From humble beginnings, here’s what made LIV Golf Adelaide in 2023 such a memorable experience. Now it shapes as being an even greater spectacle this April. 

The inaugural staging of LIV Golf Adelaide forever changed the perception of tournament golf in Australia. Never before had Australian golf fans witnessed a strokeplay tournament with a litany of household names, chill-out music beating around a golf course and a carnival-like atmosphere with ‘The Watering Hole’ at its epicentre.

With a field of 13 major champions, three former world No.1s and a bunch of Ryder Cup heroes, it was unheralded American Talor Gooch who emerged victorious with a scintillating and indomitable performance.

The par-3 12th hole on The Grange Golf Club’s composite course became an iconic landmark in Australian sport. Chase Koepka’s ace at the so-called ‘Watering Hole’ sent beer cups flying into the air and video replays soaring on social media.

In a huge endorsement, LIV Golf Adelaide was recognised as World’s Best Golf Event of the Year 2023 (World Golf Awards).

Inextricably linked to the success of LIV Golf Adelaide was the signing of Open champion Cam Smith and the creation of the all-Australian Ripper GC. It was the catalyst for the extraordinary support by Australian golf fans who bought into LIV Golf’s unique individual and team concept.

As we return to The Grange for the second edition of LIV Golf Adelaide, Australian Golf Digest canvassed opinions about the journey Behind The Creation Of The ‘World’s Best Golf Event’. – Rohan Clarke


Lee Westwood, former world No.1 and Australian Open champion: It was a no-brainer for me to sign up. I knew the investor behind it. They’ve got deep pockets, so they were one of the reasons. Greg Norman is a hero of mine who I watched growing up. So he was another one of the reasons. I was offered the chance to have a franchise (Majesticks) with Ian [Poulter] and Henrik [Stenson], who I’ve known for nearly 20 years. Dropping down from four rounds to three rounds makes sense when you hit your late 40s. So there were a lot of different things that encouraged me to sign up.

Marc Leishman, six-time PGA Tour winner and 2009 Rookie of the Year: I feel like I’m a pretty rational-thinking person, so there were a lot of things to weigh up. There were a lot of positives – smaller schedule, more money, upfront money – the opportunity to travel the world more… There were a lot of positives, especially with having a young family. The only thing that was probably holding me back a little bit was [LIV Golf] being a start-up. You don’t know how long it’s going to go on for. Or if it’s going to be successful or not. Then there were the majors. It was made fairly clear at the start we weren’t going to have world-ranking points and obviously the majors go off that. I had to weigh that up – if I was going to be all right not playing in the majors – if it came to that. Another positive was playing more golf in Australia and getting to come home more. Over the years I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Australia, so that was certainly appealing. Then I thought about the different markets around the world, places that have a lot of golfers, big fan bases for golf – and they don’t get to see very high-quality golf – the best players in the world. To be able to take golf to other places around the world, it’s exciting as a player. In the end it was a big decision, but one that has worked out really well… as far as my happiness, being home more with the kids, and still playing high-quality golf against good opponents.

Cam Smith, 2022 Open champion, Ripper GC captain: It seems like a long time ago now. There were lots of initial conversations, not only with Greg [Norman] but with my team around what we thought was really important. One of those things was getting back to Australia a little bit more. Greg had mentioned we were going to take a tournament there and that was really important to me. We obviously didn’t know just how big that tournament was going to be at the time.

Marc Leishman: I remember talking to Cam after the offer came and I said, “Mate, this is probably a bigger decision for you than it is for me. I’m nearly 40 and you’re a bit younger.”

Cam Smith: ‘Leish’ and I have had a really good relationship for a long time and we were both really honest with each other. We definitely had that conversation around me being a bit younger and how I could win plenty more majors. But what it really came down to was getting to spend a lot more time at home. He and I both agreed that we’ve both been on tour for a while now and that was a part of our lives that we really missed and wanted to have more of.

