LIV Golf heads off for a summer break now after its first three events as this week's AIG Women's Open and then the PGA Tour and its lucrative FedEx Cup Playoffs take centre stage.
This inaugural year of LIV Golf has so far been a rollercoaster for the sport and produced countless stories both inside the golfing world and in the wider sporting and general news sectors. Now that news may settle down a little bit with no tournaments for the month of August and the likelihood of no significant new player announcements, we can look back on these past six months and look at what might be coming in the years ahead.
This 'pilot' year of eight 'Invitational' series tournaments is just that, a pilot, and Greg Norman and his team will have quickly realised that they have potential to be a serious player in the world of golf over the coming years. Next year's LIV Golf League will see a total of 14 tournaments and a roster of household names featuring Major champions, former World No.1s, Ryder Cup legends and stars from all continents.
There's seems to be more to come, too, with the likes of Hideki Matsuyama and Cameron Smith just two of the big names rumoured to be joining later in the year. LIV has picked up an impressive line-up of players in 2022, especially when you think that back in April Robert Garrigus (then-World No.1043) looked like he might have been one of the headliners.
The lack of big names, along with the high profile Phil Mickelson controversy, took the wind out of the LIV sails, so to see it where it is today is impressive and surprising in equal measure. The Saudi-backed venture has certainly been a disruptor, leading to players being suspended from the PGA Tour, banned from the Scottish Open, fined £100,000, legal action and the removal of a Ryder Cup captain. Golf but louder is one of its straplines and LIV certainly hasn't gone about its business quietly.
Perhaps the biggest downfall of LIV Golf as a product, for golf fans at least, is the lack of world ranking points and the fact that there is an exhibition feel to it. This will be a bug bear for Greg Norman and the team are clearly trying to make it more of a meritocracy next year with promotion and relegation - although the big names, by the sounds of it, will be immune after signing huge multi-year contracts.
Sport, and golf especially, is all about the ramifications of how you perform. Play badly and you miss cuts, lose your card and drop down the levels. Play badly in LIV and in Pat Perez's case, you walk away with $750,000 in team winnings. Aside from Pat Perez, the no-cut, 54-hole format has been criticised by Tiger Woods and the 15-time Major winner's words certainly struck a chord with many.
Woods rarely opens up on controversial topics in the way he did in his press conference ahead of the 150th Open, where his scathing words will have got some pros, and particularly the younger ones, thinking.
"But what these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practise? What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt? You're just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes," he said. "They're playing blaring music and have all these atmospheres that are different."
"I can understand 54 holes is almost like a mandate when you get to the Senior Tour. The guys are little bit older and a little more banged up. But when you're at this young age and some of these kids - they really are kids who have gone from amateur golf into that organisation - 72-hole tests are part of it. "
Woods is certainly right that golf is a 72-hole test at the top level and there could be some truth that the older guys especially may be taking it a little easier on the practice ground with guaranteed money, huge signing on bonuses and the chance to spend more time with their families.
But for golf, or anything, to grow and attract new audiences, which LIV Golf is trying to do, it does need to change and branch out a bit, so these changes are understandable. Are they working? That's a debate that can be had between golfers around the globe, but there is definitely some potential for LIV to attract the more casual golf fans over the coming years with the shorter viewing windows and the expansion of the team/franchise element.
The teams seems to be where the money will be made eventually, with the potential of entrepreneurs buying teams, trading players and building them into fully fledged brands. It all sounds doable and to see it actually come together is set to be an interesting ride.
The free-to-air element has been fantastic to see for golf fans, who are forced to pay a subscription to watch golf behind a pay wall. In the UK, there is sadly no golf available to terrestrial viewers on traditional channels like BBC and ITV, all while football, rugby, cricket, cycling, tennis, athletics and other sports take the limelight. This is where LIV really should be trying to land, even if it is in the form of highlights. YouTube has been great for people who are actively interested in watching it, and it's the same with Sky Sports and its free live golf streams, but to actually grow the sport we really need non-golf fans and non-sport fans to stumble upon the game via a terrestrial channel.
Format-wise, will golf fans continue to watch and enjoy 72-hole strokeplay with the world's top players on the PGA and DP World Tours? Of course. Will golf fans enjoy 54-hole, franchise-led tournaments with some of the game's most recognised names and rising stars from all corners of the globe? The answer to that is probably also a yes.
LIV looks to have found a place in the game, filling a gap in the market that has been lacking where we get to see household names playing in a slightly shorter format, and it really is only going to grow with the huge Public Investment Fund backing and high ambitions. It is certainly looking to be more of a global tour, too, something that is so fundamental to Formula 1, which LIV is trying to base itself on. Golf has been crying out for a truly global circuit and the introduction of more tournaments next year should mean that events take place in Ireland, Spain, Australia and Latin America to add to the overseas ones in this year's schedule in England, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
What is a shame is how the game has been fractured and what might come next with the potential of big stars missing Majors, the Ryder Cup, big events on the PGA and DP World Tours and the prospect of rarely seeing the likes of DeChambeau, Koepka, Johnson and co. teeing it up alongside the McIlroys, Rahms and Spieths.
For LIV to really be a good thing for the game, it would make sense for it to come up with some agreement with the Tours to allow players to freely play in the events that they choose. Boxing really suffers as a fractured sport with different promoters and TV networks signing fighters, meaning that we still haven't seen Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury after all these years and countless other fights have fallen through the cracks due to outside-of-the-ring politics. Let's hope that golf doesn't see that same divide.
After three events, LIV has turned the golfing world upside down like we never could even imagine. Whether you like it or not, it's here to stay and the coming years are set to be a very interesting watch both on and away from the golf course.
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Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TSR4
3 wood: Titleist TSi2 HL
Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
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