The most controversial topic in sport right now, the LIV Golf tournament, teed off on Thursday after months of contentious build-up. The names have been drawn, the behind-closed-doors draft was completed on Wednesday and we’re underway in the Centurion Club, London for what is sure to be a wild ride for all involved.
For the uninitiated, it’s important to run through the events that led up to this week, starting back in October 2021. On October 29th, Australian golfing legend Greg Norman was named Commissioner and CEO of LIV Golf Investments with the tour to be backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the same investment group responsible for the purchase of Newcastle United chaired by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman. There was a period of hiring after this, which remained relatively quiet until the new year.
In February, author Alan Shipnuck reported that LIV Golf was to formally announce the arrival of the new tour on the week of the PGA Tour’s headlining event, The Players, in early March. This was followed by Shipnuck releasing quotes from Phil Mickelson from an upcoming book he was writing, where ‘Lefty’ admitted that LIV was “nothing more than what he called ‘sportwashing’ by a brutally repressive regime.” and described the Saudis as “scary motherf***ers to get involved with.”
Outroar followed and by the time the Genesis Invitational rolled around on February 21st, many of the PGA Tour’s top players came out to declare their allegiance to their home tour. Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods were among those to comment, and Rory McIlroy was quoted for numerous years slating any ideas of a breakaway tour and continued in fine form, describing it as “dead in the water.”
“I certainly don’t think the field is anything to jump up and down about,” the Northern Irishman claimed. “Look at the field in Canada [ahead of PGA Tour Canadian Open]. They are proper golf tournaments.”
By March 16th, LIV Golf continued their announcements, outlining the 2022 Invitational Series beginning on June 9th-11th, just two days after Cameron Smith’s victory at The Players.
The official list of destinations, in order is: Centurion Club in London, Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Trump National in Bedminster, The International in Boston, Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago, a new private course named Stonehill in Thailand, Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia before the season finale at Trump Doral in Miami.
April kickstarted the player movement into the tour. On the 19th, world number 1130 Robert Garrigus became the first member of the PGA Tour to make a formal request for a waiver to play in the inaugural event in London. A week following, Phil Mickelson filed for a release from the Tour to be able to play in the LIV Events, breaking his two-month hiatus from golf in the process.
The following day, LIV Golf set the ticket prices for their events, with a three-day pass costing $225 or $85 for individual tickets. This might not seem important in the grand scheme of things, however when more players were added, their code to grant free tickets to their most dedicated fans remarkably missed the mark with the tickets still being available over 24 hours later for free.
On May 11th, the PGA Tour denied the public and private requests from its players that wanted to take part in the LIV Golf Invitational. On the same day, Greg Norman fumbled a question, describing the murder of The Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi as “a mistake” which led to further outrage, with Amnesty International describing his comments as “seriously misguided.”
Norman’s work as an iconic ex-golfer that figureheads the project was beginning to create issues, despite securing an extra $2bn increase in funding the day before his turbulent interview, declaring their plans for a “full super league by 2024.”
There was more radio silence until June 1st, when LIV Golf presented its first field list to the world, including a shock reveal of 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson who had previously stated his allegiance to the PGA Tour in February. Alongside him was Lee Westwood, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen. Phil Mickelson was absent from the list, however there were only 47 names filling the 48 rows of the field list.
On June 6th, Mickelson announced that he would take part in London, playing his first tournament since taking a leave of absence from the sport in February, following the Saudi International. Alongside this acquisition, Arlo White was poached as the new play-by-play commentator, famously known for his coverage of the English Premier League and appearances in Ted Lasso.
June 7th saw the LIV Golf draft, where teams were assembled in a private event in London, similar to the American collegiate drafting system, but with established players and rookies all thrown in the same class instead of college players. The team names were announced, with Dustin Johnson’s ‘4 Aces’ leading the pack.
Most recently came the announcements of three new PGA Tour stalwarts expected to join LIV Golf in their second event in Portland. Bryson DeChambeau was reportedly offered $100 million to join, which persuaded him to make the move, while Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are expected to follow ‘The Scientist’.
Play got underway at 2pm on Thursday June 9th, with the shotgun start method elected to start the rounds, with each team being dropped off at their elected hole via a classic London black cab.
*18+ | BeGambleAware