Marc Leishman: Knowing Cam as well as I do, knowing the sort of person he is and how he goes about balancing his golf with his personal life and his hobbies, I think LIV Golf was always going to fit him pretty well. He loves his fishing and his time off, so when he made the decision to join LIV, I won’t say it surprised me. I’ve always said that Australians “work to live” and in some other cultures around the world people tend to “live to work”. So as far as LIV’s lighter schedule and getting paid more, it was an attractive proposition for us.


Greg Norman, former world No.1 and LIV Golf commissioner: I was so impressed with [South Australia premier] Peter Malinauskas, with his openness and willingness to the magnitude of what we had… Nobody could understand the concept that we owned everything. We owned production, we owned the events management, we owned the players, we own social, we own commercial, we owned everything. So, we could plug and play no matter where we went in the world and Peter Malinauskas got it. He saw it, he understood it, he didn’t question it. And he didn’t want anybody else to have the first shot at it in Australia. He wanted it and he knew his state was going to embrace it because he had seen that with the AFL. He lost Formula One, he wasn’t happy about it. South Australia wasn’t happy about that, and he wanted to prove he was a force for reckoning in the sports world within Australia. God bless him for it and he’s reaping the reward. The economic impact he has seen come in, probably I would say six, sevenfold to his investment has been significant for him.

Peter Malinauskas, premier of South Australia: I can very clearly recall the first conversation we had via telephone. It was late on a Saturday evening, Adelaide time, and I said to him, “Listen, Greg. You’ve got options about where you can play this tournament in Australia. I’ve got two principal submissions to you. The first is a nostalgic one. It’s where you won the West Lakes Classic, your first ever professional tournament. There’s a nostalgia and affinity here, which I want to deploy to our benefit.” Then I said, “The second more substantial issue is this. LIV is a breakthrough concept and we see ourselves as a government seeking to break through on some big opportunities that we’ve got for our state economically.” I said, “Greg, you don’t want to die wondering; nor do we. Put your confidence in South Australia and what I commit to you is that you’ll have a partner in the state government that’s all-in on making this work.”


Greg Norman: I remember the emotion that was going through my head from the moment I was asked to be CEO of LIV Golf, and what we had in front of us. I knew this platform was going to be ocker-centric, and I knew the audience would embrace it. I knew that, over the decades of me going back to Australia, fans only saw the best players in the world in dribs and drabs – a Presidents Cup every seven, eight years or whatever it was, and getting the odd top-10 player in the world coming down every now and then for events. But there was nothing of any consistency to build around. My whole goal for LIV is to develop partnerships within the community, no matter where we go. I knew I could develop a partnership within the community of Australia. [When we presented our concept to Australia’s governing bodies] there wasn’t any logic used on behalf of the other institutions because what they did was they prejudged us under the guidance of some other institution. That prejudgement has gotten them nowhere because any smart businessman or woman wants to sit down and understand what the offer is before they make any rash decisions. We never had a chance. So, I realised that very early on and I said, “Well, if this is the way they want to be, so be it.” I was disappointed in the leaders of the golf institutions in Australia with that approach. So I said, “Look, guys, we’re just going to go. We’re going to prove that our platform will be accepted, and that we’ll be embraced.” We offered investment via our CSR program, like what we have done with the Asian Tour, where we’re investing in the future of the Asian Tour. There, we committed $300 million (over 10 years) to do what we’re doing with the International Series. We knew we could bring an International Series to Australia and bookend it with a LIV event. We could bring other great players in the world. But what the institutions missed or didn’t understand was our players are contracted to play in an ‘X’ number of International Series events. Our players would happily come down for two weeks in Australia, not one week in and then fly out. But they didn’t sit down and listen, No.1, so they couldn’t grasp the magnitude of our offer. South Australia, meanwhile, they’re looking to extend the current agreement with us. So, you’re now looking at long-term investments into South Australia. You could do a long-term investment with the International Series in other states around Australia. It was a quid pro quo. There was such a positive rub-on effect for golf in Australia in general, not to mention the fans of Australia. [Not wanting to work with us] defied logic, it’s as simple as that.

James Sutherland, chief executive officer of Golf Australia: Golf Australia wasn’t approached for the LIV event in Adelaide last year, but we watched on with a keen interest. There’s no doubt the event had an impact and was enthusiastically embraced by local golf fans. Bringing new people to the game, as fans and as golfers, can only be a good thing for Australian golf. 

