By Alex Johnson ’23
Out of all the sports in the world, golf is considered to be one of the most boring. However, an unexpected battle has ensued between the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and a newly-formed rival tour, LIV Golf.
For all of golf’s history, the PGA has been the sole tour where the highest level of golf is played. The PGA is composed of the USGA (United States Golf Association) and the R&A (Royal and Ancient, the British golf association). There are also lower tier tours below the PGA such as the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, and below that the Korn Ferry Tour, which are for professionals wishing to qualify and play at the PGA level.
LIV Golf was founded in late 2021 and early 2022, dramatically changing the game of golf. Backed by the Saudi Arabian government, which already faces controversy for their human rights abuses, the new tour would hold 54 hole matches, as opposed to the 72 holes on the PGA, team events, shotgun starts, and award significant prize money. Despite all of the controversies, LIV has been causing players to defect from the PGA. The defections have led the PGA to impose sanctions on players headed to the rivaling tour, banning them from all PGA events. But what makes LIV Golf so attractive to players? LIV, in addition to not being as prestigious as the PGA, does not have the same history and legacy. The short answer is money.
In May of 2022, the Saudi government granted $2 billion in funds for LIV. LIV Golf has been recruiting top household golf names by throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at them. For example, two time major winner and former world no.1 Dustin Johnson signed with LIV for a reported $125 million dollars, and Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, who described the Saudies running the tour as “Scary Mother*****rs,” was signed for an estimated $200 million dollars. The list of players getting offered hundreds of millions of dollars goes on.
The PGA and LIV have also been fighting legal battles with each other. LIV has filed antitrust lawsuits against the PGA calling them a “monopoly that must be broken up.” In the end, LIV Golf looks like it is here to stay, attempting to change golf. The PGA and LIV will continue their legal battles with the PGA attempting to destroy LIV and vice versa. The battle between the two tours comes from the unlikeliest places, the notably calm and quiet game of golf.