What is LIV Golf & why is it controversial?

LIV Golf Invitational - Bedminster - Day One (Image via Getty)
LIV Golf Invitational - Bedminster - Day One (Image via Getty)

The inaugural season of the multimillion-dollar LIV Golf Series began in June. The project, surrounded by controversies, held its first event at the Centurion Golf club in London from June 9-11. So far, the first three events of the scheduled eight events have concluded successfully.

The LIV Tour series is backed by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). The sovereign wealth fund-backed tournament was introduced as a rival to the established PGA Tour. The series made headlines as it was announced as the biggest golf tour in history. While the series’ structure is new and experimental, it has gained popularity owing to its whopping prize pool.


What is the LIV Golf series, and how does it work?

Designed as an alternative to the current PGA Tour, the LIV Golf series consists of eight 54-hole tournaments. The event has a changed format from the usual 72-hole events. The seven-event regular competition will see 48 players compete in 12 teams. According to the makers, each event will have separate prizes for every player involved.

Each of the LIV Golf series events will have different players as captains of teams, which will be finalized just days before the final event. The series also has a hefty prize purse of $285 million. The prize will be divided among each of the seven individual events; thus, each event will have a prize money of $25 million. Moreover, the winner of each event will get $4 million, and the player finishing last in the tournament will get $120,000.

Interestingly, $30 million from the prize purse is set aside for the top three players. At the end of the tournament, the team with the most points will win $12 million, while the 12th-placed team will win $1 million. The overall individual champion will be announced at the end of the tournament based on the points secured throughout the season.


The LIV Golf controversy

The LIV Golf series controversy has gained traction since the concept was first floated. While the traditionalists backing the PGA Tour slammed the newly introduced series, others cited political reasons for dismissing LIV. Many have blatantly opposed the series as Saudi Arabia’s PIF backs it. The country’s move to promote the new golf series internationally is seen as a political strategy for cleansing their global image.

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A large part of the controversy over the series revolves around Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Crown Prince’s involvement in various cases, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi is being brought forth to oppose the series. Meanwhile, the Saudi government’s alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks in New York has also been stated by many.

This blew up after families of people killed or injured during the September 11 attacks penned an open letter to PGA Tour golfers. Around 2,500 people thanked the golfers for not siding with LIV.


The LIV Golf - PGA Tour debate

However, the conversation around LIV Golf worsened after several players bagged hefty paychecks to participate in the series. Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na, Dustin Johnson, Sergio García, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, and Lee Westwood are among the athletes that defected to the Saudi-backed league. However, the defection of 2021 PGA Tour champion Phil Mickelson especially made headlines.

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Mickelson’s migration to LIV from the PGA Tour was controversial as it came only months after biographer Alan Shipnuck published comments of him being critical of the PGA Tour. Mickelson reportedly signed a contract worth $200 million to make his debut in the LIV series. Following this, the PGA suspended all players who defected to the rival series. The golfers challenged this decision by filing an antitrust lawsuit and failed.

The controversy continues as players like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have now come out to rally support for the PGA. They have openly criticized the newly introduced LIV Golf series.

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Edited by Sayati Das
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