What Is LIV Golf?

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

Pat Perez, Talor Gooch, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed of 4 Aces GC pose with team championship trophy after the second LIV Golf Invitational Series event in Oregon
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The LIV Golf Invitational Series is 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 season 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 the reason for 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.

Video: What Is LIV Golf?

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. Other high-profile players in the first event included Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer. 

More big-name players followed, including Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Abraham Ancer. Meanwhile, the fields continue to strengthen as the inaugural season progresses. The third tournament features the arrival of former World No.3 Paul Casey, while Henrik Stenson has been stripped of the Ryder Cup captaincy amid his own reported LIV Golf move. Meanwhile, there are also reports that Open Champion Cameron Smith is being targeted to lead an all-Australian team. 

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 at the same time, thanks to a shotgun start. That means that players are paired in groups of three on 16 different holes, teeing off simultaneously.

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

For the 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.

The 54-hole format also largely accounts for what LIV stands for as it’s the Roman numeral for 54. However, according to LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, there is another meaning – it’s the score a player would shoot if they were to birdie every hole of a par 72 course.

As well as the enormous sums of money used to persuade players to sign up to the Series, the prize money in each tournament is huge too. In 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. 

The first tournament took place at London’s Centurion Club between 9 and 11 June. The Series then moved to the USA and Portland, Oregon's Pumpkin Ridge for the second event. More US based events follow, at Bedminster, Boston and Chicago, before the Series moves to Thailand and Saudi Arabia. The inaugural season finishes back in the USA at Trump National Doral with a four-day finale starting on 27 October and finishing on 30 October.

Charl Schwartzel was the first tournament's individual winner. He was also a member of that event's winning team, Stinger GC. In the second event, Branden Grace claimed the individual first prize with 4 Aces GC winning the team event and sharing $3m of the $25m purse among its members, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Talor Gooch and Pat Perez. Stinger GC finished second, with Fireballs GC finishing third. 

While the Series has got off to a strong start, there are plans to expand it in the coming years as it bids to challenge the dominance of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. To that end, it has received an extra $2bn cash boost to increase the number of tournaments to 14 by 2024.

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

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.