big fish.

Already able to attract former PGA Tour stars including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, the Greg Norman-led series has had two events thus far and will have a third at the end of the month in New Jersey at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. Given how much attention the previous two LIV events — which were won by relative no-names Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel, respectively — have received, the Bedminster tournament at our former president’s club should generate a good amount of interest. But it appears that attention will start to wane unless LIV Golf’s product starts to improve.

The upstart league, which has a goofy website that doesn’t seem befitting of a league that’s capable of paying $125 million or more for a single player, bills itself as “golf, but louder” and says it exists to “supercharge the game of golf.” The LIV series can claim what it wants, but its product has been anything but supercharged to this point.

One of LIV Golf’s $100-millon men, Mickelson has shot a combined +20 in his two outings for the PGA Tour competitor and did not finish inside the top 30 at either event. Now ranked 89th in the world and dropping, the 52-year-old, who missed the cut at the U.S. Open, doesn’t seem close to being at the top of his game, and neither do the majority of his fellow LIV co-stars. (Now ranked No. 17 in the world, Johnson has been -10 combined in his two LIV events but is still not showing the form that had him ranked No. 3 at the end of 2021.)

LIV was counting on players like Mickelson, who has had a remarkable fall from grace since winning the 2021 PGA Championship, to attract fans. Unfortunatley for LIV, Mickelson’s net favorability rating has dropped by double digits since September while PGA Tour stars like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have had their net favorability rating rise.

Broadcast on the sports streaming service DAZN, YouTube and its own website to start, LIV Golf was able to get just 16% of PGA Tour fans to tune in to its inaugural event in London last month, according to a new Morning Consult survey. Viewership for the league’s second event in Portland last week was also underwhelming, possibly because the LIV Golf broadcast is well below par, and the upstart tour “will have to convince traditionalists and people who’ve only ever known the PGA Tour to consider something new” in order to survive, Syracuse sport management professor Rick Burton told Morning Consult.

“These two competitors are now in a duel to see who will be the most efficient at presenting professional golf,” Burton said. “Over the next couple of years, it will start to become very obvious who is doing a better job.” 

It already is.