Backed by staggering money from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the new venture threatened to upset the traditional setting of golf, to which the PGA Tour hit back hard on Thursday, banning 17 of its players – including life members. Phil Mickelson – To Share.
LIV Golf’s statement in response to the punishment that was imposed was nothing but an ominous omen.
“The era of free agency has begun,” she said.
Thanks to the funding behind it, the wave of superstars who signed up and the lengths of the new tour to attract fans, on the floor in St. Albans sure looks like the start of something, not a flash in the pan.
A few meters away from a huge pub and loud music playing in the background, a group of young people try their hand at challenging setting for an all-expenses-paid trip to Miami while two performers clad on stilts and dressed in traditional 19th century British attire, pose for photos with Fans are waiting to try their hand.
A few meters away, the main winners Mickelson and Dustin Johnson compete. The LIV Golf Series definitely makes noise.
It took a few years to get to this point, but, in front of former world number one Greg Norman and with a staggering amount of money behind him – including $250 million in prize money – the new golf league is here.
It did not come without its bumps in the road. Warnings about existing tours – the PGA Tour and DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) – have come and gone, while many players have expressed reluctance to abandon prominent golf institutions and disappointment in their teammates over the departure.
“I came to watch the golfers,” James Bowman said. “I follow golf, so I came to see some of the best golfers in the world. I appreciate the problems involved but, personally, it’s not for me.
“I am in favor of more rounds. I think more opportunities for more people to watch more golf. This is the closest major golf event ever to my home, so I think it is a good opportunity for more people to watch golf.”
Another told CNN that he believes that while the PGA Tour has been “awesome” for the game, golfers are “independent contractors” and should be able to ply their trade however and wherever they want.
“Golf, but louder”
A row of black cabs sit idle waiting to transfer a selection of golf’s biggest names to their tees to start the gun – all competitors start at the same time – another change has been implemented to make the product more appealing to the masses.
Despite the staggering sums of money behind it, it’s not all so charming for a 48-man stadium where they sit and wait crammed into the back of taxis along with their bags.
As golf’s most ambitious project approaches its inception, onlookers are bombarded with an array of sights and sounds.
There is a flyover from some old planes and trumpets blasting from some members of the British Army squad. They are even treated to seeing Greg Norman who came to witness the opening.
It also erected its slogan: “Golf but louder”.
And at around 2:15pm UK time, they were finally ready to go.
Hundreds of fans gather around the first drop-off to watch Mickelson, Johnson and Scott Vincent take off. However, in the rest of the course, the story is quite different. Mickelson and Johnson in the first game are a clear draw for the fans. But for the other players who started with different games, it was a lot quieter.
“Exactly where I started, I was standing on the third tee box for 10 minutes, and no one was there with me,” Charles Schrzel said after the first round. “And eventually, I took out my phone and was calling Graeme (McDowell). So I said, ‘Graeme, dude, where are you?'” Am I in the right tee box? “
“This made it very different for me than what I was used to announcing on my first tee.”
Ticket sales for the event were slow, with players offering hundreds of fans the chance to win free tickets to attend. The tournament has a maximum limit of 8000 tickets per day and official ticket sales numbers have not been released.
It’s hard to say if there were nearly 8,000 fans in attendance, but everyone is in high spirits, especially being able to see game legends like Mickelson work his magic. He met him with his usual chant like “Veil”! He makes his way around the course.
Between its fan zone, team form, number of tours and concerts after the tour, the organizers tried to pull out all the stops to attract a wide demographic. But not everyone liked it.
For Paul Stubbens, who says he’s attended the US Openings, PGA Championships and attended the Masters, the “immersive” fan zone may not be as special as he had expected.
“It’s cool, but it’s no different than a PGA,” he said. “It’s no different. In fact, I might have expected more from this.”
Just when it looked like golf might become the main story, the PGA Tour dropped the hammer, handing suspensions to 17 players to play in the LIV Golf Series, minutes into Thursday’s opening round.
Several affected players were questioned immediately after the tour, with some, like Mickelson, preferring not to comment, while others were only finding out at the time and there.
Just meters from the mixed zone where Mickelson was being questioned, golf author and journalist Alan Shipnock – who quoted the six-time main winner about possibly joining the LIV Golf Series, made derogatory comments about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and underscored the kingdom. He was responsible for the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi over his upcoming book, which led to the golfer taking a break from the sport – as he was asked to leave the building.
Norman said he hadn’t heard, before Shipnuck responded with a screenshot of the video with Norman looking at the accident in the background.
“You can’t make this difficult! I texted Greg Norman before someone sent me this video – I had no idea he was stalking me,” he wrote on Twitter.
The incident wasn’t the charming end to the day the LIV Golf Series wanted – and there will be more uncomfortable questions to come – but the new golf competition seems to live up to its mantra.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”