Wu-Tang Clan said it best: “Cash rules everything around me.”
The LIV Golf tour has emerged as a rival to the U.S.-based PGA Tour, with several big names jumping the pond to join the startup golf league since its inception. It started with big names, and their ranks have grown from there.
Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and other heavy hitters formerly of the PGA Tour now find themselves members of the Saudi-backed golf circuit that’s making waves overseas and in the U.S. “Formerly” is the key word here.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan took no light steps in regards to the defections. In June, he announced indefinite suspensions for all current and future players who choose to join LIV Golf. That means Mickelson, Johnson and others won’t have the opportunity to play in PGA Tour events. LIV Golf’s recruitment tour has yet to near its end, and it’s still trying to recruit the world’s best and most well-known, and it all began with Tiger Woods. The 15-time major winner and one of golf’s all-time greats was reportedly offered $700 to $800 million, a number that LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said was “somewhere in the neighborhood.” That offer came before Norman was LIV Golf CEO, however.Here’s why so many of the game’s best are jumping to the new circuit:
Why are PGA Tour golfers going to LIV Golf?
In a word: Money. In several more words: Cash, moolah, green, dough, shekels.LIV Golf is backed and funded by the Saudi Arabian government’s Public Investment Fund, hence the controversy surrounding players jumping ship; The nation has often been criticized for its handling of human rights over the years, including its assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Some paint the money as “blood money,” and others accuse the Saudi government of “sportswashing” its image via its backing of LIV Golf.
Regardless of where the money is coming from, LIV offers something that the PGA Tour does not, by giving contracts to its players, in stark contrast of the PGA Tour’s merit-based reputation.Phil Mickelson, the first and most notable player to join the LIV Golf Tour, was reportedly offered $200 million to make the jump. Mickelson has earned $94 million on the course during his PGA Tour career, per Spotrac.Former world No. 1 golfer Dustin Johnson was another LIV Golf defector, and had earned $74,276,710 on the course in his career. LIV Golf signed Johnson to a four-year contract worth a reported $125 million.In addition to the hefty sums of money going to former PGA players, players also face a less intensive schedule and earn a bigger paycheck for winning some tournaments. For example, the inaugural LIV Golf event in London paid out $4 million to the winner, Charl Schwartzel — a number that surpasses any major tournament winner.
Why Phil Mickelson joined LIV Golf tour
Aside from the large sum of money, “Lefty” feels like the jump to the new tour is a “fresh start.”
Mickelson explained his decision to leave the PGA Tour in June:
After 32 years, this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, but ideally for the game and my peers. I also love the progressive format and think it will be exciting for fans. Just as importantly, it will provide balance, allowing me to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course. I am incredibly grateful for what this game and the PGA Tour has given me. I would like to think that I have given back as well but now I am excited about this new opportunity.
Mickelson had voiced his support of the new league in February, believing it was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.” (To Mickelson’s credit, he was somewhat correct.)
“They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse,” Mickelson said of the PGA Tour in February to Alan Shipnuck. “As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [LIV Golf] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.”
Mickelson’s reported deal with the new tour is worth $200 million.
Why Dustin Johnson joined LIV Golf tour
Dustin Johnson’s involvement with LIV Golf was something of a surprise, but the contract and money he received speaks to his decision. Johnson signed a four-year deal worth a reported $125 million.
He explained his decision to join LIV Golf after having a change of heart:
“At that time, I was committed to playing the PGA Tour,” Johnson said of his initial statement. “I’m very thankful for the PGA Tour and everything it’s done for me. I’ve done pretty well out there for the last 15 years. But this is something that was best for me and my family. It’s something exciting and something new.”
Johnson, former world No. 1 golfer, played on the PGA Tour between 2007 and 2022 and had 24 PGA tournament wins to his name.
Why Bryson DeChambeau joined LIV Golf tour
DeChambeau, 28, was one of LIV Golf’s first targets for their tour. After he turned down initial offerings to join the tour, he officially defected to the circuit in late June.
Simply put, DeChambeau’s decision was nothing personal, it was strictly business.
“It was a business decision, first and foremost,” he said on June 14. “That’s all there was to it. It’s given me a lot more opportunity outside of the game of golf and given me more time for my family and my future family. … “There was a lot of financials to it, and also a lot of time.”
In late June, DeChambeau further explained his decision to join up, saying that the tour gives him certain things that the PGA Tour didn’t.
One of the things for me, was a personal business decision. I run and operate my golf as business as well as wanting to be one of the better players in the world. Second off, it was going to give me more resources and opportunities to reinvest in my local community in Dallas, and back at my original home in California, where I can do things for junior golf tours, improve my foundation and also build the multi-sport complex I’m going to be here shortly in Dallas.
