Saudi-Backed LIV Golf Series - Everything We Know

All we know about the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, one of golf's biggest talking points

Norman and LIV speak to the media
(Image credit: Getty Images)

LIV Golf Investments and Greg Norman's LIV Golf Invitational Series, also known as the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series, comprises of eight events with $225m of prize money up for grabs, kickstarting at London's Centurion Club in June; one week prior to the US Open. With more clarity as to what the Series is and who will be taking part, in this video and article, we reveal everything we know...

What Is The LIV Golf Series?

Briefly put, the LIV Golf Invitational Series comprises of eight tournaments – seven regular events and a season-closing Team Championship tournament, which will be held at Trump National Doral.

Each of the regular events will feature three rounds with no cut, and with play commencing by shotgun start. There will be a team format with no more than 48 players making up of 12 teams of four, with the teams drafted each week. Players are said to also be wearing team colours during the events, with teams eventually hoped to have 'commissioners' who can buy and sell players to other teams. The Series hopes to entice players with a huge $25m purse at each of the first seven tournaments, and a $50m purse in the finale. There will also be a bonus pot for the best performers of the Series. 

The concept of a breakaway league is not new to golf or in fact, Greg Norman. The former World No.1 put forward his own plans for a World Golf Tour in 1994, a lucrative, eight-field event that would showcase the game's best players as independent contractors, unfettered from the PGA Tour.

Norman's path to 'growing the game' never did come to fruition but you sense there has always been a determination to challenge golf's status quo. And so here we are, 28 years later with the game on the precipice of civil war and now an official league to rival the established ecosystem. 

Norman remains undeterred and convinced of the eventual success of the Series. Speaking with the Telegraph, he said: “Quite honestly, it doesn't matter who plays, we're going to put the event on,” the former World No.1 said. “There's a $4m first prize. I hope a kid who’s 350th in the world wins. It’ll change his life, his family’s life. And then a few of our events will go by and the top players will see someone winning $6m, $8m, and say ‘enough is enough, I know I can beat these guys week in week out with my hands tied behind my back’.”

The Australian described the Series as “a carrot too hard to resist” with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund prepared to "up the ante" to attract the biggest stars in the game should it be needed and up the ante they have. Norman has revealed that he plans to grow the LIV Golf Invitational Series into a fully-fledged Super League by 2024 with 14 tournaments, and has $2bn extra funding to achieve it. 

LIV Golf Series Schedule

The seventh hole at London's Centurion Club

The Centurion Club hosts the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The eight tournaments take place across England, USA, Thailand and Saudi Arabia, and run from June to October.

  • June 9-11: London - Centurion Club
  • July 1-3: Portland - Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club
  • July 29-31: New Jersey - Trump National Golf Club Bedminster
  • September 2-4: Boston - The International
  • September 16-18: Chicago - Rich Harvest Farms
  • October 7-9: Bangkok - Stone Hill
  • October 14-16: Jeddah - Royal Greens Golf & Country Club
  • October 28-30: Miami - Trump National Doral

LIV Golf Series Prize Money

The unveiling of the league revealed that the first seven events will each carry a total purse of $25m, comprised of $20m in individual prizes and $5m for the top three teams. Each week, the winner will receive a cheque for $4m with last place receiving $120,000. 

The Series will also crown an 'Individual Champion' with a bonus pool of $30m for the top-three performers of the season. The season-ending eighth event will be a Team Championship with a $50m total prize fund.

The financial riches of the LIV Golf Invitational Series is almost impossible for anyone to keep up with and by and large blows the PGA Tour's flagship, and most lucrative event, the Players Championship, out of the water.

The first event at the Centurion Club, with its $25m purse, dwarfs those of the week's competing events at the RBC Canadian Open ($8.7m) and Scandinavian Mixed ($2m), and it is a similar story throughout the LIV Golf Invitational Series schedule.

LIV Golf Series Players

Dustin Johnson hits a shot

Dustin Johnson was reportedly offered $125m to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Prior to the release of the official field for the inaugural event at Centurion Club in June, the LIV Golf Series players was shrouded in mystery. 

