For the past two years, speculation and rumors floated around regarding a new professional golf tour separate from the PGA tour. Finally, on March 16, these rumors became a reality with the announcement of the LIV Golf International (AKA, the Saudi Golf Tour).
The Saudi Golf League announced that the LIV Golf International would be an eight-event series and revealed a 2022 playing schedule. With significant influence on the current golf landscape and lots of money to back it, the new Saudi Golf Tour could permanently change professional golf as we currently know it.
What is the Saudi Golf Tour
Created in 2021, the LIV golf tour is a circuit of tournaments with renowned golfer Greg Norman at the head of the organization. Along with Greg are several past PGA Tour executives and managers of other sports affiliations.
The mission of LIV Golf is to establish a worldwide golf tour, often referred to as a “Super Golf League.” Most of the financial backing comes from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, hence the name “the Saudi Tour.”
The first event of the Saudi Golf Tour will take place at the Centurion Club in London one week before the U.S. Open. Each event is a three-round, 54-hole competition with no cuts involved. On top of that, there will also be a team component with 48 players divided into 12 different squads.
The Saudi Golf Tour will hold four out of eight events in the United States. Sites include some of the best golf courses in the U.S., chief among them Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland.
Along with the release of the tournament schedule was the announcement that the eight-event series would offer an astonishing $255 million in prize money.
The first seven events will each have a $25 million purse. After that, $20 million will go towards the individual competition, and the other $5 million will go towards the team competition. The final event boasts $30 million for the top three players of the season and another $50 million for teams that have performed well.
On top of that, the Saudi Tour reportedly offered some top players eight to nine figures to join the circuit, and players can make even more money in appearance fees.
The primary funding for LIV Golf comes from the PIF, a sovereign wealth fund that essentially acts as the financial arm for Saudi Arabia. Many critics of the Tour accuse Saudi Arabia of committing many human-rights violations and using the new Saudi Tour as a way to “sportswash” people.
“Sportswashing” is the recently coined term for using positive publicity about a sporting event or team to shift negative concerns about the owners or country of origin to the backburner. For instance, when Azerbaijan used the European Games in 2015 to cover up their horrid record of human rights abuses.
One of the best examples from history of this type of thing happening was when Nazi Germany took advantage of hosting the 1936 Summer Olympics to try and spread their propaganda about the superiority of the Aryan race. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has hosted many soccer games, boxing matches, motor races, and wrestling matches. Since 2019, it has also hosted the Saudi International (an event that the European Tour formerly supported), attracting some of the top golf players.
The recent announcement of the new Saudi Golf Tour has drawn in criticism from people who believe that players who join are “selling out” and tarnishing their reputation by joining.
Many prominent players have publicly come out to oppose the Saudi Tour. Tiger Woods stated in November 2021, “I’ve decided for myself that I’m supporting the PGA Tour. That’s where my legacy is,” Woods said in November 2021.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have won 82 events on this Tour and 15 major championships, and been a part of the World Golf Championships, the start of them and the end of them. So I have allegiance to the PGA Tour.”
Many people suspected that one of the best drivers on tour, Bryson DeChambeau, considered joining the Saudi League. However, recently he reiterated on social media: “While there has been a lot of speculation surrounding my support for another tour, I want to make it very clear that as long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I.”
How The Saudi Tour Will Change Golf
The Saudi Tour could permanently change the world of professional golf by intermixing morals and ethics into golf and breaking apart the organizing tournament bodies.
If only older, more mature players decide to join the Saudi Tour (like Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau), the PGA Tour would likely be fine and not suffer too significant an impact. After all, the Saudi Tour would be a collection of semi-senior golfers with waning popularity.
However, if enough younger players with lots of fans switch over to the Saudi Golf Tour, that could drastically alter the landscape of professional golf. Various governing bodies would fight over players, and professional golf would become more finance-oriented. Instead of playing to win and for glory, tour players would chiefly be playing for the money.
Professional golf would turn into something similar to professional boxing in many ways.
Though the Saudi Golf Tour has announced the tournament schedule and prize money for the circuit, no players have confirmed to have signed up for the Saudi Tour’s tournaments. Lots of players partook in this year’s Saudi International, which indicates something might be happening, but nobody has firmly made the switch yet.
Despite its potential to change the world of golf, the Saudi Golf Tour remains uninfluential unless it can attract players. It may very well turn out that all the money in the world can’t buy away tour players from the well-established and prestigious PGA Tour.
Featured Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
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Jeff is a current Harvard student and author of the blog Financial Pupil (https://financialpupil.com/) who is passionate about learning, living, and sharing all things personal finance-related. He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys the pursuit of financial freedom. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.