LIV Golf has been accused of being nothing more than the latest effort by the Gulf state to clean up, or sportswash, its image. Nevertheless, this is how the Saudis sparked a Golf Civil War.

How The Saudis Sparked Golf Civil War

Following the establishment of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series to compete with the PGA Tour, a civil war has erupted in the golf world, with charges that the money-spinning series, which has snatched numerous top players, is merely the latest high-profile case of sportswashing.

Numerous issues linger, though, about the new series’ influence, whether it can coexist with the PGA Tour – or whether it will contaminate the game by isolating a large number of the world’s best players.

What is the LIV Golf Invitational Series, exactly?

Speculation about a PGA Tour challenger initially surfaced in 2019, but the speculations gained traction late last year when LIV Golf Investments was created with financial backing from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the same entity that just acquired Premier League side Newcastle United.

They acted quickly to invest $300 million in the venture and name golf legend Greg Norman as CEO. The PGA Tour was unimpressed and warned players who switched to the new series with a lifetime penalty in March.

LIV Golf forged through with its intentions, announcing the itinerary for an eight-event series worth a remarkable $225 million that will kick off on Thursday in the United Kingdom.

Which golfers are you most likely to see compete?

Despite the PGA Tour’s and Official Golf World Ranking’s protests (which stated that ranking points will not be issued at LIV Golf events), some high-profile players have reaffirmed their attendance.

Former world number one Dustin Johnson is among them, as are Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, and Lee Westwood, the well-known European trio.

Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, and Louis Oosthuizen, all major winners on the PGA Tour, will compete, as will Phil Mickelson, who recently drew widespread criticism after a book author asserted that Mickelson told him that he was inclined to disregard Saudi Arabia’s dubious human rights record in order to compete.

What is the source of the series’ controversies?

LIV Golf has been accused of being nothing more than the latest effort by the Gulf state to clean up, or sportswash, its image. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has made a concentrated attempt to host major athletic events or invest in projects such as Newcastle United’s.

The kingdom has hosted high-profile boxing events and organized its maiden Formula 1 Grand Prix last year, much of which was done under the shadow of Western media scandal due to events involving the Saudi Arabian authorities, such as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Greg Norman, on the other hand, has refuted these accusations, saying that Saudi Arabia is “changing their culture within their country.”

What will the LIV Golf events entail?

In a typical style, 48 players will compete against one another, but there will also be a draft to assign players to ‘teams.’ The inaugural tournaments will have a prize pool of $25 million, with $20 million going to players based on their finishes and $5 going to the top three teams at the end of a match week.

The victor of a competition will receive $4 million, which is significantly more than the $2.7 million awarded to The Masters victor. For completing 54 holes, each player will get $120,000.

At the conclusion of the tournaments, a winner will be crowned, with $30 million going to the top three players who have competed in at least four tournaments.

The prize pool will be doubled for the season finale in Miami, with a total of $50 million up for grabs for the 12 four-man teams.

Where are the events taking place?

The first event, which took place this week in the United Kingdom, will be trailed by five more in the United States and two in Asia.

They also intend to add more events starting in 2023, with ten scheduled for that year and fourteen for 2024. The exact locations of these potential tournaments have yet to be divulged, though two of Donald Trump’s golf facilities are on the schedule for the inaugural season.

Norman, the group’s CEO, is optimistic that the new series would provide players more options when it comes to determining their career pathways and financial possibilities, and he cautioned the PGA Tour in a news statement that the established order has been irreversibly altered.

“We have a long-term vision and we’re here to stay,” said the former world number one.

“We’re going to grow the game, give more opportunities to players, and create a more entertaining product for fans.”

So far, what’s been the fallout?

One of the biggest stars to convert to LIV Golf, Dustin Johnson, inflamed relations with the PGA Tour when he seemed to breach his agreement and join the breakout group. The former world number one will no longer be allowed to compete in competitions like the Ryder Cup.

“For right now, I’ve resigned my membership on the tour and I’m going to play [LIV] for now,” Johnson remarked. “That’s the plan.”

Johnson added of his previous indication that he was rejecting LIV Golf’s efforts, “At that time, I was committed to playing the PGA Tour.”

How The Saudis Sparked Golf Civil War 2
Johnson (R) and Phil Mickelson have defended their involvement in the tour. © Aitor Alcalde / LIV Golf / Getty Images

“I’m very thankful for the PGA Tour and everything it’s done for me. I’ve done pretty well out there for the last 15 years. But this is something that was best for me and my family. It’s something exciting and something new.”

Tiger Woods, who claimed he rejected down a ‘nine-figure sum’ to leave the PGA Tour in favor of the new series, was evidently not convinced by the financial enticement.

Furthermore, Phil Mickelson was questioned by the media on Wednesday regarding his choice to sign up despite ongoing allegations of Saudi human rights violations.

“I don’t condone human rights violations at all. I’m certainly aware of what has happened with Jamal Khashoggi 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,” Mickelson stated, evidently agreeing with the LIV Golf PR line despite earlier labeling Saudi Arabia’s leadership “scary motherf***ers.”

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