For example, Greg Norman revealed that 36 of the top-150, 19 of the top-100 and six of the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking had requested to take part in the Series opener which led to a barrage of speculation. 

The LIV Golf Invitational Series field was unveiled, and a surprise name in Dustin Johnson was revealed as the headline name. DJ had reportedly been offered $125m to play in the Series after pledging his allegiance to the PGA Tour in February.

Johnson is joined by the likes of Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Graeme McDowell and a number of other big names in the field despite both the PGA and DP World Tours declining the release requests from players.

The full list for the inaugural event is:

  • Oliver Bekker
  • Richard Bland
  • Itthipat Buranatanyarat
  • Laurie Canter
  • Ratchanon Chantananuwat (amateur)
  • Hennie Du Plessis
  • Oliver Fisher
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Talor Gooch
  • Branden Grace
  • Justin Harding
  • Sam Horsfield
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Matt Jones
  • Sadom Kaewkanjana
  • Martin Kaymer
  • Phachara Khongwatmai
  • Sihwan Kim
  • Ryosuke Kinoshita
  • Chase Koepka
  • Jinichiro Kozuma
  • Pablo Larrazabal
  • Viraj Madappa
  • Graeme McDowell
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Jediah Morgan
  • Kevin Na
  • Shaun Norris
  • Andy Ogletree
  • Louis Oosthuizen
  • Wade Ormsby
  • Adrian Otaegui
  • Turk Pettit
  • James Piot (amateur)
  • Ian Poulter
  • David Puig (amateur)
  • JC Ritchie
  • Charl Schwartzel
  • Kim Sihwan
  • Travis Smyth
  • Hudson Swafford
  • Ian Snyman
  • Hideto Tanihara
  • Peter Uihlein
  • Scott Vincent
  • Lee Westwood
  • Bernd Wiesberger
  • Blake Windred
  • Kevin Yuan

The second tournament is scheduled to take place in the United States, which is likely to cause further tension with the PGA Tour as players are expected to face punishment for teeing it up in opposing events in the same country. 

As a result, it is at this point where legal proceedings are expected to comments with Greg Norman and players in the LIV Golf Series have persistently stated they are independent contractors and the Tour does not have the legal power to deny them. 

As well as attempting to attract global stars in the professional game, it is also understood that invites went out to the world's six best male amateur players, and crucially, reports suggest they would be allowed to win prize money. The top-six in the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the time of the report were Japan's Keita Nakajima, USA's Pierceson Coody, Sweden's Ludvig Aberg, Spain's Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra Coto, USA's Sam Bennett and England's Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of World No.25 Matt. 

In the case of Fitzpatrick, a report in the Telegraph revealed that he turned down the offer. It was said to be worth $2m in guaranteed prize money to play.

Despite reports of the world's top six male amateurs being invited, there are three amateurs in the field for the first tournament at Centurion Club and none of them feature in the top-six of the World Amateur Golf Ranking. The amateurs are James Piot, who won the 2021 US Amateur, David Puig and Ratchanon "TK" Chantananuwat; a prominent star on the Asian Tour.

Jason Kokrak was another to have previously complimented to the concept of the league, a stance that is not unexpected given his Golf Saudi sponsorship, but he is not in the field for the first tournament. Unconfirmed reports suggest he has personal engagements during the week of the inaugural tournament and therefore unable to play. Fellow Golf Saudi ambassador, Kevin Na, is part of the field. 

In a shocking revelation, Kevin Na announced his resignation from the PGA Tour in favour of playing in the LIV Golf Series. A move then matched by Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace. They each expressed their desire to play in the Series and it is expected their resignation was an attempt to escape sanction from the PGA Tour. 

Other professionals who have been linked include Adam Scott, with the Australian revealing "the schedule is very appealing" whilst offering no definitive answer. He also admitted he was "sworn to secrecy." Surprisingly he is another not in the first field.

Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson were said to have received offers but it cast a doubt over their future Ryder Cup involvement if they accepted. That statement remains true in the case of Poulter but given the recent announcement that Stenson is to Captain the European Ryder Cup team in Rome in 2023, it is expected that his allegiance is firmly with the DP World Tour and PGA Tour going forward. 

