The first LIV Golf Invitational series is set to kick off this week from the Centurion Club in London, marking the first true test of the new controversial Saudi Arabian-backed golf venture.
Though the new tour has had plenty of controversy and struggles getting off the ground, CEO Greg Norman managed to lure several big names away from the PGA Tour in time for this week’s 54-hole event.
Here’s everything you need to know for the opening LIV Golf tournament.
How to watch
The event won’t be available on TV anywhere, but it is going to be streamed for free both on LIV Golf’s YouTube and Facebook pages and on LIVGolf.com.
Coverage is set to begin Thursday at 9 am ET.
LIV Golf has hired Arlo White as its lead broadcaster. White, the former Premier League play-by-play announcer, will be joined by Jerry Foltz and Dom Boulet on the call. Su-Ann Heng and Troy Mullins will contribute from on the course, too.
Who is playing?
There are several big names set to play in the opening event this week.
Dustin Johnson is perhaps the biggest name in the field. Johnson, who is currently ranked No. 15 in the world, is reportedly being paid more than $100 million to compete outside of the PGA Tour. He’s by far the highest-ranked player in the field, and he officially left the PGA Tour on Tuesday.
Phil Mickelson is set to make his return to golf this week, too. He announced Monday that he will play at the Centurion Club, which will be his first time back in competitive golf after his controversial comments about the league and Saudi Arabia. He also opened up about his “reckless” gambling addiction.
Kevin Na became the first PGA Tour player to officially leave the Tour in favor of LIV Golf. Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Talor Gooch are the other notable Tour players set to play. Brooks Koepka’s brother, Chase, is also in the field.
Tiger Woods was apparently offered a deal in the “high nine figures” to play, but he turned them down.
The full field can be found here.
How do the teams work?
The 48-man field will be split into 12 four-man teams. There is no cut, and the group will begin with a shotgun start.
The best two scores over the first two rounds will count for each team, and then the best three scores will count in the final round. Then, the team with the lowest overall score wins. The individual who scores the lowest will also win.
Even though there is a team format for each event, players are still scored individually in a stroke play format.
Who are the team captains?
Team captains were announced on Tuesday, along with their, well, unique team names.
4 Aces – Dustin Johnson
Niblicks – Graeme McDowell
Majestics – Ian Poulter
Iron Heads – Kevin Na
Stinger – Louis Oosthuizen
Cleeks – Martin Kaymer
Crushers – Peter Uihlein
Hy Flyers – Phil Mickelson
Fireballs – Sergio Garcia
Smash – Sihwan Kim
Torque – Talor Gooch
Punch – Wade Ormsby
How much does the winning team make?
Each regular season LIV Golf event has a purse of $25 million.
$5 million of that will be split between the top three teams, with the top team receiving $3 million. The remaining $20 million will be split individually, with the first place winner earning $4 million and the last place finisher receiving $120,000.
By comparison, The Players Championship offers a purse of $20 million — which is the most in any single event on PGA Tour outside of the Tour Championship.
Controversy surrounding LIV Golf
There has been plenty of controversy surrounding the new golf series, starting most notably with Mickelson’s comments earlier this year.
Mickelson, in comments he made in an interview for a book, called the Saudi Arabians “scary motherf***ers” but still said he was willing to overlook their horrific crimes and human rights abuses — including the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi . He eventually apologized, and then stepped away from golf for months.
Norman has made several controversial comments about the league, too. He downplayed Khashoggi’s killing by saying, “We’ve all made mistakes.”
“I’m not in this thing for Khashoggi or anything like that,” he told The Washington Post this month. “I’m in here because of the game of golf. That’s what I care about. If I focus on the game of golf and don’t get dragged into this other stuff, that’s my priority.”
Plenty of players have lost sponsorships for their involvement. Westwood was dropped by UPS, for example, and Johnson was dropped by the Royal Bank of Canada.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of “sportswashing” in recent years in an attempt to cover up crimes and other abuses. LIV Golf is a blatant example of that, while others are more subtle.
Though there’s no debating that’s happening here, at least one golfer pushed back on that notion on Tuesday — though he also insisted that he wasn’t the smartest person to be talking about the subject.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Gooch said when asked about being part of sportswashing, via ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg. “Also… I’m a golfer. I’m not that smart. I try to hit a golf ball into a small hole. Golf is hard enough. I try to worry about golf, and I’m excited bout this week .”
McDowell had a similar answer when he was asked specifically about crimes that Saudi Arabia has committed.
“I wish I had the ability to have that conversation with you,” McDowell said. “I think as golfers if we tried to cure geopolitical situations in every country in the world that we play golf in, we wouldn’t play a lot of golf.”
The PGA Tour has been very against the league, too, and commissioner Jay Monahan has threatened players with the loss of their Tour card if they participate. It’s unclear what punishment he will hand down, if at all. Should players lose their Tour cards, they could still be able to participate in major championships — as those are operated outside of the Tour — but that is up to the individual tournament organizers.
The PGA Tour is holding the RBC Canadian Open opposite of the first LIV Golf event this week.