The controversial 2023 LIV Golf League Series gets underway later this week as the Saudi backed upstart that has shaken the golfing world to its core, heads to the El Cameleon Golf Course at Mayakoba.
The Mayakoba, former home of the PGA’s World Wide Technology Championship until late last year, is the Greg Norman designed golf course, south of Player del Carmen, on the Atlantic Coast of Mexico, and will be the opening tournament of the 14-event Liv Golf League that goes into its first full year, still working hard to earn its place, against a fierce backlash, in golf’s eco-system.
Here Golf Editor Andy Moore, looks at the upcoming season, the movers and shakers and the battle lines being drawn.
Movers and Shakers
Much has been said about LIV Golf and whether it has a long-term place within the professional golf system and there is little doubt the roster has significantly improved since its first event in London, back in June 2022 with the likes of Major winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith and Bryson DeChambeau on board.
The 2023 roster, despite rumours swirling about a multitude of players, the so-called needle movers, have yet to materialise, with the most significant signings that of Chilean Mito Pereira and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, both players that will bulk out the depth of the LIV Golf roster.
Joining both Pereira and Pieters on the roster for 2023 is Sebastien Munoz, the Colombian becoming another Latin American to make the move from the PGA Tour, giving LIV a true international feel. Tour stalwarts, Danny Lee of New Zealand and USA’s Brendan Steele also add to the line-up.
Speculation across the back-end of 2022 and into 2023 of the many players that have been linked to the series, with the likes of Patrick Cantley, Victor Hovland and Cameron Young’s names constantly rumoured to be making the move and its fair to say that any of the trio mentioned, would have given the LIV Golf a fierce boost and momentum going into the 2023 opening event.
Another name to make its debut in Mayakoba will be the dynamic multiple major winner Bubba Watson, a 2022 signing, who was kept out of action due to injury, but will tee up with his newly named team (see Teams section) that has earned him some column inches during the off-season.
Tactics in Play?
It’s been a quiet off-season for Greg Norman and the Saudi Investment Fund bankrolling the league, who have chosen, perhaps tactically, to keep a low profile as it builds to its 2023 season, and not without the vocal critics that have looked beyond its source of investment, for its communications or lack thereof, its late in the day schedule, late player roster releases and its court room activities that rightly or wrongly, have been its focal points, rather than the potential golf on offer across the upcoming season.
Whilst its not been the most ideal off-season for LIV, its place amongst the golfing mainstream media and across socials, both positively and negatively has seen it stay in the conversation and the series is clearly attractive to both fans, particularly outside of the USA, and players on both sides of the Atlantic, despite what seems to be a sustained push to quash the upstart league, before it gets its place in the golf eco-system it craves.
Goats, Rippers, Sponsors and Battle Lines
The team concept is LIV Golf’s marmite, some like it, some can’t abide by it. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, the concept seemingly has its place and has for a large part, been one of its most positive inclusions. The Team names are hit and miss, the clear winner being the aforementioned Watson’s newly named Range Goats GC and its snazzy pink look that, one of two renamed sides for 2023, the other being Cameron Smith’s Australian based side who have gone from Punch GC to the Rippers GC.
But, what of the rumoured team sponsors? The paymasters aren’t going to throw money at LIV with its seemingly endless chequebook year after year and no doubt the long-term plan is for sponsors to come on board that will invest in the concept and the Teams in particular. So where are they?
The answer is up in the air, and probably because with all the ongoing litigation and the largely negative media reactions, sponsors will be waiting to see what the eco-system looks like towards the back end of 2023, both in the USA and the ongoing court battle between the PGA Tour and LIV, as well as across the pond, this time the DP Tour who are in a battle with players wanting to continue on the European based circuit.
Contrasting results seem likely, with the players rumoured to have a high chance of winning their litigation with the DP Tour, though it seems likely that the PGA Tour may come out on top over LIV, largely because of a different judicial system over in the USA.
Nevertheless, a lot depends on these court cases and which way they go, with possible sponsors holding fire and even players waiting to see the outcome before deciding their golfing future.
And what about the golf….
Ah yes, the golf, the actual game we all care about.
With a 14-event series scheduled for 2023, later this week the attention turns to the actual on-course golf and its going to be bigger and better and though some may argue, a roster thats depth keeps on growing. The Mayakoba will be its first swing, a new event on a course that was previously a venue on the PGA Tour.
The schedule has its critics but is certainly has a more robust international feel than the predominantly USA feel on the PGA Tour, with another win being events scheduled at the renowned Valderrama in July and the Greenbrier in August.
On the course, will Dustin Johnson and his revamped 4 Aces team be the same force as they were in 2022 and will we continue to see the likes of Koepka and DeChambeau continue to work towards capturing their major-winning form that made the widely talked abut duo, the battle ground of golf between 2016-2020.
Another battle that could emerge, may well be between Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann, arguably the future of the LIV Golf League over its formative years and whether both can create a rivalry that will propel the series and capture the imagination of fans across the globe, allowing the golf played to become the focal point.
Later this week, we’ll look into the full rosters of the LIV Golf League and the players and teams to look out for!
New year, new look… Welcome to #LIVGolf League 2023 🔥
— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) February 7, 2023