The controversy that has surrounded the LIV Golf series since its inception is showing no signs of abating as organizers prepare for the Saudi-backed tour’s second tournament.
Defectors to the series were labeled “pretty duplicitous” by Rory McIlroy after four-time major champion Brooks Koepka joined Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood in switching to the $200m (£159m) series ahead the second round in Portland, Oregon on 30 June.
Eye-watering signing on fees – Mickelson and Johnson are reported to have been paid $200m (£159m) and $150m (£119m) respectively – are available thanks to Saudi Arabia. It is bankrolling the series via its Public Investment Fund (PIF), the same vehicle that owns Premier League football club Newcastle United.
Amnesty International UK called competitors “willing stooges of Saudi sports washing” due to the nation’s “appalling human rights record”, and players have been dogged by questions about their morality in recent weeks.
All defectors have since been banned from returning to the PGA Tour – though the Open at St Andrew’s and the US Open have not followed suit.
What is the LIV Golf format?
The first seven events of the eight-round series are held across three days, with the traditional stroke play format deciding an individual winner after three rounds and 54 holes – instead of the usual 72.
There are no cuts, meaning all 48 golfers will compete every day, while “shotgun starts” where players tee off simultaneously are intended to make play faster.
There is also a team element to the competition, with the events split into 12 teams of four. In the first two rounds, the best two scores count towards each team’s total. In the third and final round, the best three scores count, with the lowest overall team score after 54 holes named the team winner.
The eighth and final event, held in Miami in October, will be a four-day, four-round, knockout match play. The event will be seeded based on previous results, and the top four teams will receive a bye to the second day.
The fourth and final day will see the “Championship Match” between the last two teams standing, as well as a third-place play-off match between the losing semi-finalists.
When is the next tournament and how much is the prizemoney?
The second round of the LIV series gets underground in Portland, Oregon at Pumpkin Ridge on 30 June and lasts until 2 July.
Competitors will play for a share of a $25m (£19.9m) prize purse, with $20m (£15.9m) of that split based on individual performance – from £4m (£3.2m) for the winner down to $120k ( £95k) for 48th.
The remaining $5m (£3.9m) is divided among the top three teams in respective chunks of $3m (£2.3m), $1.5m (£1.1m) and $500k (£398k).
The teams for the Portland event will be drafted on 28 June, two days before the start of the tournament.
Analysis: LIV Invitational is morally bankrupt and won’t revitalize golf
By Matt Butler
The name is quite clever: LIV. In Roman numerals it is 54 and the players in this new incarnation of golf will play that many holes. Neat, huh?
Of course, you might say that a new sporting franchise bolstered by limitless petrodollars would be expected to be creative with its branding.
But the new kid in town is a sign that golf is in desperate need of some love. Whether that love comes from a despotic regime with a dreadful record on human rights is something for Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood and, err, James Piot to ponder as they chase a ball around a course for a share of 20 mill a tournament .
And if you put aside the ickiness of the Saudi regime behind Jamal Khashoggi’s killers providing the lipstick and mascara to the game, the concept of a quickfire bunch of tournaments with a set season and eight-figure sums of cash riding on each one sounds intriguing – even if the reason why players joined appears to be all about the money. Not that cold hard cash as a motivator is news, especially in the world of golf.
The competition’s bigwigs clearly know they have a hard sell on their hands, as they have recruited Ari Fleischer as a comms man. Fleischer was White House press secretary under George W. Bush and was later hired by the then Washington Redskins to be in the NFL team’s corner over their refusal to change their name to something slightly less racist. So he is used to defending the indefensible.
Read Matt’s full analysis here
Where are the other LIV Golf events?
The remaining six events take place across the globe:
- Bedminster – Trump National Golf Club – July 29-31
- Boston – The International Golf Club – September 2-4
- Chicago – Rich Harvest Farms – September 16-18
- Bangkok – Stonehill – 5-7 October
- Jeddah – Royal Greens Golf & Country Club – 14-16 October
- Miami – Blue Monster, Trump National Doral – October 25-28
How to watch LIV Golf in the UK
Action starts in Portland at 1:15 p.m. local time (8:15 p.m. GMT).
LIV Golf is not currently being aired by a UK TV channel. However, it is broadcast on a free live stream on its official site, YouTube and Facebook.