LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded golf league, is dominating the news in golf and dividing the world of professional golf. Top PGA Tour stars such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey and others, were lured to the upstart league for unprecedented amounts of cash.
Mickelson reportedly inked a deal for $200 million to play in the LIV Series. Johnson was offered a reported $125 million; DeChambeau, a guaranteed $100 million or more. Greg Norman, who heads up LIV Golf, said Tiger Woods turned down between $700–800 million to join LIV Golf.
In addition to guaranteed appearance fee contracts, players are vying for $225 million in prize money over eight events this year. The season finale (the eighth event) is taking place at Trump National Doral in Miami, October 27–30, and will pay out $50 million in prize money.
All 48 players, in the 54-hole, no cut, shotgun start events, earn prize money, no matter how they play and how they finish. Everyone is guaranteed to make at least six figures.
The player who finishes in last place, makes $120,000. Henrik Stenson, who won the LIV Golf Invitational at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey in July, took home the first place prize money of $4 million. Matthew Wolff and Dustin Johnson, who tied for 2nd place, earned $1,812,500 and so on down the line.
They also have team competitions with lucrative prize money and at Bedminster, the winning 4 Aces Team of Taylor Gooch, Dustin Johnson, Pat Perez and Patrick Reed, split the top team prize of $3 million.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan issued indefinite suspensions to the PGA Tour members playing in the LIV Golf events and 11 LIV Golf players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour which could take years to settle. The lines have been drawn between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. The legal fight has begun.
And most people have an opinion about LIV Golf and whether they have an issue with the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund bankrolling it, the same government that has a history of human rights violations, oppression, violence and murder. Family members of victims from the 9/11 terrorist attacks have protested and spoken out against LIV Golf, saying the Saudis are “sportswashing.”
Recently, I connected with several former NFL and MLB players and broadcasters who gathered to play in the 40th Annual Marty Lyons Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. Here’s what they had to say about LIV Golf.
What They’re Saying About LIV Golf
Marty Lyons, member of famed NY Jets Sack Exchange, founder of Marty Lyons Foundation: “I can understand why people are wanting to go over there, to make that amount of money, but for someone like myself, the PGA Tour has always been a special place for me to watch players, see players grow and be a professional athlete.
It’s everyone’s own individual choice so I’m not here to condemn them or condone it. Each individual has to do what they feel is right. Coming from New York, I know what 9/11 meant to all of us, we lost all those people so, for myself, you couldn’t pay me enough to go over to LIV.”
Art Shamsky, member of 1969 World Series winning Mets: “I’m sorry to see this happening in the world of golf because golf seems to be the one sport that didn’t have a lot of controversy. But on one side, these guys are independent contractors. And I can see where they want to protect their families and everything and make as much money as they can.
And the other side of it, I understand that the world of competition and the way the PGA Tour is set up, how important it is for them to have some semblance of order. Just hope it gets resolved, because I love golf and I love watching it … I can understand the one side of it with the guys taking all that money but the political side of it is very difficult for people to understand. The world of golf is now an upside-down world, unfortunately.”
Bob Wischusen, Jets Play-by-Play Announcer: “As a golf fan, I’m not a fan of LIV Golf. The societal argument aside, whether you can lay your head down on the pillow at night, knowing where the money that you’re taking is coming from, that’s a separate argument. But to me, just as a fan of the sport, golf is about the grind. It’s about wanting to grind it out even when you’re 10 shots off the lead to make cuts, to continue practicing and get better.
“And if you’re guaranteed $125,000 to come in last, where is the incentive for guys who already have $200 million in the bank before they even tee it up to keep trying to be the best in the world? So, I think it’s just bad for the sport and I hope the PGA Tour is able to survive it. As a broadcaster, if offered the opportunity, knowing where the money is coming from, I’m not going to broadcast that. To each his own. If you’re a player and you can lay your head down on the pillow at night, knowing that’s where the money is coming from, that’s on you. It wouldn’t be me.”
Fred Cambria, former MLB player with the Pirates: “I would never go. What they did to us, years ago, killing us. This is the American republic. The PGA Tour treats these guys really well and there is no reason to jump for the money and defame our country.”
Rick Cerone, former MLB catcher: “I think it’s great for the players. They get a little bit older. It’s a chance for them to be in a free agent market. It reminds me of when baseball was a monopoly for all those years before Marvin Miller and free agency came in. I think it’s a great opportunity for all golfers. And I think it’s going to make the PGA better … I don’t care (where the money comes from).
“Do we not, as Americans, do business with Saudi Arabia? Let’s not be a hypocrite because that’s what people are these days in everything. Pete Rose is not allowed to get into the Hall of Fame because of gambling, but yet, Major League Baseball will take in billions of dollars on gambling revenue. So let’s stop the garbage. It’s an opportunity for players and I’m 100 percent behind it.”
John Nitti, former NY Jets: “I can certainly see why people don’t support it and I would tend to side with them verses the players who decided to play LIV Golf. To me, the PGA Tour is the PGA Tour, how do you go against that?”
Greg Buttle, former LB, NY Jets, Jets Broadcaster: “Love it! Love the whole idea. It’s competitive, and I don’t know why anyone is complaining. It doesn’t matter where the money is coming from. You can’t pick and choose what you think is right and wrong based on whether it’s golf or Hollywood or it’s corporate or it’s business. Give the guys a chance. It’s an opportunity for these guys to become rich. What’s wrong with that?”
Ann Liguori is a trailblazer in sports broadcasting. You can hear her “Talking Golf” show on Sundays, 7–8 a.m., on WFAN-NY, her “Sports Innerview” show on Saturdays, 7–8 a.m. on WLIW 88.3 FM, and her weekly podcasts on SI Golf/Morning Read. For more info on Liguori, visit annliguori.com.