Saudi-funded golf series: 8 events totaling $255M

Saudi-funded golf series: 8 events totaling $255M

The Saudi Arabian-financed breakaway golf league isn’t going away.

LIV Golf Investments on Wednesday announced an eight-event series that will start in London in June and will feature four tournaments played in the United States. The LIV Golf Invitational Series will include seven-regular season events and a team championship match-play finale at a yet-to-be-announced site on Oct. 28-30.

Total prize money for the eight events will be $255 million, according to LIV Golf Investments, and the seven regular-season tournaments will have total purses of $25 million, which would be the richest in professional golf, with $20 million in individual prizes and $5 million for the top three teams. The top three individuals after the seven regular-season events will also share a $30 million bonus.

The season-ending team match-play championship will provide another $50 million in prizes.

“I want golf to grow, players to have additional opportunities, and fans to have more fun,” LIV Golf Investments CEO Greg Norman said in a release. “My mission is to help the game reach its full potential and we know the role of golf as an entertainment product is critical to overall participation in the sport. In many ways, we are a start-up. We have a long-term vision and aim to grow. I believe we have a very bright and exciting future.”

The LIV Golf Invitational Series will consist of 54-hole events, no cuts and shotgun starts “to ensure a faster and more exciting pace.” There will be a maximum of 48 players on 12 four-man teams at each event and rosters will be determined by a draft the week of the tournament.

“Fan research indicates a significant number of new fans would be enticed by a faster paced and shorter variation and non-traditional format of play,” the release said. “With smaller fields, fewer rounds, shorter playing windows and modified shotgun starts, these events have been designed with fans as the top priority.”

The LIV Golf Invitational Series’ schedule will not compete with existing major championships, international team events or heritage tournaments, so “players, who are independent contractors, will always be able to make their own choices about where to play,” the release said.

The series is scheduled to start at Centurion Golf Club in London on June 9-11. The first event in the U.S. is scheduled for July 1-3 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Oregon. Another event will be played at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey on July 29-31; The International in Boston on Sept. 2-4; and Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago on Sept. 16-18.

Tournaments will also take place in Bangkok and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in October.

“Our events are truly additive to the world of golf,” Norman said. “We have done our best to create a schedule that allows players to play elsewhere, while still participating in our events. I believe players will increasingly make progress in achieving their right to play where they want. We will help in any way possible and will provide golfers with opportunities to achieve their full potential.”

All but one of the new circuit’s four U.S. events conflicts with an existing PGA Tour tournament. The John Deere Classic will be played the same week as the event in Portland; the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit is scheduled the same week as New Jersey; and the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, is the same week as the event in Chicago.

The LIV Golf Invitational tournament in Boston will be played the week after the PGA Tour’s finale, the Tour Championship at East Lake on Aug. 25-28.

At last week’s Players Championship, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan didn’t seem too concerned about the threat of the breakaway league, which is being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

“The PGA Tour is moving on,” Monahan said. “We have too much momentum and too much to accomplish to be consistently distracted by rumors of other golf leagues and their attempts to disrupt our players, our partners, and most importantly our fans from enjoying the Tour and the game we all love so much.”

Many of golf’s best players, including Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and others, have vowed their support to the PGA Tour.

But other players, including Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Jason Kokrak and Ian Poulter, have expressed interest in the new league for various reasons.

Mickelson, 51, caused an uproar last month with his comments about the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian financiers of the Super Golf League. Mickelson described the Saudis as “scary” but said he was looking past their controversial history of human rights violations to gain leverage with the PGA Tour.

“I am grateful for the strong support our top players have shown recently and publicly, and I’m extremely proud that we’ve turned the conversation around to focus on what we do best: Delivering world-class golf tournaments with the best players to the best fans, all while positively impacting the communities in which we play,” Monahan said. “We are and we always will be focused on legacy, not leverage.”

Monahan has told players that anyone who joins the Saudi-financed league would be suspended and potentially face a lifetime ban from the PGA Tour. Two agents who represent Tour players told ESPN on Wednesday that Monahan told agents at the Players Championship last week that the tour wouldn’t grant any releases for its players to compete in conflicting events in the U.S.

One of the agents was skeptical that many PGA Tour players would defect to the rival league, despite its exorbitant purses.

“It seems almost a little too hot to touch right now,” the agent said. “Maybe guys will surprise me, but I don’t see any of them wanting to buck the system right now. Guys have seen how Phil was crucified, and I’m sure that put the fear of God into some of them.”

Said another agent: “I guess there is a chance some would get releases for the events on foreign soil, but I don’t know. They should have learned by now that this ‘build it and they will come’ mentality won’t work.”

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