LIV and let LIV?

This year has been a roller coaster for so many different reasons. Will Tiger finally retire, or is he going to prove everyone wrong and win another major? Will Bryson learn distance isn’t the only priority, or can he come back from injury? The biggest question in golf this year is, can LIV and the PGA coexist?

From the first event hosted by the Centurion Club in London, the LIV has caused a stir unheard of in the traditionally boring PGA tour. Shotgun starts, concerts, and a merchant village more at home at a music festival, not the elite old-timer sport of golf. The LIV tour has taken what used to be a singular event, The Waste Management Phoenix Open, and made it the norm for its tour.

For a little more than half the price of your average PGA event, you can go to a world-class course, Portland’s Pumpkin Ridge, when LIV initially came to the states, and the whole day costs less than the amount of PGA tickets alone. As someone who enjoys golf enough to make a career of it, this is enough of a reason to support the tour, and the quality of golf has improved every event, even rivaling the DP World Tour and PGA.

For most of us, every time we plan a trip, our budget becomes the lynchpin of that planning. It’s always less expensive without the children, but who will watch them? If you bring the children along, it could be a lifetime memory that could inspire a child to be the next Tiger Woods, or you’ve just added several mouths to feed $20 hamburgers.

The General Manager at Tulare Golf Course has been to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am multiple times and is kind enough to bring merch back to some of us at the golf course. A polo that costs $80 here in Tulare has a price tag of $120 with the Pebble Beach logo.

The LIV tour has begun to collect the world’s best golfers, either by being a quality tour with high payouts or buying the player through high-dollar contract negotiations. After the London event, the inaugural opportunity to make a splash, multiple players complimented the tour, course, and organization. The media coverage, predominantly on YouTube, was at least as good as NBC/Golf Channel, possibly even better. If your budget allows for using the best possible of all things, you can make the first event a world-class event.

The continued improvement of each event makes me believe that LIV is the real thing. After every event, there is a new major signing. The week after the 150th Open, Henrik Stenson, a major winner and all-around great guy announced he had signed with the LIV tour. Almost immediately, the Ryder Cup unceremoniously stripped him of his position as Captain.

If you are one of the best players on the planet and, by all standards, an upstanding person, how can you be punished for just wanting to play golf and make money before retiring? Henrik is in the twilight of his top-tier golf career. The odds of another major are remote, so why wouldn’t he get a contract and be paid every time he plays? Especially after having a couple of events go by and listening to friends tell the world how well organized and friendly the LIV tour is.

Unfortunately, the PGA has drawn a line in the sand, and everyone else is starting to follow suit. If you sign with the LIV tour, you can guarantee you won’t be able to play any PGA-sanctioned event. They are also letting every partner know an association with LIV will be punitive. So much so that Bridgestone golf recently severed its second most lucrative relationship.

Bryson Dechambeau, the king of distance, is no longer a brand ambassador. Per their press release, their relationship with the PGA is more valuable than any single golfer. At no point did Bridgestone say that the PGA was leveraging them, but to my mind, it’s very likely.

Great golf courses, equipment companies, and golfers all have to decide if they can “afford” to play LIV or host the next tournament. Imagine a bunch of stuffy old elites telling you that you do not get to live your dream. The idea that going on a tour that guarantees prize money makes you a pariah.

This attitude is the opposite of how the PGA, DP World Tour, and other “traditional” tours should behave. They are Kodak and IBM, believing they are at the top of the mountain and can’t be knocked off. Jim Richerson, President of the PGA, admits they don’t have the finances to compete with the Saudi-backed LIV tour, so their apparent tact is to leverage their partners against the players.

This tactic hasn’t worked in the history of sports. Players in the NFL, NBA, and others have taken control of their leagues. I admit it hasn’t always been for the product’s benefit; however, if you see a train coming, it’s best not to stand on the tracks.

Without a solid reason to avoid the LIV, I say competition is healthy, and if you are worried about losing market share, then get good kid! I love the short time provided by a shotgun start, the YouTube coverage, and the quality of play is “on par” with any tour on the planet.