LIV and PGL suffer from the same problem in effort to disrupt the PGA Tour: Who trusts these guys?

There are a lot of words that matter in the latest missive from one-half of the competing pair of PGA Tour disruptors, but if you were blindly believing that the PGL is a far more wholesome alternative to the LIV golf experience, then let these be a clue: “LIV’s superb format (based on our own, very original, PGL format) …”

That, from the memo the PGL sent to PGA Tour players and was subsequently leaked to multiple outlets, is all you need to know here. The PGL’s problem with LIV is not that it’s a Saudi-backed organization that is creating a professional golf league out of a naked attempt at sportswashing. It’s that LIV was once PGL, or PGL was once LIV (this part can be quite confusing), a dual effort to make large buckets of money and also, yes, sportswash. Then they broke up, LIV snapped up Greg Norman, man of no shame, and Phil Mickelson, man of ever-decreasing shame, and went about scheduling events, without locking down small details like “committed players” and “TV/streaming contracts. ”

Both of these competitors have identified professional golf as a money-making opportunity, which is a totally valid conclusion. There’s lots of cash in golf, and the sport lends itself to a demographic that every advertiser would envy. And they’ve identified an actual problem — the PGA Tour schedule is bloated, and local event organizers have a real problem marketing their tour stop when they cannot reliably say who is showing up until the week of. It may be Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth, but yeah, it could also be Abraham Acer and Tyrell Hatton. But buy your tickets now.

It’s just that, while it feels like these supposed disruptors are coming at this with all kinds of Kendall Roy energy, they may, in fact, be closer to the schmucks next to Kendall, telling him that he’s full of great ideas, that he should just keep going. They don’t inform, they reinforce, they tell him those outside voices “just don’t see your vision.” Even if these guys make a point, that professional golf is ripe for innovation, they’re also exactly the type that makes the PGA Tour’s braintrust seem loveable again. This is blood money and hucksters trying to convince us they’re noble, and not just seeking to fatten their own bank accounts.

Example: If you’re in London next month and have $85 a day for a grounds pass, you can see Lee Wewood and Richard Bland play in the first LIV event. You can even spend thousands of dollars for “Club 54” access, promising, among other things, a top-shelf open bar, reserved seating at select greens and, we kid you not, private bathrooms. “All bangers, all the time,” right? Make sure you stop by the gift suite.

LIV has at least gotten this far. PGL’s Andy Gardiner, the face and voice of the organization at this point, comes out every few months, promising an 18-event schedule with team play and major equity for the players. The memo indicates the PGL believes it is capable of generating $10 billion in value, a comically large number for a group that, to date, has not managed to secure any public player interest or be anything more than an idea written down on a whiteboard somewhere and spoken repeatedly in podcast form.

What the author of the memo forgets is that millionaire professional athletes are unlikely to be bullied into doing what you beg of them, and that taking a run at the universally respected Rory McIlroy does even less for your cause.

The LIV series will happen, and its success or failure will ultimately be determined by whether it’s able to ever secure consistent participation from the biggest names in the world. Given the amount who have pledged their loyalty to the PGA Tour, that feels unlikely in the short term. The bet is surely that the bigger names will take out of the lesser names cashing large checks, and want in on the action.

But the reason why the Tour has always had the upper hand here is that it’s easy to do nothing, to go along with what you’ve been doing, and that has to be attractive to the biggest names men’s golf. This is a generation after all that has made comfort a key part of its lifestyle. There will be adjustments — the PIP was a start, and it’s easy to see sliding-scale appearance fees that would at least cover costs for players that miss the cut coming soon. And the PGA Tour should think outside the box, condensing its schedule — skipping weeks in between majors where the fields are softest, and revamping the fall series entirely. It should be easier for young players coming from the Korn Ferry Tour to get and keep their PGA Tour cards, and not as easy for the fringe to keep their cards for years on end. Not every week has to be a 72-hole stroke-play event, as the success of the WGC-Dell Match Play proves.

But does anyone actually want LIV or PGL to run professional golf? Of course not. Nothing about any of this has suggested the capability to run much more than a launch party.

Or maybe write a strongly-worded letter.

(Photo of Greg Norman: Oisin Keniry / Getty Images)

.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: