The ball went like a Tiger Woods swing, in the heyday. By announcing, Sunday, June 5, that he was going to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series, Phil Mickelson threw a cobblestone on the fairways, even if it meant creating holes himself. This competition is in fact a circuit parallel to that which made the legend of the greatest golfers.
The most muted greens shook. This time, the operation seems launched. In the making for several years, what is this “monster” that is shaking up one of the most compartmentalized sports on the planet? Behind the project hides a man: Greg Norman. There is also a lot of money, that of a public investment fund from Saudi Arabia. This last has already bought the English club Newcastle recently.
Former golf star, winner of two Majors and admired by all for the purity of his swing, Norman defies two age-old institutions, the PGA Tour and the European Tour. The bet is daring, but the one nicknamed “the great white shark” knows that he has unparalleled financial power to overturn the table. Even if, one suspects it, the shark advances in troubled waters.
“The arrival of the LIV was made in a brutal way and jeopardizes the traditional circuits“, believes Ludovic Pont. The editor-in-chief of golf review does not necessarily see this project in a good light, in particular “for the very complicated geopolitical situation in Saudi Arabia”.
Ludovic Pont also fears seeing golf distorted by the proposed format. “The LIV tournaments will be played without ‘cut’, they will look more like big exhibitions than real competitions”he continues. In addition, the specialist mentions the amounts offered to players: “The last of each of these tournaments will be guaranteed to pocket 120,000 euros…”
On March 16, LIV used its finest iron to strike a blow by unveiling the dates of its calendar. The height tournaments (one in England, four in the United States, one in Thailand, one in Saudi Arabia and a last in a location to be determined) will be endowed with 25 million dollars each (about 23 million euros) for the participants . This is more than double compared to the endowments of the richest classic competitions. Importantly, the dates overlap with these. In short, the clash is inevitable.
“We must not forget that without the PGA Tour or the European Tour, there would not be all these champions that the LIV wants to snatch”gets carried away Pascal Grizot, the president of the French Golf Federation (FFG). “It is to despise all the substantive work that has been done upstream by these bodies.”
“The Saudis forget that golf is a traditional sport, based on codes. Some people think that money can break these codes, but I consider that to be a huge mistake.”Pascal Grizot, President of the French Golf Federation
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A huge moment of wavering descended on clubhouses around the world following the announcement in March. Then came an aftershock of the first earthquake on Sunday with Phil Mickelson’s announcement.
He had, however, sharply criticized the LIV before. “They’re frightening f… murderers, had thus uttered the Californian in a biography written by the journalist Alan Shipnuck. They killed the journalist Washington Postthey murder homosexuals. I can’t imagine for a moment studying their proposals.” After losing numerous sponsors, he went back on his rant by apologizing to Saudi Golf League officials.
By taking the decision to join the LIV, Mickelson intends to move the lines within a discipline that he considers padlocked by the PGA, in particular on the question of image rights. If this one “wanted to put an end to any threats, he would just have to give the players back their image rightshe explained to Golf Digest in February. But they’d rather throw away 25 million here and 40 million there than give back the roughly 20 billion digital assets they control, or give up the more than 50 million they make each year with their chain”.
Phil Mickelson also told the American newspaper Sports Illustrated (article in English) that he would line up at the next US Open, counting for the PGA Tour. Golfers involved in the dissident league will indeed be able to play this competition which is being held next week in Brookline (Massachusetts), the organizers of this Grand Slam tournament said in a press release on Tuesday.
While Tiger Woods was obviously approached, Norman told the Washington Post (in English)other stars have already chosen their side… If he had announced the opposite in February, theFormer world number 1 Dustin Johnson, winner of the US Open in 2016 and the Masters in 2020, was at the top last week of an initial list of 42 players participating in the inaugural tournament of the LIV, which will take place from 9 to June 11 at the Centurion Club in St Albans, north London. Other former Major winners are also there, such as the Spaniard Sergio Garcia or the Briton Ian Poulter. The PGA Tour has, in a statement, yet promised “disciplinary sanctions” against those who would participate in this new adventure.
For Ludovic Pont, these sanctions could range from“exclusions from a few months to lifelong suspensions”. But the PGA has yet to crack down. For the editor of golf reviewthe situation is not yet critical because these golfers “are second-class players or former very great glories on the return”. “Phil Mickelson is 51 years old and his career, great as it is, is behind him. There, he is guaranteed to receive a sum of several million dollars just for lining up for these tournaments. he was an employee of the LIV in the end. That must have made him think…”
In the end, and whatever the outcome of this showdown, the whole image of golf is likely to suffer. “For me, it’s a huge messregrets Pascal Grizot. The PGA Tour and the European Tour must also look in the mirror and find common ground to harmonize their competitions with those of the LIV. Otherwise, the risk is that we will still only talk about our sport through the prism of money. And the clichés about this discipline, which would only be reserved for the rich, will again rain down … This does nothing to help golf, which has done everything to democratize itself.