[Editor’s note: The PGA of Australia declined our invitation to comment.]


Marc Leishman: Once we heard the first set of tickets got sold out in no time at all, we knew it was going to be pretty special. I used to play the Jacob’s Creek tournament down there (2002-2007). I remember those tournaments being Australian Open-like. Once I knew we were going there to Adelaide, I was pretty excited because I knew they would support it. It wasn’t just Adelaide; it was all of Australia. There were people from everywhere. It felt like you were a rock star for the week no matter where you went.

Lee Westwood: I tell you what it reminded me of. I went down in ’97 for the Aussie Open in Melbourne and got myself into a playoff with Greg Norman and the fairways were lined and it had that kind of atmosphere. It reminded me of playing Greg in Melbourne, the amount of people that turned up to support all of us, but more so the four Aussie guys that were playing. Give them a hero’s welcome and return, and it really reminded me of that, almost – playing in Open Championships when the fairways get dusty and there’s that buzz around the place.

Greg Norman: I have a photograph that’s etched in my mind of the first tee at Huntingdale with Seve Ballesteros and the fairway was lined to the green. I think it was ’87, ’88. [At Grange] it looked like it was eight-to-10 deep. I went, “Holy s–t. We just rolled the clock back… See, Australia came to the party.” I knew the Aussies were the bravest. When I stood there, I went, “I’m so proud of my country.”

Marc Leishman: Adelaide just blew everyone’s mind… Put the Masters aside, the British Open aside, the US Open at Pebble Beach aside, it was as good a golf tournament as I’ve been to away from that. Not saying it was the best. I would say there’s a few that have been stand-outs, and it was certainly one of them as far as the crowd, the golf course, just everything about it. The atmosphere the whole week was special. Not just for me being Australian, all the guys. They just can’t wait to get back there no matter where they’re from.

Cam Smith: The 47 other guys that were playing that week really saw the potential of LIV and what it can bring. That’s how we want all of our tournaments to be. That’s the benchmark at the moment, and there’s no reason we can’t keep getting better.

Talor Gooch, 2023 LIV Golf Adelaide champion:The fans, the environment, the energy – it felt like a turning point for LIV Golf. It felt like a turning point for the trajectory of professional golf. It felt like we have arrived. LIV Golf has arrived. We’ve showed up to another country and the masses have come out to support – and have a really good picture and understanding of what LIV Golf should be, can be and will be.

Cam Smith: I love all the majors. They’re hard to separate, I think, having all the best guys there, competing against each other. It’s a real competitive environment, something that I love. Although I do think Adelaide was the best solo [tournament] that I ever played. Just the emotion of the Australian fans really got to me. And I just want to play events like that every week.

Will Staeger, LIV Golf chief media officer: Su-Ann Heng, our on-course analyst, interviewed Brooks [Koepka] and Cam [Smith] after one of the rounds. I think it was after the second round. Fans were cheering for Cam. Chanting. And he starts crying. Then she flipped over to interview Brooks, and I think his comment was something along the lines of, “This is what it’s all about.”


Unlike anything ever seen at an Australian golf tournament

Cam Smith: I was really hoping it was going to be in Queensland, if I was being really selfish. But when we got down there, the way it was all set up… everyone had a great time, so it worked out perfect. I think it was a really great venue. [The Grange] is a typical Aussie course where everything’s on top of you and it really suited that LIV Golf atmosphere.

Will Staeger: We had two-and-a-half years to get this right. But from the very outset, one of the overarching principles of LIV Golf was to have the best experience you’ve ever had watching a golf tournament… We’re almost like a Cirque du Soleil tour more than a traditional sports league. Because in many cases a sports league will put on the event staging – whether it’s in an arena or a field – then a different entity will come in and do the television coverage. We do it all as a unit. Our production unit interacts with the event staging unit, which interacts with the competition team. So we’ve got this free-flowing process… The information coming out of the site surveys are like a Discovery Channel documentary where we’re determining where camera towers go, so we can have all the angles for television. How does that sync up with where Club 54 hospitality goes? Where is the player dining and locker room? It’s all a kind of carefully orchestrated circus in a way, but it’s all oriented towards the fan.

