LIV Golf has made it to Central Florida, but how does it stackup to the "Florida Swing"?
March is typically reserved for the state of Florida when it comes to the PGA Tour. Starting with the Honda Classic at the end of February, there are 4 different tournaments scheduled in the state with the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Players Championship, and finally the Valspar Championship following. And with recent adjustments made to the purse structure, these tournaments where some of the benefactors with stronger fields than ever (more on that in a bit) and are held at some of the more aesthetically well manicured, exclusive courses in the state. So how will LIV's introduction into the states golf tour fair? Well we will have to take a look at how LIV is structured and has already changed the PGA Tour model to really gage that.
Photo courtesy of: LIV Golf Tour
LIV? Isn't that the Saudi Golf Tour?
That has been a name thrown around about the league, and yes it is funded by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. But so have numerous other tournaments held by the Asian Tour, which the PGA granted waivers for members to play in just last month. And did you know some other companies that are backed by the same fund? Amazon, Google, VISA, Disney, Nintendo, and Starbucks just to name a few. That is why I personally dismiss the notion of not supporting the league for that reason. We live in a global economy with global investors. I am sure the PGA Tour doesn't want anyone looking too deep into who/where their money comes from either.
Alright, but what about the quality? These guys are no good right?
LIV Golfers Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, and Bubba Watson address the media before the LIV Golf Orlando tournament. photo by: Greg Rhodes
Well if you are only grading off of the world golf rankings, then yes these guys do not rank on that list. But that is only because LIV tournaments currently do not collect World Golf Ranking Points. But if you look at major championship wins, this is a list of heavy hitters. Guys like 6 time major winner Phil Mickelson or 2 time major champion Dustin Johnson, or what about younger guys in their primes like 4 time major champion Brookes Koepka or 2020 US Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau, or how about young guys really breaking through and starting to rise like 2022 The Open Champion Cam Smith or one of the biggest hitters in golf in Matthew Wolff, or what about........
OK OK! I get it, good players. What makes it so different anyways?
The biggest change I am excited to witness this weekend is the shotgun start. At a traditional PGA event, everyone starts on hole 1 and each group subsequently follows. Sometimes in a large field or if weather is a concern they may start a group on 9 as well but majority of tournaments start one group at a time. When I was at the Valspar that meant the first group went out as early as 7 am with the last group not going off until after 2 pm. And if you are a tournament goer, that is a long damn day! With LIV, every group of the 54 competitors will start at the same time all on different holes. It makes for a much more exciting day, that gets condensed into a reasonable time frame. Where a PGA tournament round may start at 7am and end nearing 7pm, a LIV tournament round will be condensed into one timely afternoon. I also believe it makes for a more fair playing environment. Where a course may change significantly throughout the day between weather, course noise, and other playing factors on the PGA Tour, with everyone starting play at the same time on the LIV Tour conditions should remain relatively the same throughout for all competitors.
photo by: Greg Rhodes
Another change from the PGA Tour event format is this embracing of a more relaxed feel around the grounds. You'll see signs and slogans like "Golf, But Louder" and free standing speakers setup around the course to pump music around the entire venue. As someone who enjoys a beverage or two and using his Bluetooth speaker around the course when I get the chance to go out, a more relaxed approach to what can sometimes look like the stuffy view of the PGA Tour events appeals to me as a fan. Whenever I see a golfer back off the tee box because they heard a squirrel drop an acorn 5o yards away I just roll my eyes.
But what is really a game changer in the golf event world is the team aspect of the LIV Golf Tour and it's events. Golfers are seperated amongst a series of teams that earn points based on play throughout the tournament. Similar in fashion to how NASCAR has an individual points standings and a team point standings, this adds a new wrinkle into how you can enjoy a tournament not only as a fan but also the participants. It has been very popular with the LIV golfers with Bubba Watson even mentioning this week that it could be even more of the focus of the league moving forward.
All of that does sound appealing and different. How has it effected the PGA Tour?
The way I look at it, the LIV Tour has been a positive for the PGA Tour. A product that had gotten stale and content has had to adapt and adjust. Due to the inflated salaries that LIV was introducing as sign on bonuses to get these top players and high purses, the PGA was forced to increase it's purse sizes. There hasn't been this much of an increase in purse sizes since Tiger Woods brought his own boost to the game in the late 90's, and it doesn't stop there. The PGA announced they will be doing a series of "team based" events as well later on this season and other changes are in the works as players like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods continue to voice their concerns and opinions about the state of the league and progess that could be made. None of that happens so drastically without LIV. And while some will argue that LIV is a flash in the pan, lacking in TV ratings and high level courses (they are playing at Orange County National this week, a former Q-School location) every league starts somewhere. And while all of that may turn out to be true, there is no discrediting the effect LIV has already had on the golf world in it's short time.
But what do you think? Will LIV succeed? Is the Saudi Arabia connection too much to get past? Will the World Golf Rankings ever recognize the tournment? Let me know in the comments below. And don't forget to follow us on social media @mySportsFlorida for tournament updates all weekend.