LIV Golf Two Years In... Success Or Failure?

How has LIV Golf performed since its inception? Is there cause for optimism or has the Saudi-backed league been a disappointment so far?

LIV Golf
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The LIV Golf League recently finished its second season, with Talor Gooch topping the individual standings after a highly impressive campaign and Crushers GC scooping the team prize, but how many people watched LIV in 2023? It has been the most disruptive golfing venture for a generation, but away from the controversy, how well is the product itself faring? Are fans engaging with the start-up circuit or merely immersing themselves in the social media soap opera? 

It’s important to note that success akin to what the ‘established’ tours experience simply isn’t realistic. As a new venture, LIV doesn’t have the history and tradition that the PGA and DP World Tours can boast. It’s all new; there are no memories of fantastic finishes and experiences from yesteryear. Some courses hosted LIV for the first time in 2023 and the success of those stagings can only really be measured by how many people return in subsequent years. 

It’s not fair to expect LIV to be able to compete with events like the BMW PGA Championship or the Players Championship straight off the bat. Building interest is a time-consuming process and there are no shortcuts. As an example, The Masters really struggled in its early years. Getting patrons through the door was a serious challenge. 

Considering all the above, then, how has LIV fared over its first two years? It’s actually quite hard to get an objective picture of things – with regard to both television viewership and event attendance – as the data isn’t readily available, but we do have some things to go off.

Crushers GC

Crushers GC won the team prize in 2023

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What does the data say?

In America, the CW Network broadcasts LIV Golf. While it reportedly got off to a good start, with more than three million ‘total’ viewers across all platforms at the season-opening Mexico event, the decision was taken in March to stop publishing figures – a perhaps surprising move given LIV’s chief media officer, Will Staeger, told in January that viewing figures would “certainly” be reported.

As a means of comparison, the PGA Tour averages around two million viewers per week. A Sports Business Journal article put the average Sunday audience of the LIV Mayakoba event at 291,000, while the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour averaged 2.42 million viewers [note: Golf Monthly has contacted LIV and the CW Network for data].

It’s also important to note that obtaining accurate viewership data in the USA is complicated and nebulous, making it hard to get a clear picture. However, organisations like to talk about their successes, especially ones that are trying to disrupt a market and looking for any positive PR spin. I think it’s a reasonable assumption that LIV would be shouting about viewership if there was anything to shout about. 

Moreover, LIV isn’t available to watch on television in the UK. Yes, you can view the action through the website, the LIV Golf + app – which is very good – and YouTube, but there’s no doubt the lack of a mainstream broadcaster has hampered the circuit’s attempts to grow in Britain. 

There have been more recent reports of encouraging viewing figures in America via some monitoring platforms, and that, combined with solid attendance at numerous LIV events, clearly indicates there’s some demand.

We asked LIV for comment on attendance figures and were told that more than 77,000 people went through the gate at LIV Adelaide, while “LIV Golf’s events in DC and Tulsa set records for highest attended in the US since the league’s inception in June of 2022”. We don’t have specific numbers for the American events, and even if we did, it would be hard to benchmark them against the PGA Tour due to limited data. 

We know the Waste Management Phoenix Open attracted more than 700,000 people in 2023, but that’s by no means representative of a normal PGA Tour event. The Players Championship, meanwhile, recorded 173,975 fans in 2023, but again, that’s not a fair comparison. The Honda Classic, not one of the strongest events on the PGA Tour schedule, reportedly sees over 200,000 spectators each year

Phoenix Open 16th

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Capturing the imagination?

We wanted to see what interest in LIV looked like among our own social followers, so in a poll on X (formerly Twitter), we asked: ‘How much LIV Golf did you watch this season?’. The options were ‘every event’, ‘some events’, ‘occasionally watch’ or ‘didn’t watch a shot’. 

Some 50% of respondents said they didn’t watch a single shot. Only 10% watched every event, 28% watched some events and 12% said they occasionally tuned in. And before anyone thinks such a poll is meaningless owing to sample size, consider the fact that 12,521 people voted. That means 6,385 people with an interest in golf didn’t watch a shot of the LIV Golf League in 2023.

