By December 31, LIV Golf could be an asset inside a newly formed, for-profit entity owned and operated by the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Or it could remain its own independent league, attempting to continue disrupting the golf ecosystem. With each passing day, the deadline for negotiations between the three parties initiated by their framework agreement grows nearer, while the outcome of those talks becomes less certain. Recent reports suggest a deal as initially conceived back in June is less and less likely.
Despite all the uncertainty, LIV Golf executives are pressing forward, piecing together a plan for 2024 that presumes a third season with a worldwide schedule that may or may not include new marquee players and additional teams.
Among the 2024 plans that offer the most detail is LIV Golf’s new qualifying school. Dubbed LIV Golf Promotions, and scheduled for December 8-10 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the three-day, 72-hole event will offer a prize purse of $US1.5 million, with $5,000 paid to any entrant eliminated after the first round, $10,000 after two, and a minimum of $17,500 for those qualifying for the final round. Up for grabs will be three spots on LIV’s 2024 rosters made vacant after four players—Chase Koepka, Jed Morgan, James Piot and Sihwan Kim—were relegated from the league based off their 2023 performances. A separate LIV card will be awarded to the expected Asian Tour’s International Series Order of Merit winner, American Andy Ogletree.
LIV estimates between four to eight players who finished the 2023 season ranked 25th to 44th on LIV’s points will not be picked up by other teams. Those unsigned golfers will join Koepka, Morgan, Piot and Kim, with the rest of the field coming from a number of categories. Some categories will receive exemptions to bypass the first round, such as major champions from the past five years, and winners of PGA Tour and DP World Tour events from the past 12 months.
Participants are being asked to pay an entry fee to ward off pranksters who pounced on entry forms for the inaugural LIV tournament at the Centurion Club outside London in June 2022. “There is a nominal entry fee [because] when we opened entries for the first event in Centurion, I think ‘Tiger Woods’ [was] entered 216 times,” Gary Davidson, LIV’s acting chief operating officer, told reporters Thursday at LIV’s season-ending team championship in Miami. “We’ve put a nominal entry fee on [the event]… to verify genuine entries.”
Beyond the ability for players to qualify for LIV in 2024, there remains the potential for more DP World or PGA Tour pros to sign contracts in the offseason to become league members much in the manner that the league’s original members joined. In July, LIV’s Martin Kaymer said he had received several inquiries from European pros after the June 6 framework agreement news. This week in Miami, Phil Mickelson said he doesn’t just think, but “knows” another wave of signings will happen. “I’ve been fielding calls, as we all have, from players that are free agents to PGA Tour players to DP World Tour players that want to come over,” he said.
Sceptics will say LIV’s message was the same last year. Reports suggested seven players would join for 2023, but that fizzled when the biggest recruits were Thomas Pieters, Mito Pereira, Sebastian Munoz and Brendan Steele.
Davidson, though, hinted the number of 2024 recruits could be enough to field at least another four-man team in the current 12-squad league. “I don’t think that we’ll get to 15 teams next year, but there’s a possibility that we may add a team or two,” Davidson said.
All teams will play a 14-event schedule, with eight tournaments to be held overseas and six in the US. (There were eight tournaments in America and six elsewhere in the 2023 season.) New international events will be staged in Hong Kong and South Korea, while the league will return to Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Singapore, Spain and England. At this stage, only Mayakoba (Mexico), Valderrama (Spain) and the Greenbrier (West Virginia) would be repeat venues. (Three courses owned by former President Donald Trump were used in ‘23—Washington in Virginia, Bedminster in New Jersey and Doral in Miami.)
“As we look forward into 2024, we’ve got a full schedule now, some places we’ve been to before, but we’ve got some new venues as well, reaching different regions,” LIV chief executive and commissioner Greg Norman told reporters in the same meeting as Davidson.
A remaining stumbling point for LIV golfers is how they might gain access to major championships in 2024 when their Official World Golf Ranking continues to plummet. Earlier this month, the OWGR denied an application to sanction LIV’s 48-player, no-cut events. The league’s promotion and relegation pathways, and LIV’s team component, made it difficult for the OWGR to accurately measure LIV against other tours. Peter Dawson, the OWGR chairman and a non-voting member of the committee, said LIV’s lack of a 36-hole cut and smaller field sizes could be overlooked, but having the same 48 players for the entire season was not enough turnover.
Davidson, however, claimed LIV was not informed on how it could comply with OWGR requirements. “We’ve been pretty direct in some of our communications with them and asking what those changes would need to be,” he said. “We just have never received that [information]. [In terms of LIV’s] player pathways, we’ll turn over between 10 and 25 percent of our field each year, which is at least comparable with tours that are recognised by OWGR.”
In the aftermath of that rejection, past major champions on LIV, Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, suggested the top 12 on LIV”s moneylist be adopted by the organisers of golf’s four majors as an exemption or invitation category.
Creating a category for 25 percent of LIV’s entire roster seems unlikely. But Davidson said LIV has at least begun conversations with the majors about its inclusion. “The accuracy of the rankings now is having a knock-on effect to the majors, which is as much of a shame for them as it is for the [LIV] players,” Davidson said. “When you look at [the] top 12 in our end of season rankings, I think there was nine of them that were eligible for the majors when they joined.”
While steps are being taken for 2024, it’s all done amid the shadow of the negotiations between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF, and if a deal can be made. Reportedly, PGA Tour executive vice-president Jason Gore sent a memo to players earlier this month saying the tour’s focus remained on finalising a definitive agreement with the PIF and DP World Tour, but “these negotiations have resulted in unsolicited outreach and proposals from a number of other interested investors.”
Reports have emerged recently that there are up to eight entities interested in partnering with the PGA Tour. Sports and entertainment company Endeavor confirmed that it submitted a bid on October 5. “I think we could add to it what we’ve added to all of our sports,” Endeavor chief executive Ari Emanuel told Bloomberg.
Norman says he is not involved in the framework agreement discussions that include PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. Davidson says LIV is “very open-minded”, but that any tweaks LIV may make to its format would be “more towards us trying to make sure [LIV] is as good it possibly can be.”
What Norman, 68, does want is for professional golfers to have the option to play between LIV and the PGA Tour. That was his goal in attempting to get a world tour off the ground in the early 1990s.
“I just hope [the agreement] does work, I really do,” Norman said. “That’s why I wanted to speak to Jay Monahan a long time ago to explain the value of our product. They chose not to. I’ll leave it up them to figure [the framework agreement] out.”