Jeremy Krug, LIV Golf senior vice-president (event & experience): I try to go around and make sure we have multiple kids autograph zones and multiple little kids viewing areas… We always have a dedicated kids viewing area on the first tee… We get them on the tee box and we sit them down and they take a photo with the trophy and they’re right next to the caddies and the bags. You’ll see in Adelaide where we’ll have a lot of kids on the first tee box right there to join us. I think it’s a very special moment. You see their emotions. They get a signed ball or a signed glove. That first tee shot, you’ll see 20 to 40 to 60 kids lined up inside the ropes… For them to leave that five-hour day and say, “I want to pick up a club when I go home.” That’s our goal. When we say growing the game, it’s really your emotion, your experience.

Will Staeger: We have 55 cameras, 110 microphones, two drones and our own studios group – called LIV Studios modelled after NBA Entertainment and NFL Films. Additionally, we have six or seven ENG (hand-held, over-the-shoulder) cameras covering for non-live. So we miss no shot. Every shot is covered. And if it’s not in the live coverage, it is in our archive and it is put into packages. In the coverage we do something called ‘Don’t Blink’. So if anything relevant to the standings or key story happens, we will catch up to that with music and narration.


Jeremy Krug: A.J. Dolan [LIV Golf’s vice-president of music and event production] is the one that really figures out the play list. All of the first-tee announcements. The ‘Walk Up’ songs. He’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with from a production standpoint… It’s been an evolution and a constant evaluation of how loud is the music. What’s the constant volume? And the biggest thing for the players: “As long as it stays constant and it’s not something that’s overpowering, we love it.”

Fans attending purely for the music

Troy Tutt, LIV Golf senior vice-president (ticketing & hospitality): There’s a percent that is coming towards the end of the day and consuming a half hour/hour of golf before they get into the music. That’s part of the draw of LIV Golf. And that’s part of what we’re trying to do – that festival style. Even if somebody is not initially coming for golf, we’re exposing them to the game and exposing them to the experience. That they say, “Hey, I was coming to see Fisher. That was my main intent, but I showed up a bit early. And wow. This is a blast.”


The Grange’s par-3 12th hole

Talor Gooch: Playing on PGA Tour, I played the Waste Management [Phoenix Open] four times. The stadium hole there is very different because it’s not quite as on top of you. And that was what was so cool about The Watering Hole. I had to get into my caddie’s ear to talk to him. We couldn’t just stand shoulder to shoulder – we couldn’t hear each other. It was so dang loud.

How vision of Chase Koepka’s hole-in-one changed the trajectory of LIV Golf

Will Staeger: It was the shot heard around the world. It was an opportunity through good fortune and great production/storytelling to seize a moment and allow the world through social media and viral distribution to see what happens at a LIV Golf event. And celebrate that. Luck is the residue of hard work and design. Moments like that don’t get to go viral if you don’t have the camera there to cover it and the announce team to call it… We have built our own production team to make sure we tell the narrative of our unique and industry-defining competition format.

Greg Norman: The crown jewel was a hole-in-one. That one by Chase set the standard and that really erupted on the internet and showed what LIV is all about. I wish there wasn’t so many beer cups thrown out there. But I loved it, and it really showed you what the LIV excitement was all about.

Will Staeger: Arlo [White] was able to call Chase’s hole-in-one. To have Arlo White – the greatest caller of soccer goals on the planet – bring that to golf is part of it… So we were able to take that moment, put it into the coverage, put it into packages, put it on our YouTube channel, put it on LIV Golf+, put it out on social. And the industry grabbed it and ran with it. 

2024 shapes as an even greater spectacle

Lee Westwood: It set such a high standard last year. Where do you improve on it? It was by far and away the best event on last year’s schedule and pressure’s on the Aussies to keep it up.