What’s fascinating about this result is the fact the percentage of people who didn’t watch a single shot was 83% at 8pm on Monday night (the poll ran from 10.41am UK time on Monday October 23 to 10.41am on Tuesday October 24). That could suggest more interest in places like America as the poll appeared in US timelines throughout the course of the day. This backs up the hypothesis that far more people watch LIV in the USA.

We also asked the same questions about the DP World Tour and PGA Tour. Unsurprisingly, the latter came out on top in terms of interest. Almost 75% of respondents said they either watch every event or some events, while only 4% said they hadn’t watched a single shot. On the DP World Tour, only 7% said they watch every event, but 44% voted for some events and 32% said they occasionally watch. Some 17% hadn’t watched a single shot. 

Is it suitably different?

So what explains the above figures? I’m not about to launch into the well-trodden moral tirade here as I don’t think it’s as relevant as some other factors. I’m sure there are some who have eschewed LIV on virtuous grounds, but not many. There are presumably millions of people who object to Saudi Arabia’s foothold in sport but continue to watch Newcastle United, Anthony Joshua’s boxing fights in the Kingdom and F1 races in Jeddah. I think the main reason for the comparative lack of interest is the product itself. 

My first question is whether it’s offering something suitably different to the norm. When you strip back the colourful graphics, animated commentary, loud music and shotgun starts – most of which contrast to ‘regular’ tour golf – it’s just strokeplay action. Yes, events are played over 54 holes, but there’s still a first round and a final round. 

LIV is actually on to something with the Team Championship, where the quarter-finals and semi-finals involve two teams playing each other in a mix of singles and foursomes matches. Interestingly, the top-ranked teams can choose their opponents at each stage, which certainly adds some intrigue. However, while it’s great to watch superstars like Bryson, DJ, Cam Smith and Talor Gooch in action, the excitement is nullified somewhat by the fact their teams are comprised of players like Pat Perez, Peter Uihlein, Anirban Lahiri and Jediah Morgan. The top-heavy nature of the circuit is problematic.

Another significant issue is the season-long team element simply isn’t powerful enough to generate much interest, either throughout the year or ahead of the final. It’s something we polled our X followers about. We asked ‘Does the team element of LIV Golf make you more interested/likely to watch’ and 87% voted no. And it’s hardly surprising. The cynic would say it’s just another way for already rich players to make more money without any real jeopardy. Perhaps the situation would be different with a higher calibre of player across the board. 

On that subject, the 48-man fields are worth mentioning. Limited-player events can be tricky, especially when a good proportion of those involved are well past their best. There’s no doubting the world-class credentials of some LIV players, but others are nowhere near being categorised as such. 

And, what’s more, team captains can’t be relegated from the league, which means Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer – neither of whom finished above 17th in any event all season – will be back next year. That doesn’t do much to dispel the ‘exhibition’ arguments frequently levelled at the tour. Indeed, ten of the 50 players who competed on LIV in 2023 didn’t notch a single top-ten finish.

Westwood Kaymer LIV

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking to the future

So, what next? There’s not been any clarity since the shock announcement in June of the merger between the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund, but it seems almost certain that LIV will continue. Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson and others have spoken about how their phones are ringing with people interested in joining LIV. If more top players come over, it’s hard to argue LIV wouldn’t capture the attention of more golf fans.  

Even the most ardent objector would surely concede LIV is doing some things right, and given what we’ve heard, there is cause for optimism around the trajectory of the circuit. But a lot of that depends on hypotheticals and unknowns. The PGA and DP World Tours certainly aren’t immune from criticism, either, and it’ll be fascinating to see if all three can co-exist in the post-merger world. 

As a final poll question, we asked: “Overall, has LIV Golf exceeded your expectations as a product?” and 87% said it hadn’t. Some X users are undoubtedly prone to hyperbole and conditioned to taking polarising viewpoints, but that figure is notable. What it looks like after the 2024 season is anyone’s guess.  

Nick Bonfield
Features Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, writing, commissioning and coordinating all features across print and online. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x