The Fight for the Future of Golf

By Sophie Lim

In recent months, the conflict between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf has reached an all time high. With LIV dishing out nine-figure sums as upfront contracts, it seems that the biggest names in the golf world cannot pass up these opportunities. Recently, LIV Golf and the PGA Tour have engaged in multiple lawsuits involving the financial motivations of LIV, which have exacerbated tensions between the two tours. From Dustin Johnson to Phil Mickelson, players are chasing these massive payouts, but at what cost to the future of the game? Will the PGA Tour be able to survive despite such a financially-dominant counterpart?

Formally launched in October 2021, retired professional golfer and Australian entrepreneur Greg Norman serves as the CEO of LIV Golf. While Norman had a successful career–20 wins on the PGA Tour that include two major titles and over 70 international wins–one man alone cannot back the financial demands of the LIV operation. In a move that has sparked further controversy, the LIV Tour began receiving its monetary needs from the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. With these funds, LIV has proved it is capable of poaching the most respected golfers of our time. For example, Dustin Johnson, a previous force on the PGA Tour, has racked up 75 million dollars in 15 years. So when the LIV tour proffered a 125 million dollar contract to commit to their tour, it was too good for him to refuse. 

On one hand, it is understandable to see individuals jumping ship. Take the format of both tours for example. The PGA Tour has 48 official events per year. A majority of the events are four days (Thursday–Sunday) with a cut after two days to 50 percent of the field. The LIV tour has seven  regular season tournaments that are three days each. The scoring is based on a team format rather than individual play. Most importantly, there are no cuts; each individual player, regardless of what they score, is guaranteed a six-figure payout. And while the PGA Tour has far more events, the disparities in purse size—PGA Tour winners can expect a 2.7 million dollar prize and LIV winners can expect 20 million dollars—more than make up for less events. It is clear that the LIV Tour has created a divide in the golfing world, but is it severe enough to ruin the future of the game? Mr. Constant, history teacher and avid golfer, commented, “I think that if and when LIV gets a big TV contract, the PGA Tour could be in trouble, but it seems like the PGA is working hard to make some of the changes and investments, financial and otherwise,that the LIV golfers were hoping for in the first place.” Furthermore, Sofie Robinson ’24 reflected, “I grew up watching the PGA Tour, so watching a LIV event feels unfamiliar to me. It’s really hard to match the feel of a tournament like the Masters.” While tensions are still high between the two tours, the PGA Tour seems to be in stable condition for now. The feelings the PGA Tour evokes are withstanding against the LIV Tour so far and will keep fans coming back. It is also clear that among fans, the LIV Tour has had an effect on the way people experience the game. However, there are ways to come up with compromises. As Mr. Constant suggested, “I wish there was a way to bring [the players] all back together or compete against each other. Now that could be fun to watch.”