Poulter, Westwood, Garcia and McDowell are all in the field for the inaugural tournament so their future involvement in the Ryder Cup remains unknown; although each have expressed their wish to represent Team Europe in one capacity or another in future.

It remains to be seen which players make up the field for the second tournament.

Who Owns The LIV Golf Tour?

Ron Cross, Atul Khosla and Greg Norman of LIV Golf at a press conference in London

(Image credit: Getty Images)

From an operational perspective, the LIV Golf Series is pioneered by LIV Golf Investments with Greg Norman as its CEO. LIV Golf Investments are financially backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. Assets included, it is said to be worth in excess of $620 billion.

The chairman of the Public Investment Fund is Mohammed bin Salman, colloquially known as MBS. He is a Saudi Arabian politician who is the crown prince, deputy prime minister, and minister of defence of Saudi Arabia. He also serves as the chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and chairman of the Council of Political and Security Affairs.

Despite the financial backing of the Public Investment Fund, Norman has insisted that he "does not answer to Saudi Arabia" and that they (including MBS) are not "his bosses." The former World No.1 described LIV Golf Investments as "independent" to the Public Investment Fund. 

As well as the financial backing of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, the Public Investment Fund has invested a separate $300m with LIV Golf Investments in a 10-year deal with the Asian Tour and its International Series. This will see the Saudi International, which was previously sanctioned by the DP World Tour until the threat of a breakaway tour emerged, formally recognised as an Asian Tour event. 

The Public Investment Fund has dedicated a further $2bn to the Series in a bid to scale up to 14 tournaments per year. Norman has further confirmed the plans stretch decades into the future.

How Have The PGA Tour Responded To LIV Golf Series?

Jay Monahan speaks to the press at the 2019 Players Championship

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is strongly opposed to the LIV Golf Invitational Series

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The threat of a breakaway league put the DP World and PGA Tour on guard (opens in new tab), with Jay Monahan, the current PGA Tour Commissioner, repeatedly warning any player who sided with a rival league would face suspension and possibly a lifetime ban. 

In a memo sent to players in May, the PGA Tour officially denied its members conflicting-event releases to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener at the Centurion Club. The memo stated that granting release would "significantly and unreasonably harm the PGA Tour and Tour sponsors" before affirming that "your participation in the event is not authorised under the Regulations."

Norman, who recently accused the PGA Tour of bullying, has repeatedly insisted that PGA Tour players are independent contractors and that the Tour does not have the legal right to deny their entry to tournaments. 

Those that are taking part in the inaugural LIV Golf Series event at Centurion Club are therefore doing so without the permission of the PGA and/or DP World Tour. In doing so, it is expected that both Tours will impose sanctions of some kind. From a severity perspective, this could range from a financial fine to a short or lengthy suspension.

As of yet, neither Tour has imposed any sanction on its players as it is expected that they are waiting for them to actually compete before taking action. 

The battle between LIV Golf Investments and the PGA Tour is sure to continue. At the Honda Classic earlier in the year, Commissioner Jay Monahan reportedly telling players to "walk out the door" should they be lured by the prospect of the league.  

One of the players in attendance, who requested anonymity, told the Golf Channel (opens in new tab): “[Monahan] made it clear right off the top that if you’re going to play [the Super League], walk out that door now. He made the ban seem like it was in all capital letters.” Meanwhile, another stated that Monahan said anyone thinking of joining the reported league was detrimental to the Tour and would be “banned.”

At the time, they were merely threats but the official denial of releases is the first time Commissioner Monahan and the PGA Tour have shown their hand. Norman issued an almost immediate response and accused the Tour of "perpetuating its illegal monopoly of what should be a free and open market" before he described them as "anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive." It will inevitably be a setback for the Series but Norman added: "No matter what obstacles the PGA Tour puts in our way, we will not be stopped."

Greg Norman remains firm in his stance that PGA Tour players are "independent contractors" and the PGA Tour has no legal right to prohibit their participation. 

