RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: As its first season draws to a close, expect LIV to continue poaching the world’s top golfers in 2023 with Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott and Thomas Pieters all on target
- LIV’s inaugural season concluded in Miami, Florida over the weekend
- The breakaway tour is constantly looking to add more new talent to its roster
- The 2023 season will feature an expanded format with an additional six events
- The tour needs to secure world ranking points to cement its sporting legitimacy
In a blaze of extravagance, at a course owned by Donald Trump, a gaudy curtain came down on LIV’s inaugural season in Miami last night.
The rich got richer, which in this case meant the quartet of Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Pat Perez and Talor Gooch collected $4million each for claiming the Team Championships — nice job if you can get it.
But good for golf? Good for the bigger picture because of what has been said and written about LIV’s $2billion backing from Saudi Arabia? Those became the themes that accompanied one of the most hostile takeovers in sports history. But what does the future hold?
Here, Sportsmail discusses what’s next for LIV as it tries to shed its pariah status and grow.
4 Aces GC were crowned LIV Tour inaugural champions at Trump National Doral Miami
What will 2023 bring?
The second season will start in February, with an expansion from eight events to 14, including one at Valderrama in Spain, an iconic venue they took over from the DP World Tour. It will retain its 48-man field but will have new faces.
In this regard, the poaching of talent will continue. But unlike the scattered signings for the first season, the recruitment will be completed before the 2023 circuit.
Already having a high-quality field, it is understood they will push for between seven and 10 new players, with at least three targets from the world’s top 15.
The most famous are believed to be world No 4 Patrick Cantlay and No 6 Xander Schauffele, two Americans who will be major underdogs on the PGA Tour and Ryder Cup.
Interest is also understood to remain in Belgium’s Adam Scott and Thomas Pieters.
Valderrama will play host to the expanded LIV Tour’s second season when it returns next year
What worked this year?
There is no disputing that as a start-up they have achieved rapid growth through unmatched financial resources. The quality of players they got was tremendous and in Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith LIV got a pair that, at their best, would be in the top three to four golfers in the world.
In the details of their format, they also have a strong belief that they are onto something in pushing the team element. Graeme McDowell admitted to Sportsmail this week that hyping the team’s play felt like ‘contrition’ at first, but over time the players embraced it. To see Harold Varner III criticize his teammate James Piot on Saturday, the players indicated that it was not seen as a glorified exhibition.
In Australian golfer Cameron Smith the breakaway tour has one of the sport’s most elite talents
What didn’t work?
Obviously there is no clear business plan to justify the cost of creating it – and that is probably not the intention for the Saudis. In order to achieve any sort of sporting legitimacy, LIV would need to earn world ranking points, which is among the legal entanglements of their situation and would open the door for their players to enter the majors.
If they do that, the tour presence may be normalized. Without it, LIV might even wither.
Key to all this is a broadcast presence — LIV is watched by small audiences, mostly on YouTube, with bosses open to the idea of buying airtime from broadcasters. They still have a long way to go.
Can LIV be respectable?
That will be difficult after all the toxicity. It will be interesting to see if Greg Norman, with his various faults, sticks around despite the disruptor part of the plan, but it will be hard to escape the anger felt within the sport about a project that destroyed a delightful ecosystem. Here are the questions about where the money came from.