The game of golf reached a new level of viewer appeal with the recent surge of the LIV Golf League. Headed up by PGA Hall of Famer Greg Norman and backed by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, LIV is throwing millions of dollars to players, luring some of the marquee golfers from the PGA. The approach in securing players has created a wide divide between the players, major tour events, and the fans. There is real disdain for the players that have transitioned away from their contractual agreements with the PGA Tour to the point of being banned/suspended from all events. And while there is real animosity amongst the two factions, fans of the game of golf have yet to choose a side.
Golf as a sport is predominantly an individual event, and fans of the game follow their favorite players of the game. So, if a player leaves the PGA tour and goes on to compete in LIV, his fan base will follow. The appeal of the new entity is real. LIV is a team concept identified as golf clubs like the format seen in soccer, with each team comprised of four players. Team play is the pursuit of making the playoff rounds and then the championship play. But still, as intriguing as the format may be, the stigma is a contractual conflict of interest, and it will have consequences.
The idea of the PGA marquee players being lured to the new league is highly reminiscent of the American Football League in the 1960s and signing players from the National Football League to participate. The move created an upheaval in the game of professional football, with both leagues at each other’s throats. The game survived with both entities melding into one but identifying each faction as the American Conference and the National Conference. So, both LIV and the PGA will reach a compromise at some point and work out the financial particulars. Unfortunately, that is where the real conflict lies. The PGA signs players with a contract upon qualifying for the tour and many become fan favorites worldwide. Some, like Tiger Woods, are the face of the tour. The PGA tour markets its events featuring a field of exceptional players, which in turn attracts major sponsorships and advertising dollars. In general, LIV’s strategy is to sign as many renowned PGA players as possible with a phenomenal amount of money and playing in less events. Obviously, the PGA feels threatened.
My take is simple; figure out a way for both entities to exist. Currently, there is minimal television exposure for LIV due largely to the PGA signing a nine-year contract with NBC, CBS, and ESPN. To watch LIV events, a person can stream via Youtube and Peacock outlets. I think things will soon evolve to the point of accommodating the fans of the game of golf. There are still a few instances where players from both will compete in major events not associated with the PGA and some charitable tournaments. The game is evolving; stay tuned.