Not even three events into its first season, LIV Golf is preparing an aggressive expansion for its second year and beyond.
Beginning in 2023, the LIV Golf invitational series will become the LIV Golf League, a 14-event series of events featuring 12 four-player teams competing on both individual and team levels. While the breakaway tour did not announce specific dates, tournaments would be sited in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
LIV Golf, which competes this week at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., has drawn criticism for its financial origins. The Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund bankrolls LIV Golf, and critics have accused LIV and its players of sportswashing — the process of using sports and other leisure pursuits to cover up Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations.
As part of the expansion, LIV indicated that it will increase participation in the new worldwide International Series, a product of LIV’s investment in the Asian Tour. It’s another sign that LIV has plans to compete on the global stage, not just the United States.
The new schedule “will not compete with the majors, international team events or heritage events,” LIV said in a statement, “so the best players in the game will always be able to make their own choices about where to play.” That would, in theory, bring the Ryder Cup and events such as the Memorial and the Arnold Palmer Invitational back into play … assuming LIV players were allowed to play in those events, which at the moment they are not.
LIV will also be formalizing the “team” concept it has used in the initial two events this season: four-player teams led by a captain. The teams will be built like franchises, LIV indicated, with captains able to sign players and monetize sponsor interest.
Another twist: LIV will have a promotion-relegation system in place for its 48 slots. Players at the top of the International Series can play their way onto LIV, while those at the bottom of LIV would be off the circuit.
The LIV news addresses several of the key criticisms leveled at the league. First, by instituting a relegation system, players will be competing for more than just a paycheck; they’ll have to play well to stick around. The coalition with the Asian Tour could also allow LIV players to amass world ranking points, the key metric for admission into several majors.
However, the new framework also seems to mandate more and more geographically widespread events for players, which runs counter to many players’ contention that they joined LIV to play less and spend more time at home.
The new arrangement also does nothing to address critics’ charges that LIV is tainted by its association with Saudi Arabia. Protest groups have massed outside Bedminster this week to bring attention to Saudi Arabia’s human rights atrocities and connection to 9/11, but LIV appears primed to roll on regardless.
Contact Jay Busbee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.