Golf controversy surrounding new LIV tour escalates


The LIV Golf tour takes place through June to October of this year

Katie Dikes

When the world of golf was first introduced to a new, unique and exciting tour called LIV Golf, it received mixed reactions. A handful of professional players on the PGA tour were immediately attracted to the new series of events and joined the LIV Golf tour instantly. Other professional golfers were and still are wary of the LIV Golf tour and have continued to play on the PGA tour.

The LIV Golf tour is a professional golf tour financed by the Public Investment Fund, which is the sovereign wealth of Saudi Arabia. According to Sports Illustrated, “the name LIV is a reference to the Roman numeral for 54, the score if every hole on a par-72 course were birdied and the number of holes to be played at all LIV events.” The LIV Golf tour states on their website that its mission is to “modernize and supercharge the game of professional golf through expanded opportunities” while also offering “an opportunity to reinvigorate golf through a structure that adds value to the entire sport while helping to bring new audiences to the game.”

The LIV Golf tour quickly snagged some well-known names. Players such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson are all members of the LIV Golf tour. Taking place from June to October of this year, LIV golf will host eight events throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. 

In the last few months, numerous lawsuits have been filed by LIV golf players against the PGA Tour and players on both sides are speaking out about the controversy surrounding them. The heat hasn’t died down yet, and as more players are leaving the PGA Tour to join the LIV Golf tour, things are far from over. 

Although this situation may just appear as a bunch of professional golfers joining another golf tour, there is more behind the story than most people think. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal a month ago, former President Donald Trump stated that LIV Golf has been “worth billions of dollars” in publicity for Saudi Arabia. His comments came the week during which his course, Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., hosted the third event series in the LIV Golf tour. 

Families of 9/11 victims, who were outraged when learning an LIV event would be held exactly 42.4 miles away from the site of the 9/11 attacks, actively protested the event in Bedminster, pointing to the fact that 15 out of the 19 attackers of the 9/11 attacks were citizens of Saudi Arabia (although the Saudi government denies involvement). Also, according to the New York Times, “the group of protestors urged golf fans to boycott LIV Golf and asked golfers to reconsider doing business with Saudi Arabia.” 

However, Rayna Mandadi (10, MST) a member of Manual’s girls golf team says “the fact that they’re Saudi Arabian shouldn’t contribute [to the controversy] because you can’t stereotype all Saudi Arabians for being terrorists.” 

Hannah Bynum (12, HSU), another member of the Manual’s girls golf team, also agrees, calling it “a bias that we don’t really need to pay attention to.” 

It has also been reported that numerous professionals were paid to join the LIV Golf tour to eventually recruit other players as well. According to Golf Monthly, former World No. 1 Dustin Johnson was reported to have been paid a guaranteed $125 million to join the LIV Golf tour. It has also been disclosed that Ian Poulter was paid between $20-30 million to join. 

Phil Mickelson’s name has also appeared in lots of headlines over LIV Golf: he was one of the first golfers to join the LIV Golf tour and was reportedly paid $200 million. Comments made by Mickelson to biographer Alan Shipnuck, published in Feb. 2022, were reportedly highly critical of the PGA Tour; he also called the Saudis “scary (obscenity) to be involved with” and questioned Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. However, he ended up defending LIV Golf: “I don’t condone human rights violations at all. I’m certainly aware of what has happened with Jamal Khashoggi [a journalist for the Washington Post who was murdered] and I think it’s terrible. I have also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history and I believe LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well.” He also received backlash for appearing to be more concerned about golf opportunities than human rights, but later apologized for the comments he made. 

Greg Norman, the CEO of LIV Golf, disclosed to the Washington Post that Tiger Woods was also approached to join the LIV Golf tour, but declined to join and turned down an offer that was “mind-blowingly enormous; we’re talking about high nine digits.” Weeks later,  Norman said Woods turned down an offer between $700-800 million. 

Woods is one of, if not, the most well-known name associated with golf. Regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time, with numerous wins and trophies under his belt, Woods has been very outspoken about the LIV Golf Tour, along with a few other professional golfers, such as Rory McIlroy and Louisville-native Justin Thomas. 

When asked about the golfers who decided to join the LIV Golf tour at a pre-press conference of the 2022 Open Championship, Woods stated “I disagree with it. I think that what they’ve done is they’ve turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.”

He also stated: “I know what the PGA Tour stands for and what we have done and what the tour has given us, the ability to chase after our careers…..” Woods has reportedly organized meetings with other players on the PGA and the PGA Tour itself, to work towards achieving new goals. 

With PGA Tour events still occurring, LIV golfers still want to participate in any events that take place. However, the PGA announced that its members who play in any “LIV Golf tour event could be sanctioned for playing in a conflicting event without their permission, which could result in fines, suspension [(which has already happened)], and even bans.” Numerous LIV golfers have already filed lawsuits against the PGA for not allowing them to participate in PGA Tour events. 

Jessica Schnur (12, HSU), also a member of Manual’s girls golf team can see why LIV players would still want to participate in these events, calling the PGA’s actions “a little much” while coming to the conclusion that “they [the golfers who joined LIV] shouldn’t be suspended.”

Mandadi also adds: “I think they [the PGA Tour] were a little harsh or overdone.” 

However, Bynum is “on the fence” about the PGA tour’s actions against the LIV golfers: “I kind of agree because if you are earning huge and large amounts of money to play, then you don’t really need to be playing in the PGA but it’s also kind of not fair [for the LIV golfers] because if they [the PGA tour] took away their opportunity to play in the PGA and they were working towards some kind of goal, then it can be really upsetting that they can’t play.” 

Other lawsuits also filed by players are against different sports broadcast companies, commentators, etc. One of the lawsuits filed by 11 players against the PGA Tour, claims that the tour “has also threatened companies and individuals in the golf and sports production industry that they will be blackballed from working with the tour if they work with LIV Golf.”

Whatever the turnout of everything that has happened, people will still have differing views on the LIV Golf Tour. Golf will always be golf to those who enjoy it, and golf fans will continue to watch the sport. The LIV Golf Tour’s final event series will be hosted at Trump National Doral in Miami from Oct. 27-30 of this year.