Last year, the DP World Tour and PGA Tour announced an alliance, with the key focus on 'enhancing and connecting the ecosystem of men’s professional golf through a number of areas, including global scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities for the respective memberships'.

It was also revealed that three events will be co-sanctioned, meaning they will count towards both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai. These are: the Barbasol Championship, the Barracuda Championship and the Genesis Scottish Open. 

A total of 75 DP World Tour members will have access to the Barbasol and Barracuda Championships for the first time, while the Irish Open was also given a major boost, with its prize purse set to nearly double to $6million for its 2022 staging. 

Which Players Won't Be Playing In The Saudi-Backed Golf Series?

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods pictured

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have pledged loyalty to the PGA Tour

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite the overwhelming amount of money on offer, many players have stated that they will be sticking with the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods (opens in new tab) said: “I’ve decided for myself that I’m supporting the PGA Tour. That’s where my legacy is. I’ve been fortunate enough to have won 82 events on this Tour and 15 Major championships and been a part of the World Golf Championships, the start of them and the end of them. So I have an allegiance to the PGA Tour”.

Four-time Major champion, Rory McIlroy (opens in new tab), also agrees, with the Northern Irishman stating that the league is "nothing more than a money grab". His European counterpart, Jon Rahm (opens in new tab), said: "I don't do this for the money. They throw numbers at you and that's supposed to impress people. I'm in this game for the love of golf and the love of the game and to become a champion."

Collin Morikawa (opens in new tab) and Brooks Koepka (opens in new tab) have confirmed their futures lie with the PGA Tour, while Patrick Cantlay (opens in new tab) added that the chance to pick up a huge appearance fee for playing in the Saudi International was "very tempting" but he ultimately "wasn't swayed".

World No.1 Scottie Scheffler is another that has publicly distanced himself from the Series. The Masters champion said that playing in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series is "definitely not" something "we" want the PGA Tour members to do, citing RBC and the Canadian Open and how it would hurt the PGA Tour tournaments and their sponsors. The RBC Canadian Open is up against the first LIV Golf event in the second week of June.

Justin Thomas has reiterated his loyalty to the PGA Tour and has told prospective players to "go". Thomas also drew on recent comments and actions from the Tour's Commissioner: "I think Jay's made it very clear from the start of what would happen or, you know, I think a lot of people are probably like, 'I can't believe you did this' or, 'Wow, you went through with it'. But I mean this is what he said was going to happen all along," the 14-time PGA Tour winner said.

Bryson DeChambeau did not explicitly rule himself out but stated: "As long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I."

Outside of a playing capacity, Jack Nicklaus revealed in an interview with the Fire Pit Collective that he turned down "in excess of $100m" from the Saudis to do a job he described as "probably similar to the one Greg Norman is doing." Nicklaus said: “I turned it down. Once verbally, once in writing. I said, ‘Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA Tour.’”

How Will The Saudi Golf League Work?

So, what's next? Well, if it's anything like the last few months, who knows?

What we do know is that the speculation is over and there is a Saudi-backed league in fruition - one that is holding events with extended plans into the future and plenty of financial backing.

The PGA Tour officially denied its members releases to play in the opening tournament yet many have decided to compete regardless. As a result of that, it is expected that the Tour will impose formal sanctions on those players; which will likely be met with legal challenge. 

Between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf Investments, one party insists that it is lawful in denying releases as per its regulations, whilst the other insists it is not lawful as the players are independent contractors with the legal right to play where they wish. Both believe they are right and both seem to have a legal basis; but of course, there can only be one 'winner'. 

The question remains - does the LIV Golf Series compliment the current ecosystem that will ultimately satisfy the needs of both the player and spectator, or is this the beginning of an out-and-out rivalry with the intent to knock the PGA Tour off its perch? Time will tell. 

Another key factor surrounding the LIV Golf Invitational Series is the Ryder Cup and Majors. Will the Majors and the DP World Tour ban players from playing in golf's four showpieces and the Ryder Cup? Again, only time will tell.

James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.