The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament is now finally in the books and the week at Centurion probably couldn’t have gone any better for Greg Norman’s start-up.
LIV managed to entice Dustin Johnson over to the Series at the last-minute before Phil Mickelson confirmed he’d be teeing it up even later after taking the final spot in the 48-man field. The field was headlined by DJ, Mickelson, Garcia, Westwood, Poulter, Oosthuizen and eventual winner Charl Schwartzel, who woke up $4.75m richer on Sunday morning following his individual and team victory.
LIV Golf will be incredibly happy as the week went, you’d think, with decent crowd numbers, good weather for England and a big name Major-winning champion. The additions of Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Pat Perez only strengthen the Series as it continues this year and with the huge backing of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, you feel that more big names could be on their way over to LIV.
“I definitely see other top players watching on this week and wanting to be a part of it,” Ian Poulter said. And he’s probably right.
The new 54-hole, shotgun start format promised to be different and it certainly delivered as a TV product. More shots shown, no adverts (yet) and all players starting and finishing at the same time. There was no ‘Rory McIlroy doesn’t tee off for another 2 hours so let’s watch the early starters’, it was just golf shot after golf shot, something that the PGA Tour could learn a thing or two from. The numbers appear to be very promising too. On YouTube, the final round stream had 775k views, the final round highlights were viewed 320,000 times and the LIV Golf channel has amassed over 3m views in just five days.
The field strength certainly isn’t there yet and that won’t come as a huge shock or disappointment to Norman, but give it a few more events and even a year or two and there’s certainly scope for LIV Golf to have a product and roster to seriously shout about.
The Series desperately needs to be sanctioned by the Official World Golf Ranking, though, and there’s an application in for that now according to reports. Without world ranking points, the Series does and will continue to feel like an exhibition. It may struggle to attract all of its targets without OWGR sanctioning because as much money motivates golfers, the Majors are still the four biggest events in the men’s game. A key takeaway from last week was that the four Majors have got even stronger now, as they’ll be the only four events of the year where the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood et al compete against their PGA Tour counterparts.
LIV Golf players will be at this week’s US Open and they’ll almost certainly be at next month’s 150th Open, too, before The Masters and PGA of America finalize their decisions next year. The PGA Tour won’t be too happy about LIV Golf players teeing it up in the Majors and there is surely more to come with the DP World Tour currently remaining silent, the Ryder Cup status of LIV players still unknown and the prospect of legal action .
One thing is for certain and that is that the PGA Tour sees LIV Golf as a serious threat. The Tour has suspended all LIV players but Jay Monahan will be overjoyed with the RBC Canadian Open. It got off to a terrible start with (now former) RBC ambassadors Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell jumping ship but it ended with a stunning final round where Justin Rose narrowly missed out on a 59 and Rory McIlroy took down Justin Thomas and Tony Finau in the final group.
The Canadian fans, starved of their National Open for two years through the pandemic, were incredible, with chants of ‘Rory, Rory, Rory!’ throughout and the electric ‘Rink’ par-3 16th hole offering up a superb atmosphere.
“What an epic day. Battling it out against the best at an amazing venue, and even better atmosphere is exactly why I’ve always wanted to play on the @pgatour growing up,” Justin Thomas posted after, with Rory McIlroy firing back at Greg Norman, who called him “brainwashed”, after his 21st PGA Tour win – taking him one ahead of the Shark. “One more than someone else,” McIlroy joked after the winning putt went in.
A crazy week in golf is now over and both Greg Norman, with his debut LIV Golf event in the bag, and Jay Monahan, with Rory and JT fully on side, will be reasonably happy with how it went.