Does LIV Golf Have an Endgame?
Where does the tour go from here?
This week brings with it the first-ever LIV Golf Invitational Portland, which sparked controversy before it had even begun. It’s the second event in the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series and the first to take place in the United States and, now that some golf has actually been played, there’s been a growing body of analysis on what this all means for golf. Throw in the debate over “sportswashing” and parallels to various breakaway sports leagues of bygone years, and you have a golf tour tailor-made for heated discussion.
But looming over this is an even larger question: where does LIV Golf see all of this heading?
Let’s start with the question of money. According to a recent USA Today report (via Yahoo! Sports), LIV is planning to expand next year — going from eight to 14 events in 2023. Given that the prize money the tour is offering is, shall we say, not small, the expansion plans suggest an even larger financial commitment from the league’s backers next year.
And while Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is about as close to having an unlimited stream of cash as you’re going to get, the fund’s other recent high-profile investment — the purchase of Newcastle United — has some more tangible benefits. Should Newcastle become an elite soccer team — as was the case when similar investments were made in teams like PSG and Manchester City — you’re likely to see a lot more of the team’s merchandise out in the world, making for a solid revenue stream to offset some of the team’s expenses.
That’s not so much the case here — leading Golfweek‘s Eamon Lynch to observe that the LIV Golf tour is currently a much better deal for the golfers taking part in it than it is for LIV Golf itself. Broadcast rights are another obvious way to bring in income, but that also seems to be an area where LIV Golf is looking for a boost.
Earlier this year, Phil Mickelson infamously observed that he saw LIV Golf as a means to improve the state of the PGA Tour. A recent Palm Beach Post article by Tom D’Angelo noted that “eight of the top 50 players, and 20 of the top 100, in the current World Golf Rankings [joined] LIV to date.” Not bad for a growing league — but that also means that 42 of the world’s top 50 players aren’t taking part in LIV Golf events.
A breakaway league with a few elite players might well summon up memories of the USFL more than anything else. The more money LIV Golf offers players, the more players will be tempted to come on board — but the money going in can’t last forever. Which, again, begs the question: where does LIV Golf go from here?
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