Driven by bottomless pits of money, the new LIV Golf series raises a lot of questions. Not only because he wants to reinvent golf and the way tournaments are organized, but above all because his players seem to be deliberately blind to his source of income.
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The rewards are amazing. Nearly $300 million in prize money will be on offer across eight tournaments. Not to mention the exorbitant sums that will be awarded to star players like Dustin Johnson or Phil Mickelson simply for participating in competitions. Either way, they’ll get between $150 million and $200 million just for showing up.
Money is the main engine of this new league that, at the moment, has not yet been tested.
It’s not the fact that the series competes on the PGA that is the most worrying. It is rather that the players, already immensely rich, ignore the tradition and the institution that the PGA Tour represents to evolve in a circuit that bases its credibility on dirty money.
In fact, the LIV Golf series is funded and backed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, which is effectively the financial arm of the Saudi government. Government that mocks human rights day after day, according to several international organizations. Women’s rights, workers’ rights and migrants’ rights. Freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly. The right to health, the right to privacy and the right to defend oneself in court. It is this money that will be put into the pockets of the 48 golfers on the circuit.
From a government that has made corruption a habit and that feeds on a non-renewable energy industry to fill its coffers beyond being able to close them because they are overflowing. According to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, the Saudi Fund has the equivalent of $620 billion in assets.
Since the PGA is an association and not a league, players are members, not employees. So they are free to do whatever they want.
“Then it is the social conscience to know where that money comes from. […] They just have to be comfortable sleeping on their pillow at night with not really knowing where their money is coming from,” explains Yohann Benson, Le Mirage club pro and RDS analyst.
Remember that political shenanigans have never stopped the world’s biggest sporting events from landing in controversial countries. The Olympic Games have taken place in China and Russia, the next World Cup will take place in Qatar and there are Formula 1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia.
“Because it’s an eight-tournament event, it’s supported, and it competes with the PGA Tour, all of a sudden the money seems dirtier. There’s nothing new though, and athletes have been going to Saudi Arabia for a long time, even if human rights are not respected “, says Jean-Sébastien Légaré, analyst at RDS and 91.9 Sports. .
If so many players turn to the LIV Golf series for money, it is undoubtedly because they are not satisfied with the current offer of the PGA Tour.
However, golfers are not to be pitied. The vast majority make a very good living and most are multi-millionaires. What irritates golfers, however, is that the PGA uses their image for marketing purposes. Their faces are on tickets, billboards, and cereal boxes with no benefit to them. Therefore, the arrival of a new circuit forces the circuit to adjust.
The PGA Tour will have to look in the mirror and improve on some things that players have long criticized it for, like media representation and branding. It is not normal that they can use their image as they want without paying them.
Yohann Benson, Le Mirage Club Professional and RDS Analyst
To keep players happy, the PGA has created the Players Impact Program, which provides a bonus to players who positively impact the sport and the golf industry. This program was born in 2021, around the same time as the beginnings of the LIV Golf series.
The FedEx Cup wallet has also been improved. The winner of the season will receive a sum of 18 million dollars, an increase of 3 million compared to Patrick Cantlay’s reward last year. The total purse will increase from $60 million to $75 million.
The LIV Golf series has yet to crown its first winner, but it has already had its share of implications and ramifications. It is still too early to predict if it represents a real threat, but according to Jean-Sébastien Légaré, the PGA Tour will continue to be the benchmark: “The historical roots of golf are very strong and extremely deep. The PGA is attached to the big events and I think it will end up winning. This is where it happens, this is where we find the best players and the biggest events. »