Last night in Miami the final one of the eight events on the LIV Golf calendar for 2022 ended with victory for the 4Aces team, captained by Dustin Johnson, at Donald Trump’s course at Doral. For Johnson it meant a $35 million LIV windfall this year while Trump used his profile during the week to claim the R&A was keen to take the Open back to Turnberry for the first time since 2009, a suggestion denied by the organisation pretty much as soon as the former president had finished talking. But perhaps we should not be shocked if his Ayrshire links gets a LIV tournament next year.
Going back a little less than five months, LIV Golf got its season started on June 9 at the Centurion Club just outside St Albans. Even up to a week before Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Scott Vincent played from the first tee that Thursday, proudly watched over by Greg Norman, the front man for LIV, there had been plenty of naysayers who predicted the series would never get underway. They were wrong. But where does it go from here?
The managing director of the Centurion Club is Scott Evans. His club is already signed up to stage a LIV event next season with an option for a third one in 2024. They were not paid for staging the tournament, although they were given assistance regarding the creation of the infrastructure. Evans recalled: “People were telling us ‘it’s not going to happen, is it?’ and I was saying ‘well, as I look out I can see a whole load of structures ready to stage a golf tournament’.”
In the process of putting his tournament together, Evans had meetings with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund which finances LIV Golf. (He is also the chairman of Newcastle United.) Evans is emphatic about one thing regarding the Saudis. “They are not interested in being second best to anyone.” Indeed. No one would pump multiple billions of dollars into a project without wanting to be top dog, which could prove problematic. The LIV roster of players includes 21 of the last 51 major champions, including Johnson, Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and, latterly, the new Open champion, Cameron Smith. But it also includes James Piot, Turk Petit and assorted other essentially unknowns, and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding LIV’s ability to award Official World Golf Ranking Points (which efforts may not have been assisted by Norman’s demand that such points be granted retrospectively) may diminish its appeal to emerging young talent. LIV also does not yet have a big broadcasting deal.
In a robust defence of the DP World [formerly European] Tour ahead of the PGA Championship at Wentworth last month, the organisation’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, said: “If the metrics determining the top tours in the world is just money, then the No. 1 tour is the PGA Tour. You could argue that LIV is No.2. But the Asian, Korn Ferry, Japan, Australia Sunshine tours…totalling all their prize funds together comes to just half our tour.” Pelley feels his tour has been significantly strengthened by its strategic alliance with the PGA Tour. Others feel that the decision to offer PGA Tour cards to the top-10 finishers in the Race to Dubai with effect from next season will fundamentally undermine it; ensure an annual weakening of its fields. In Scott Evans’ view: “They are the masters of their own downfall.”
Evans is indisputably correct when he says: “The Centurion Club will forever be the venue of the inaugural LIV Golf tournament.” It remains to be seen if 2022 will prove to be the high point for LIV Golf or whether in 2023 and beyond, in the words of D:Ream and riffed by Tony Blair, things can only get better. It certainly has to be likely they will continue to get bitter.