New LIV golf series | The misfortune of one makes the money of the other

Fueled by bottomless money pits, the new LIV Golf series raises a lot of questions. Not only because it wants to reinvent the sport of golf and the organization of tournaments, but above all because its players seem to be consciously blind to their source of income.

Posted at 7:00 am

Nicholas Richard

Nicholas Richard
The press

The rewards are stunning. Almost $300 million in prize money will be awarded in eight tournaments. Not to mention the exorbitant sums paid to star players like Dustin Johnson or Phil Mickelson simply for entering competitions. Either way, they get paid $150-200 million just for showing up.

Money is the main driver of this new league, which has not yet proven itself at the moment.

It’s not the fact that the series competes in the PGA that’s most concerning. Rather, players who are already immensely wealthy ignore the tradition and institution that is the PGA Tour in order to thrive on a racetrack that bases its credibility on dirty money.

In fact, the LIV Golf Series is funded and supported by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, which is effectively the financial arm of the Saudi government. Government that, according to various international organizations, violates human rights on a day-to-day basis. Women’s rights, labor rights and migrant rights. Freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly. The right to health, the right to privacy and the right to defend yourself in court. It is this money that will be put in the pockets of the 48 golfers at the circuit.

A government that has made corruption a habit and that feeds on a non-renewable energy industry to fill its coffers without being able to close them because they are overflowing. According to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, the Saudi Fund has assets equivalent to $620 billion.

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Because the PGA is an association, not a league, players are members, not employees. So they are free to do what they want.

“After that, it’s social conscience to know where that money is coming from. […] They just have to get comfortable sleeping on their pillows at night without really knowing where their money is coming from,” explains Yohann Benson, pro at Club Le Mirage and analyst at RDS.

He recalls that political shenanigans have never prevented the world’s biggest sporting events from ending up in disputed countries. The Olympic Games were held in China and Russia, the next soccer World Cup will be held in Qatar and there is a Formula 1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia.

“As this is an eight-tournament event that is supported and competes with the PGA Tour, suddenly the money seems dirtier. However, it is nothing new 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.

PGA awareness

If so many players are turning to the LIV golf series for the money, it’s probably because they’re unhappy with what’s currently on offer on the PGA Tour.

Golfers, however, are not to be pitied. The vast majority earn very well and most are multi-millionaires. However, what confuses golfers is that their image is being used by the PGA for marketing purposes. Their faces can be seen on tickets, billboards and cereal boxes without them being able to benefit from it. The arrival of a new circuit therefore forces the circuit to adapt.

The PGA Tour needs to look in the mirror and improve on some things that players have long complained about, like media exposure and branding. It is not normal that they can use their picture however they want without paying them.

Yohann Benson, pro at Club Le Mirage and analyst at RDS

To keep players happy, the PGA created the Players Impact Program, which offers a bonus to players who make a positive impact on golf 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 season winner will receive an award of $18 million, an increase of $3 million over Patrick Cantlay’s award last year. The total budget 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’s too early to predict if it poses a real threat, but according to Jean-Sébastien Légaré, the PGA Tour will remain the benchmark: “The historical roots of golf are very strong and extremely deep. The PGA is tied to major events and I think it will eventually win. This is where it happens, this is where we find the best players and the biggest events. »

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