Like an invasive species, LIV Golf has landed on North American soil

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Assuming you saw some of the coverage or read about it, what was your reaction to the LIV Golf event in Portland?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I saw none of it, I’m afraid.  Didn’t even know it was on TV but wouldn’t have watched if I had.  I hope it was not a success.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I did see some, not much, the course looked fantastic. The coverage wasn’t too bad, in that they definitely showed more golf. Rapid fire like. But they’d have to, as all players start at the same time, so they need cameras on pretty much every hole, which I like, so you can see more of the golf course, versus just the back 9, or a single by chance highlight of a guy 9 shots back that holed out a chip for eagle to move to T41.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Do you see what just happened? We have three subjects to debate and none of them are about the PGA TOUR, the Champions Tour or the LPGA. All three are LIV-oriented. The event in Portland proved a 54-hole event is a sprint, not a cross-country race. Come out ‘guns a blazing” and go like Hell. This entire mess is far from over. Wait until the players find out they are no longer sub-contractors in full control of their schedules and life. Once paid to play, they will play when their boss/money tells them. These guys have lived their lives doing exactly what they want when they want. I’m sorry I’d like to attend my daughter’s graduation. I’m sorry that just cost you $15M in contractual appearance money. BTW If you don’t play in the next event to make it up remember we are “scary M….Fkrs”!

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I didn’t watch any of it but did read a bit.  It seems like it didn’t have a lot of eyes on it, but they had a better field than the John Deere or Irish Open, so that says something.  I still can’t get into a tournament that feels like an exhibition.  Maybe my mind will change when more top players make their way over to LIV but right now it just doesn’t interest me.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Was surprised by how muted the protests were and by how many Americans showed up at the course. Other than that, enjoyed the John Deere and watching guys playing their hearts out to keep their cards or maybe get to play at St. Andrews in The Open. That was some real-life drama and real sport.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Despite my best intentions to be outside all weekend, I couldn’t avoid the evening replay. So, I watched some of the final round and came away impressed and confused. The overall look and feel of the tournament was first class, the golf course was top-notch, and the broadcast featured some new wrinkles that the other Tours should have a look at. The field is mostly made up of well-known players, so that familiarity helped with an immediate connection. It was hard to follow the leaderboard given the shotgun start. I can see it really confusing if the winner doesn’t finish on 18. The team component was totally lost on me. They kept referring to various teams but I’m afraid I just don’t know who’s on what team yet. Obviously, people are split on the politics of LIV Golf but when it comes down to actual play, it’s exceptionally talented golfers competing for a title and a lot of money, and ultimately, that’s entertaining.

We’ve discussed player defections to LIV Golf and the PGA Tour’s changes but one aspect that maybe we’ve overlooked is the team aspect of each LIV Golf event. It seems to be popular with the players, with some commenting that it replaces Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup play for them. Is that hype or is there really something to the team play that will catch on with fans?

Deeks: Again, I just haven’t been paid much attention to the development of the Saudi Tour (I insist on using that term).  But NOTHING can replace the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup in terms of prestige or importance in team golf, in my view.  Watching a bunch of has-beens and/or greedy players playing in a made-up team concept reminds me of the old, so-called “silly season” after the Tour schedule ended for the season in October.  I didn’t watch much of those events, either.

Loughry: Uh, the team concept doesn’t resonate with me at all personally. It is NOWEHERE near the Ryder Cup, nor the President’s Cup. As those events happen every other year, I think that’s what makes the team atmosphere so special and meaningful. Weekly or regular team play is more like an exhibition, and it loses its allure.

Schurman: For years, I have proposed a team aspect that involves LPGA players vs PGA Tour players. So far, everyone has laughed at my idea. Someday, there will be one because the players, fans and sponsors like it.

Rule: I think it’s 100% hype.  It’s nice for the players that they can benefit from a good team if they have an off week, but I don’t really see the excitement of the team aspect.  I like the big team events but that’s when they are head-to-head, this format doesn’t feel that way to me.

Quinn: Americans like beating other countries in sports, even those with populations the size of Rhode Island; and root, root, rooting for the home team. The only aspect of this phoney team thing that will be of any interest will be the online betting. The PGA Tour is pimping online betting, The Golf Channel acts like an investment partner, so like cockroach races, the LIV teams will attract suckers who will bet on anything.

Mumford: As noted above, it’s all a bit confusing. They need a separate leaderboard for team play. No way it replaces Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. Those have history and bragging rights that last for decades. LIV Golf teams are four guys you may or may not know. The players might enjoy the added wrinkle and the top teams certainly enjoy the added cash but it’s still an individual competition. Maybe team play will develop a following amongst gamblers.

Many of the LIV Golf players received huge signing bonuses that are in addition to any prize money they earn in each tournament. Do you think the up-front money means they don’t try as hard during competition as they otherwise would? 

Deeks: Yes, I do.  I don’t think they aren’t trying to be competitive, but when you know you don’t have to play your best to make a cheque, I don’t think it really matters if you shoot 74 versus 68.

Loughry: Yes, I think there is something to having incentive to play well or win, it can add pressure, and helps create the moment. Having “house money” upfront for some players will definitely tone down their hunger for the “moment”.  Conversely, some might free up and try more bold play, but I think more will be more like the fat cat, less likely to perform better with the money upfront.

Schurman: That happens now when a player realizes that particular week does not involve a win or a top ten placement. They coast to a finish in the top 25 where they can earn points and more than enough money to cover the cost of playing. The best players know they are going to make the playoffs. The top 70 know they are secure. The top 100 will keep their card and from 100 to 125 live in doubt. Everyone knows what they must do to gain invites to the Memorial, Bay Hill, the majors etc. get courtesy cars, accommodations etc. They work very hard when a victory shows itself or a top 10. They know which courses suit them, which events have the big purses and the big points. They know which courses their sponsors expect high-level appearances, entertain guests and play in Pro Ams or exhibitions in the city of a sponsor. The only difference is the amount of guaranteed money the Saudis are putting up. Other than that, not much is changed.

Rule: That just seems natural, that the players won’t practice as much or play as many competitions, so they won’t be as sharp.  It will be interesting to see how the LIV players compete in the majors given their lack of reps during the year.  It’s only human nature to not work as hard at something if you’re already guaranteed the money.  That’s one thing that golf has always had going for it compared to other sports.  You have to be successful to get paid, you don’t get paid on past performances, and there are no prize money guarantees.  Now that has all changed.

Quinn: The guy in Portland who shot +21 in three rounds was probably trying his hardest not to shoot +30. The money is so nuts that even Phil might bare down if he’s got a putt for a few extra million, “obnoxious greed” being what it is.

Mumford: I’ve known a lot of professional athletes and have never seen one mail it in once the puck is dropped or the gun goes. Men and women of that calibre have a hyper competitive attitude and always want to win, even when there’s nothing on the line. It may be that the up-front money lessens their desire to compete as often, hence the jump to LIV Golf in the first place, but when they do get to the first tee, I believe all of them would be trying 100% to win. Besides, there’s still a big difference between guaranteed last place money ($120,000) and first place ($4 million).

 

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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