Jeremy Krug: A week or two after the event we’re already jumping up on a call with SATC (South Australian Tourism Commission) and saying what did we see? How do we constantly improve this? What are the changes we want to make in ’24? So it’s been about an 11-month process leading up to 2024’s event.

Troy Tutt: We’re going to see 50 percent increase in fans. I know we had a packed house last year. [With the] sight lines, that’s some of our learnings from last year. For our grounds ticket holders [we’re adding] viewing platforms, especially with the increased number of bodies that will be out on course. Just making sure we’re creating those experiences not only for our general fans, but even on our watering hole – how the structures are built, and the angles, just to give that better experience and increased capacity there on the watering hole.

Peter Malinauskas: What we were rapt about and what we’re seeing so far this year in terms of the ticket sales is a very significant proportion of those ticket sales come from interstate and overseas. Of all the tickets sold thus far – and that’s over 75,000 of them – over 40 percent have gone to outside South Australia. The whole genesis of our major events strategy was an economic strategy, not just because what it generates for hospitality. But it gives us an opportunity to talk about the economic trajectory South Australia is on, the investment opportunities around it. That’s the priority. Now, I know that’s not necessarily interesting to golf fans, but it matters to the state.

Jeremy Krug: I’m excited to unveil something in the player walk from the 11th green to the 12th tee. We’re going to create a very dynamic tunnel concept because our production team is absolutely remarkable. That last putt drops on the 11th hole and the heart starts going and the adrenaline starts. I’m actually going to deliver them through a tunnel on the back of the tee. So there’s going to be a little special moment… We have a full production show on that hole. We have four LEDs. Full takeover when players arrive on the hole. [For example], all the LEDs change to Bubba Watson’s RangeGoats’ pink.

Will Staeger: We might be able to clean up the beer cans and soda canisters faster at the party hole!

Greg Norman: There’s always the “expect the unexpected” element in our world. Whether that’s a 58 or 59 [off the stick] from one of the players… The guys just have so much fun out there. They’re serious – they’re very, very serious – but they have so much fun out there at the same time. That’s why you see the intensity in both the individual and teams’ competition, but also the chill-factor. Throw in 100,000 fans around the greens and this year’s event is going to be a lot of fun.

A Winners’s Tale

Talor Gooch established a 10-stroke lead with consecutive 10-under 62s last year

Talor Gooch: Man, I hit the ball so dang good. The first two days I think I made one putt outside 10 feet – to be leading a professional golf tournament like I was after two days without dropping bombs left and right, chipping in and everything going in. To have that lead is a true testament to how good the ball-striking was those first two days.

What was the secret formula?

Talor Gooch: I love wine. And the Barossa is one of the greatest wine-growing areas in the world. It was a pleasure to go and try some great wine [at Torbreck winery]. You’ve got to think there’s a correlation there. You drink some good local wine, you make some birdies.

Avoiding a Sunday meltdown

Talor Gooch: The last round I didn’t count to turn it off like I would have liked. But it actually ended up working out well because it made me dig down deep in that last nine holes to say, “You know what, you gotta go win a golf tournament. You just can’t coast and cruise to a victory.” I think that prepared me for the next week, winning in Singapore in a playoff. Then a couple of months later winning in Spain, birdieing the last hole to beat Bryson [DeChambeau].

Having Australian Mal Baker on the bag in the heat of battle

Talor Gooch: He’s a pretty stable dude. He doesn’t get too high and doesn’t get too low. Like in Adelaide on Sunday, the last thing I need is my partner-in-crime to be getting frustrated or getting too happy because my emotions are all over the place. I need someone who’s going to help calm the things going on. He handles himself so well out there and allows me to focus on the golf.

Back to the Barossa?

Talor Gooch: Torbreck winery [above] was really good to me. I have reached out to them and said, “You guys had the magic juice last year. I’m looking forward to seeing you when I get back into town.”

Needling the Aussies

Talor Gooch: I joked with Cam and Leish and them last year, “I won your tournament, dude. I took your title.” With it being the coolest tournament that we have, the biggest tournament we had, it would be really dang cool to go back-to-back.

Getty images: Mark Brake, Sarah Reed; Talor Gooch/Instagram