5 Things LIV Golf Must Change To Become More Watchable In 2023
It's here to stay, so what can LIV Golf do to appeal to more fans next year?
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The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series is in the books. Greg Norman promised it would be disruptive and change the face of golf and, for better or worse, it did. But it was far from perfect.
I, like many, was eager to watch some of the world’s best compete in a slightly different arena, and while there were plenty of positives, even overlooking the dubious funding source, the upstart circuit has room for improvement ahead of the expanded 2023 league.
The numbers game
There really is no need to fudge the numbers, whether on-site or online. For all the hullabaloo - “this is golf, but louder” - nobody expected LIV’s product to draw in an army of fans immediately. That the new series already has a fairly steady number of admirers should be applauded. But don’t take curious onlookers for fools.
“It is really special out there… it’s jumping,” was uttered by David Feherty during the final round of the Team Championship. Neither appeared accurate. Fans there were; a smattering of noise there also was; but special? That's not the impression I got.
There were four groups on the course and, at various points, spectators seemed scarce. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. The controversial tour is in its infancy, and a lot of people are still struggling to get on board with the concept and the circumstances around its inception.
In time, it will establish itself further and gain more followers, but until then, it’s OK not to embellish so dramatically. It’s doing well, all things considered. Don’t be insecure about it.
Perhaps one way to draw in more viewers would be to improve the punditry. In the interests of fairness, it did get better from London to Miami, but the bar was set quite low. Talk of “bouncy pins” thankfully subsided, as did the complete pandemonium when a player hit the green, but the broadcast still leaves a lot to be desired.
On the whole, there is a lack of insight provided below the surface level. Although when Phil Mickelson popped in for a stint on comms, things improved substantially. Even something as simple as explaining why Cam Smith looks at the hole for so long when he putts and what people - Mickelson included - can learn from it adds something extra.
Instead, what we got was talk of money and hyperbolic statements. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, detailing how many more million a multi-millionaire is going to make should he hole a putt is not a good look.
The money is what it is, and to make the splash LIV Golf has, it was probably necessary, but unless I’m mistaken, it’s not what fans tune in for. You’ve got a host of the best players in the world at your disposal as well as some young up-and-comers finding their feet in an unusual environment and at a strange time for the professional game. Create a narrative around that. It should be more than enough to go on.
Within LIV, there appear to be different mindsets. On one side, you’ve got the likes of Dustin Johnson and Harold Varner III, who admit they knew what they were signing up for and are comfortable accepting the consequences, whatever they may be.
Then there are others who, as has been the popular buzzphrase, “want to have their cake and eat it.” Whether rightly or wrongly, the PGA Tour has suspended the defectors, pending the outcome of a court case next year. The DP World Tour has also tried to impose sanctions, albeit far less severe. And the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) is still deliberating LIV’s application.
The OWGR has an established process each new entity must follow and a list of criteria that must be met. There is leeway, to an extent, on the latter, but the arrogance of some that the Saudi-funded venture should be able to circumvent years of precedent is quite distasteful.
It stems from the top, but the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and McDowell have also weighed in, firing shots at the rankings body for simply following its own protocols. A little more humility wouldn’t go amiss here and would probably endear the breakaway circuit to more prospective fans. It would for me, anyway.
Create a qualifying route
This is one of the big things LIV Golf must address if it wants to take the next step. Handpicking players is all well and good as an invitational series, but if it wants to become a fully fledged rival to the traditional tours, there has to be a clear route in.
It might take time due to the ongoing legal disputes but even a Qualifying Series like exists for The Open and US Open would be a start, until LIV finds its place in the professional landscape.
Tuning in to the inaugural event just outside London, I was a little disappointed that it quickly felt like any other professional golf tournament. Especially with all the talk of a golfing revolution. It barely felt like evolution.
There were a bunch of pros of varying levels playing strokeplay on a decent but not spectacular course, accompanied by some sketchy commentary. The only thing that it really had in its favour was the lack of ads, but that surely will change when a TV channel takes it on.
The first two days of the grand finale in Miami, however, did feel different, and in a good way. One of the reasons the Ryder Cup is so popular is that team matchplay takes centre stage.
LIV is in the unique position to be able to offer this on a semi-regular basis and should lean on that more than once a year.
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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