The controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments has announced an expanded tournament schedule for 2023 and the launch of a new global league.
LIV Golf said it would build on this year’s eight-event Invitational Series by introducing the LIV Golf League, which will see 40 players and 12 teams compete across 14 tournaments.
The firm has not released details of where and when the tournaments will take place but confirmed they will not clash with other golf majors, international team events, or heritage events to ensure players “will always be able to make their own choice about where to play.”
The tournaments, slated to take place around the world, will offer a total prize purse of $405 million, a sizeable increase from the $225 million offered this year.
In addition, next year will see the introduction of promotion and relegation as a means to refresh the player pool and create a more league-based series. Players relegated from the LIV Golf League will be placed into the International Series – seemingly a continuation and renamed version of this year's Invitational Series – which will have several events around the world.
LIV said each of the teams in the top league will have a designated captain who will be exempt from relegation along with other high-profile players under certain contracts, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, ad Bryson DeChambeau.
Greg Norman, LIV Golf chief executive and commissioner, said: “LIV Golf’s expanding global platform will add a new dimension to the golf ecosystem as we know it, one that provides an opportunity for players and fans around the world to help maximize our beloved sport’s true potential.
“Our franchise model will bring new energy and excitement to fans from all corners of the world, establishing a league of teams to connect and grow with.
“The International Series will attract new talent and offer unprecedented pathways that develop the next generation of stars.
“LIV Golf is committed to making sustainable investments that grow the game now and for the future, and we are proud to turn these dreams into a reality.”
According to Front Office Sports, LIV Golf is also offering ‘principal players’ equity in their teams as a further financial incentive to lure them from the PGA Tour.
The move means the players will potentially receive revenue and profits as their teams begin selling corporate sponsorships and ownership stakes.
The announcement came days before LIV Golf stages its third event in the US township of Bedminster, New Jersey, starting tomorrow (July 19) and ending on Sunday (July 31), which has been clouded by allegations of sportswashing by the series’ owner, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Despite the criticism, the series has welcomed new entrants, including 22-year PGA Tour veteran Charles Howell III, Paul Casey, and Jaso Kokrak, who have all departed the PGA Tour to play in the Bedminster event. Former president Donald Trump and his son will also tee up in Thursday’s pro-am.
Speaking to media ahead of the event, Casey said he and other players were excited by next year’s format and the introduction of promotion and relegation.
He said: “Its [promotion/relegation] also more incentive to keep playing well, but also for other players to play their way on.
“This relegation, by the way, it’s real. With the PGA Tour, at times you can still fall to 126 or 150 [in world rankings], you can fall to past champion, and play x-number of times. This goes to zero. To me, I think it’s more of a relegation in golf than we’ve seen before.”
Addressing his decision to leave the PGA Tour and the sport’s current turmoil, Casey said: “None of us are intending to damage golf or damage the [PGA] Tour. I’m a guy who’s sat on the European Player Committee for many years, I’ve sat on the Player Advisory Council for many years. In fact, I retired and then they asked me to come back because of my input.
“I know the fabric of this game pretty well on the inside, on the Tour level. At no time have I ever tried to damage the Tour in the decisions that I’ve made. If it’s damaged, I think questions have to be asked somewhere else.”
LIV Golf represents a threat to existing golf series like the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) due in large part to the unprecedented prize money it can offer.
Those two tours have banned players who appear in LIV events and have strengthened their strategic alliance through a new 13-year operational joint venture partnership.
The new schedule announcement also comes as the National Press Club [NPC], the US-based professional organization and community for journalists, launched a scathing attack on LIV Golf Investments and its partners, urging others not to do business with the series due to Saudi Arabia's role in the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In the statement, issued on Tuesday (July 26), NPC president Jen Judson called LIV Golf an exercise in sportswashing the murder of Khashoggi. She also accused Trump, whose company owns the Bedminster course, of bragging about “distracting Congress from the murder” and his son-in-law of accepting $2 billion from Saudi Arabia.
The statement concluded by noting that LIV is looking for representation by a public relations firm and urged firms to reject the “blood money.”