It’s been two years since the topic of the Saudi-backed Super League, LIV Golf, appeared and initiated a quest to assemble the best players in the world, putting pressure on the PGA Tour. The process of establishing a brand-new competitive concept has been nothing less than a roller coaster. As of right now, the discussion boils down to one question; will it ever happen?
Okay, what’s going on?
This isn’t the first time a breakaway circuit from the PGA Tour has been attempted, but it is the most recent and a heavily talked about rumour that has grabbed the attention of the entire international golf world.
Long story short; LIV Golf investment, a Saudi-backed company behind the Asian Tour’s, set the goal of creating their own professional tour, referred to as the “Super Golf League”. With no ties to the PGA Tour, their only option is to compete against them. The only way to achieve their goal is to mobilize the best players in the world. A challenge hard to fathom due to the history and popularity of the PGA Tour.
“The current framework began to arise in earnest in the fall of 2019, to the point that current PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan issued a warning in January 2020 that any player who sided with a rival league would face suspension and possibly a lifetime ban. In spite of Monahan's threat, multiple players are reportedly weighing offers to join a fledgling league” – Golf Digest
How’s the progress going?
Saudi Arabia has gained momentum as a sport-event destination in recent years. Hosting competitions in motorsports, soccer, boxing, tennis, and wrestling as some of their highlights. Despite the attraction of world athletes and teams joining the Saudi sports scene, the golf world brought up the argument of Saudi’s history with human rights violations, taking this factor deeply into consideration when making the decision to stay in the PGA Tour. Many players stated that the generous appearance fees offered by LIV will not convince them to take part because of ethical reasons, and to ensure and maintain the legacy of the PGA Tour. However, several players have expressed themselves about the potential of the establishment of the new league.
What’s the player's point of view?
With rumors of approximately 20 top players joining the new league, there have been talks in all different directions regarding the player's loyalty or eventual distance-taking from the PGA Tour.
Bryson Dechambeau, commonly referred to as the heaviest hitter on the PGA tour and among the 15 best players in the world, was said to be the face of the project. He was offered an appearance fee of over 100 million dollars but recently commented that he will not follow through. He stated that the reason for staying in the US circuit was to continue competing against the best players in the world, reassuring his commitment to the PGA Tour.
Former world number one, Dustin Johnson, is another attention-grabbing name to bring excitement to the Super League. He recently declared to put the speculations to rest as he is “fully committed” to the PGA Tour.
Phil Mickelson, a fan favorite on the PGA Tour for almost three decades, has made controversial headlines for his statements regarding his eventual participation and leaving the PGA Tour.
“They’re scary motherf------ to get involved with. They have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.” – Phil Mickelson
In addition, the professional veteran referred to the PGA as a “dictatorship”, operating with “obnoxious greed”. His comments have stirred things up a bit, as Callaway recently stated that they put their sponsorship with Mickelson on hold until further notice.
Rory McIlroy, having spent over 100 weeks as the world number one, claims that the new concept is “dead in the water”, and “nothing more than a money grab”. The 32-year-old does not see how the Super League will be able to keep up as players are continuously choosing to stay in the PGA.
Brooks Koepka, former world number one, does not share Rory’s thoughts that the league is dead. He argues that as long as money is involved, which the Saudi Public Investment Fund has an abundance of, someone will sell out and eventually join, intriguing other players to do the same.
What do we make of this?
As of right now, the long-term establishment of the professional golf tour in Saudi Arabia does not look too promising from the standpoint of player participation. But the Super League creators are eager to make it a reality.
Greg Norman, fronting the breakaway golf league, has issued an indirect warning to the head of the PGA Tour, stating that “it is certainly not the end”, and that the attempt to transfer players is “just beginning”. His argument is that the PGA is threatening their players, not allowing them to make their own decisions, and accusing the PGA’s approach as bullying. The LIV will continue the pursuit of encouraging the game-changing transfer of players intended to revolutionize the competitive professional golf scene.