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LIV Golf: Mickelson, Johnson headline field for first event

LIV Golf: Mickelson, Johnson headline field for first event
Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are two of the biggest names playing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series’ opening event in London. (Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

LONDON (BVM) – After a lot of talk, controversy and drama, the debut of the LIV Golf Invitational Series is finally here. Playing both individually and as part of four-man teams, 48 players will tee it up at Centurion Club in London this week in what will be a unique and potentially groundbreaking moment in the sport.

How to watch

The opening round of LIV Golf’s first tournament begins on Thursday, June 9 at 2 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET). The tournament can be streamed Thursday-Saturday on LIVgolf.com, YouTube and Facebook.

The broadcast will be led by Arlo White, the voice of the Premier League and also recognizable from the AppleTV+ series “Ted Lasso.” He’ll be joined by Golf Channel/NBC Sports commentator Jerry Foltz, as well as Dom Boulet, Su-Ann Heng and Troy Mullins.

It is also expected to be a golf broadcast unlike most seen previously, featuring tracer technology, drones and over 60 microphones on the course, including players and caddies that will be mic’d up.

Who leads LIV Golf

While many have heard the chatter about the LIV series over recent months, exactly what to expect from the golf world’s newest venture is anyone’s guess. Simply put, the LIV Golf Invitational Series was created to compete with the PGA Tour, and is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. 

The idea of the new tour originally came about a few years ago, and last fall, the wheels were put into motion for the new “Super Golf League” as former major champion Greg Norman was named CEO of LIV Golf Investments.

It’s not the first time Norman has been at the head of a new league to rival the PGA Tour, either, as he attempted to start the World Golf League in 1994. While golf legend Jack Nicklaus was also sought after to head this new operation – reportedly turning down over $100 million to do so – Norman has fully taken the reins and has things ready to kick off.

Differences between LIV Golf and PGA Tour

In March, the LIV Golf Invitational Series announced an eight-tournament schedule for 2022 with total prize money of $255 million to be distributed across the events. The tournaments in the new series feature several differences from those of the PGA, as each event will feature three rounds and 54 holes (LIV is the roman numeral for 54 giving the new series its name) rather than 72, and feature a significantly smaller field of players with no cut, which the PGA Tour would customarily implement after the second round.

Another unique twist features golfers forming four-player teams each week who will also compete for cash prizes. Meanwhile, events will use a shotgun start, allowing all golfers to play simultaneously rather than starting their rounds consecutively throughout the day. 

The large prize money amount, new format and different rules have lured some players away from the PGA Tour already, and Norman hopes to have this league at a full operation a couple of years down the road, with more tournaments and perhaps even bigger names and prizes. 

LIV Golf schedule

But for now, things kick off in London on Thursday and will continue through the summer, as the series heads to the United States with tournaments at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland July 1-3, and Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, July 29-31. In September, additional events will be held at The International in Boston, Sept. 2-4 and Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago, Sept. 16-18. After taking the tour to Stonehill Golf Club in Bangkok, Oct. 7-9 and Royal Greens Golf Club in Jeddah, Oct. 14-16, the LIV Golf Invitational Series will return to the U.S. to conclude its inaugural season with a final event held at Trump National Doral in Miami, Oct. 28-30.

Each tournament will feature a $20 million purse for individual golfers and an additional $5 million for team awards, with the final event of the season having a $50 million prize pool. In comparison, this week’s PGA Tour event, the RBC Canadian Open, will feature a total purse of just under $9 million. 

Golfers joining the new series

While many have pledged their allegiance to the PGA Tour, several golfers have left golf’s main league for the uncharted waters of LIV Golf. Among those include Phil Mickelson, who has been at the forefront of the controversy surrounding the new entity.

That began in February, when author Alan Shipnuck released an excerpt from his new book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” that featured Mickelson talking about his fears and reservations of the Saudi regime, but also being unable to pass up on essentially sending a message to the PGA Tour.

With PGA Tour officials, his peers and his sponsors not too fond of the comments, Mickelson issued an apology and has not played golf since. However, one of the sport’s all-time greats is set to finally get back on the course again is one of many intriguing storylines this week when looking at the actual golf that will be played.

Another major storyline is perhaps the biggest name to join LIV Golf, a dominant golfer still arguably in his prime in Dustin Johnson, who signed a $125 million contract to join the new league. 

Johnson gave up his PGA Tour status to join LIV Golf, temporarily planning on only competing in the new series. DJ is not the only one to make that move so far, joining notable names like former major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia. Other past major champions in this week’s field include Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel, with Kevin Na, Talor Gooch, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Branden Grace and Bernd Wiesberger being some other notable names in the field golf fans may be familiar with.

Although they will not play this week, it was recently announced that Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler will all be joining the LIV circuit as well in its first U.S. event next month. 

PGA Tour’s reaction to LIV Golf

Impressively, the LIV Golf Invitational Series continues to reel in big names, much to the dismay of the PGA Tour. Many still have remained loyal to the tour like Rory McIlroy, PGA champion Justin Thomas and the sport’s biggest icon, Tiger Woods, who, according to Norman, turned down a high nine-figure deal to join LIV Golf.

The PGA Tour has fired back at players who might leave to play in the new golf league, turning down waivers players have submitted to leave and threatening to suspend or ban players who are joining LIV Golf. On Thursday morning, the PGA Tour officially suspended 17 of its players who are competing with LIV.

As a result, many players have simply resigned from the PGA Tour. However, many of those players are a bit older in age as the main tour has retained many of its young, up-and-coming stars thus far.

One of the potential reasons for that is possibly not being able to play in some of the world’s biggest events if leaving the tour. The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are two events golfers will not be eligible for if off of the PGA Tour. Also an uncertainty is whether or not players on the LIV Golf circuit will be allowed to play in majors.

Earlier this week, the USGA came out and said it will allow players who are playing with LIV to play in next week’s U.S. Open. 

However, this was a puzzling announcement to many, and may not be the case for other majors going forward. 

What’s next?

Simply put, the LIV Invitational Series has shaken up the golf world, and that may be part of the intention as it looks to eventually compete with the PGA Tour. No one is really sure what exactly will happen or how this new league will pan out, and it might be a while before that exact answer comes about. 

For now, LIV Golf continues to bring about more and more intriguing storylines, but come Thursday at the par-74, 7,000-plus yard Centurion Club, it should also bring some competitive golf between some of the top players in the world. Whether a player, tour official or fan, it is going to be interesting to sit back and watch how it all unfolds.