Why I Can't Decide Whether LIV Golf Is Good Or Bad For The Game

I can see both arguments in favour of and against LIV and golf's traditional ecosystem

Montage of jay monahan, keith pelley and greg norman
(Image credit: Future)

The R&A will be very thankful that the LIV Golf Invitational Series didn't entirely overshadow the build up to the 150th Open in the way it did at last month's US Open.

LIV has certainly been on the agenda here at St Andrews, but the focus has largely and quite rightly been on St Andrews, its baked fairways and the magical aura around the town and tournament in what is a truly historic week for the game.

However, being in and around St Andrews this week has inevitably led to the odd LIV chat with other journalists and amongst the wider industry, and I keep coming back to the same argument. I simply don't know where I stand on it, and actually I'm not even standing... I'm sitting on the fence.

Video: What is LIV Golf?

I listened to Tiger Woods talk about "earning it in the dirt" and R&A chief Martin Slumbers hammering LIV versus golf's traditional ecosystem. The men's game has tended to be a meritocracy where the only way to make it to stardom and fortune was to come up via the likes of the Korn Ferry or Challenge Tours and keeping your PGA and DP World Tour cards by earning points, earning money, making cuts and grafting. I completely get where they're coming from, they're 100% right but times are changing and they already have.

LIV is slightly different, as Woods and Slumbers clearly criticised. It rewards everyone in the field, with $120,000 going to the last-placed finisher. It hands out signing on fees for at least a number of the field. Will it lead to players practising less and not "earning it in the dirt"? That's a definite possibility, especially for those signed on huge contracts with ageing or injured bodies.

The current golfing ecosystem is ridiculously competitive. If you aren't grinding on the range, spending hours on the putting green and days on end ensuring no leaf is left unturned, you will simply fall by the wayside. You'll miss cuts, you'll lose your card, you'll be overtaken by any of the thousands of talented youngsters coming up through the feeder tours, US colleges, South Africa, Korea, Japan, Australia, South America, just about everywhere is producing world class players these days.

LIV will be aware of that and potentially could even be planning to become a meritocracy one day. Relegation, promotion, qualifying...these are all things that we could see in LIV when it is more of an established circuit. It might well have even wanted to be a real competition from the get-go, evidence shown by the discussions with the DP World Tour and its hopes of having any communication with the PGA Tour.

The PGA Tour's refusal to talk to LIV is becoming more and more frustrating to me as the days pass by. Greg Norman has taken some of the tour's prized assets - Mickelson, DJ, Bryson, Koepka, Ancer, Reed to name six. If more do leave the PGA Tour, it surely has to signal some kind of conversation between the two organisations. How golf has become this messy is staggering, and sad.

The PGA Tour clearly isn't a fan of the Saudi money, and it's obvious that the traditional game isn't welcoming it. But Martin Slumbers made no real opposition to the actual source of the money [the R&A's job is to grow the game of golf around the world after all] and the DP World Tour was the one to launch the Saudi International. The fact is that Saudi money is all over F1, a sport I love, and I rarely hear anything about it. Anthony Joshua fights out there for the second time next month. They've just bought a Premier League team. And Saudi money has essentially saved the Ladies European Tour amid the Covid-19 pandemic. I never hear Ladies European Tour pros being criticised or asked whether they'd play in a tournament run by Vladimir Putin.

Is it time that golf has to accept that Saudi money in the sport might well be here to stay?

If it is indeed here to stay then golf is going to continue on this crazy trajectory with the product becoming further diluted and the sport becoming even more fragmented.

The two main tours might not be at risk and the Ryder Cup might not be either, but all three will suffer if they continue to refuse LIV a seat at the table. They're losing big names, and fast, which might well be worrying sponsors and broadcasters who have committed cash to tournaments that they thought would have had all of the best players in the world. This is more of an issue with the DP World Tour, which has sponsors that would surely have committed to deals with the hopes of seeing Poulter, Westwood, Garcia, Kaymer, Horsfield and co. teeing it up.

I can't honestly tell you where I stand on this whole episode, but I can see it from both sides. Maybe I'm starting to get a little bored of it now and just want pro golf to be a positive place that has a great, united future. Not a divided one.

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer 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: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x