And also give me more time to rest — the ability to have weeks off and recover my body the way I want to so that I can be prepared to give it my all when it comes time. Not be depleted every week and continue to get depleted over the course of time.
And the last part is, I saw that event in London and I saw how much fun everyone was having. That was exciting to me, and I wanted to be a part of something like that.
LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman commented on his membership:
Bryson DeChambeau is an exciting addition to LIV Golf’s supercharged style of play. He is passionate about the sport, innovative in his approach and committed to pushing the boundaries in pursuit of excellence. He’s not afraid to think outside the box and supports our mission of doing things differently to grow our game. The power and energy he brings to the course will deliver added electricity to our competition in Portland and beyond.
Why Brooks Koepka joined LIV Golf tour
Koepka was another former PGA Tour heavy hitter to join LIV Golf, making the jump following the 2022 U.S. Open.
The four-time major winner dodged LIV Golf questions during media availability in the days leading up to the major, opting to decline questions over potentially joining the tour. Later, during a LIV Golf event, Koepka was asked why he had a change of heart.
“My opinion changed,” he said. “I’m allowed to have my opinion change.”
Koepka did not specify what led to the change.
“You guys will never believe me, but we never even had the conversation until after the U.S. Open.”
Three days after the U.S. Open ended, and a day after Koepka withdrew from this week’s PGA Tour event in Connecticut, LIV officially welcomed Koepka to its ranks.
LIV Golf’s reduced schedule likely is part of the appeal for Koepka, who has made his own schedule on the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf rumored player targets
Ahead of the LIV Golf event in Boston, Mass., there are several new names who could make their way to the tour, according to reports:
- Mito Pereira
In recent months, Rickie Fowler was also rumored to join the golf league, but has yet to make the official jump.
LIV Golf players
Mickelson, Johnson, DeChambeau and Koepka aren’t the only former PGA Tour players to join LIV Golf. Here’s the current field (Official World Golf Ranking as of Aug. 30):
|Name (Country)||OWGR ranking|
|Dustin Johnson (USA)||22|
|Abraham Ancer (ESP)||24|
|Brooks Koepka (USA)||26|
|Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)||31|
|Bryson DeChambeau (USA)||37|
|Kevin Na (USA)||34|
|Jason Kokrak (USA)||38|
|Talor Gooch (USA)||45|
|Harold Varner III||46|
|Patrick Reed (USA)||50|
|Cameron Tringale (USA)||55|
|Marc Leishman (AUS)||62|
|Sergio Garcia (ESP)||74|
|Pablo Larrazabal (ESP)||70|
|Anirban Lahiri (IND)||92|
|Matthew Wolff (USA)||100|
|Matt Jones (AUS)||82|
|Richard Bland (ENG)||79|
|Bubba Watson (USA)||99|
|Shaun Norris (RSA)||93|
|Sam Horsfield (ENG)||95|
|Lee Westwood (ENG)||102|
|Phil Mickelson (USA)||109|
|Scott Vincent (ZIM)||81|
|Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA)||91|
|Oliver Bekker (RSA)||104|
|Ryosuke Kinoshita (JPN)||119|
|Ian Poulter (ENG)||111|
|Hudson Swafford (USA)||115|
|Bernd Wiesberger (AUT)||110|
|Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN)||134|
|Justin Harding (RSA)||131|
|Charl Schwartzel (RSA)||126|
|Carlos Ortiz (ESP)||146|
|Branden Grace (RSA)||145|
|Laurie Canter (ENG)||139|
|Hennie Du Plessis (RSA)||165|
|Phachara Khongwatmai (THA)||142|
|Sihwan Kim (USA)||157|
|Henrik Stenson (SWE)||179|
|Charles Howell III (USA)||179|
|Adrian Otaegui (ESP)||159|
|JC Ritchie (RSA)||200|
|Pat Perez (USA)||196|
|Hideto Tanihara (JPN)||236|
|Martin Kaymer (GER)||338|
|Jediah Morgan (AUS)||296|
|Ratchanon “TK” Chantananuwat* (THA)||321|
|Blake Windred (AUS)||366|
|Wade Ormsby (AUS)||362|
|Peter Uihlein (USA)||361|
|Graeme McDowell (NIR)||399|
|Ian Snyman (RSA)||430|
|Travis Smyth (AUS)||440|
|Viraj Madappa (IND)||561|
|Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA)||486|
|Turk Pettit (USA)||650|
|Kevin Yuan (AUS)||1,051|
|Oliver Fisher (ENG)||1,241|
|Andy Ogletree (USA)||1,510|
|Chase Koepka (USA)||1,615|
|James Piot* (USA)||2,326|
|David Puig* (ESP)||2,326|
|Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra (ESP)||2,326|
Source : Sporting News