What Is LIV Golf?

The LIV Golf Invitational Series has largely dominated the headlines since its launch in March, but what exactly is it?

Charl Schwartzel holds his trophy alongside LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman after the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The LIV Golf Invitational Series has been one of the game's major talking points in 2022, with discussion ranging from the sums of money involved, the source of the funding, identities of the players and its unique format.  

The inaugural year of the Series, which began in June, comprises eight-tournaments funded by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, the Public Investment Fund. The source of the funding is at the heart of much of its controversy, with accusations that the money is being used to sportswash the regime’s human rights record. Overall, the fund is said to have assets of over $620bn.

Because of its huge spending power, the Series has attracted some of the game’s highest-profile players. Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson were the standout names from the first intake, with the pair reportedly offered around $125m and $200m to join, respectively. More big-name players followed, including Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Abraham Ancer. While announcing Ancer’s signature, LIV Golf also promised there would be more player announcements to come. Other players in the first event included Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer.

One of the least-understood aspects of the Series is what LIV stands for. The answer is that it’s the Roman numeral for 54. That is significant because each of the tournaments in the Series comprises 54 holes (rather than the more typical 72). But, according to LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, there is another meaning behind it – it’s the score a player would shoot if they were to birdie every hole of a par 72 course.

The format of the LIV Golf Series is more streamlined than we would typically expect. So, as well as tournaments being played over three days instead of four (starting Thursdays and ending on Saturday) and over 54 holes, the fields are considerably smaller, numbering just 48. Not only that, but each player is on the course simultaneously, thanks to a shotgun start. Players are paired in groups of three on different holes, with players teeing off simultaneously.

Each of the seven regular tournaments has both an individual and a team format. The individual format is familiar. It involves players competing against each other in a stroke play format. There is no cut, so the lowest score after the 54 holes is declared the individual winner.

There is also a team format. The 48 players are divided into 12 teams of four. In the first two rounds, the two players on each team with the lowest score count towards that team’s overall performance. In the final round, the players with the lowest three scores count. The lowest overall team score after all 54 holes is declared the winner. 

As well as the enormous sums of money used to attract players to the Series, the prize money in each tournament is huge too. After each regular tournament, the individual winner receives $4m, while even the player finishing 48th receives $120,000. Meanwhile, each tournament’s winning team shares $3 million. Also, the second-placed team shares $1.5 million, with another $500,000 going to the team finishing third. 

Overall, that works out at prize money of $25m per tournament. However, there is also a Team Championship Series finale which, as its name suggests, is a team-only event. It has double the purse - $50m. Charl Schwartzel was the first tournament's individual winner. He was also a member of that event's winning team, Stinger.

The inaugural tournament took place at London’s Centurion Club between 9 and 11 June. The following four events take place in the USA. Then the Series moves to Thailand and Saudi Arabia before finishing back in the USA at Trump National Doral with a four-day finale starting on 27 October and finishing on 30 October.

There are plans to expand the Series in the coming years. It has received an extra $2bn cash boost to increase the number of tournaments to 14 by 2024.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.