This year’s Masters golf tournament has brought together the top golfers who defected to the LIV Tour and those who remained with the PGA Tour. Emotions were expected to run high because of the political implications surrounding the two tours, but we have seen little of that come to fruition publicly. Sergio Garcia snapped at reporters who raised the subject. “You guys need to stop it,” he said. “You guys are making a big deal out of this, and it’s you guys” pushing the LIV vs PGA division narrative.

What is the LIV Golf League?

It is a rival golf tour funded by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, and it is run by CEO Greg Norman, a three-time Masters runner-up. Golfers who defected to the LIV Tour were barred from competing in PGA Tour events, and as things stand in the spring of 2023, there will be only four tournaments that involve golfers from both tours: The Masters, the U.S. Open, The British Open and the PGA Championship.

Who owns LIV Golf?

Golf Saudi, a division of the government-run Public Investment Fund, in 2020 had its own plan to establish a global professional league. Critics have accused the golfers who joined and the Saudi financiers of “sportswashing,” a term used to describe using sports to deflect attention away from human rights abuses.

Who joined LIV Golf?

Tiger Woods reportedly declined an offer of $700-800 million to join and criticized those who did, saying they had turned their backs on the organization that made them big names. The list of top LIV golfers includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch, Peter Uihlein, Branden Grace, Brooks Koepka, Charl Schwartzel, Pat Perez, Cameron Smith, Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra, Carlos Ortiz, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer, Paul Casey, Hennie du Plessis, Joaquin Niemann, Chase Koepka, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. Did Rickie Fowler join LIV golf? Despite rumors that he would, he did not.

How many LIV Golf events are there?

The season was renamed as the LIV Golf League for 2023, having previously been the LIV Golf Invitational Series. This season will consist of 14 tournaments. There were eight tournaments in the debut season of 2022 when folks began getting used to LIV golf vs PGA differences and the LIV format.

LIV vs PGA Tour: The biggest difference

At LIV golf events, the tournaments are 54 holes. What does LIV stand for in golf? LIV is the Roman numeral for 54, which would be the score on a par-72 course if all of the holes were birdied. Also, PGA Tour calendar events are 72 holes with a cut after the first two rounds, while LIV golf events have no cut, and the LIV golf format calls for three rounds (54 holes).

Here are 8 important things you need to know about LIV vs PGA battle for golf supremacy

  1. Politics and sports do not mix … until they do.

The “sportswashing” theory holds some weight, as Saudi Arabia is a global outlier on human rights. As recently as 2018, women and girls were barred from participating in sports in schools or even watching sports in stadiums. Over the past decade, Saudi women won some reforms, including being allowed to drive and travel abroad without the permission of male guardians.

  1. The LIV vs. PGA money and LIV vs. PGA payout are extraordinary

Players were given signing bonuses to leave the PGA Tour, which led to reported $100 million paydays for both Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, plus another $200 million for Phil Mickelson. There is $25 million in prize money for each of LIV’s 14 regular tournaments. Individual winners get $4 million, the winning team of four gets $5 million to split, and the last-place player is guaranteed $120,000. The league also offers $30 million in performance bonuses, with $18 million to the top individual and a $16 million prize for the winning team of four LIV golfers. 

  1. The Wall Street Journal reports

The Wall Street Journal reported last July that the Department of Justice had launched an anti-trust investigation into the PGA’s suspension of LIV players, and some PGA bylaws preventing golfers from participating in other tournaments. There’s no indication when the probe might end, or whether the DOJ will bring a case against the PGA.

  1. Mickelson’s defection was especially curious

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who controls the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, is accused of ordering the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi government critic Jamal Khashoggi, according to U.S. intelligence reports. The Saudi Arabian government is also intolerant of LBGTQ communities. Mickelson famously described the Saudi government with strong comments just months before joining LIV.

  1. Part of the challenge of competing in a PGA tournament is having to make the cut

But in the LIV, there is no cut. All those who start a LIV event play all three rounds, whereas, at regular PGA events, players with the top-65 scores (plus ties) make the 36-hole cut and contest the final two rounds.

  1. DeChambeau’s defection to the LIV Tour

DeChambeau’s defection to the LIV Tour came as he was capturing the American public’s imagination after bulking up through a rigorous fitness and diet regime that added considerable distance to his drives. During his first season with LIV, the events were not televised in the United States. This season, LIV events are being televised by the CW Network, which features very little sports broadcasting. LIV golf ratings have been low, particularly vs. PGA golf ratings.

  1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and there are some strong ones regarding the new tour

Rory McIlroy has repeatedly chastised LIV golfers for “taking the easy way out” and choosing money over prestige and tradition. Woods said players who switched to LIV “turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.” Sponsors also cut ties with several LIV golfers, including Dustin Johnson and Mickelson.

  1. There is a Donald Trump factor

Trump formerly hosted several PGA events at his golf courses, but that ended after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Since then, Trump has described LIV as an “incredible investment (for Saudi Arabia)” and a “great thing … for the image of Saudi Arabia.” A LIV event hosted at his New Jersey golf club last July was protested by people decrying Saudi Arabia’s alleged connections to Sept. 11, 2001.

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