Sobel: LIV Golf Will Endure Because Powers That Be Want That to Happen
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: Dustin Johnson.
In the 12 hours between LIV Golf announcing the field for its first event and the time I sat down to write these words, I’ve received plenty of inquiring questions from golf fans about this whole dynamic. Probing questions, though doused in, oh, just a smidge of subjective water.
“This thing isn’t actually going to succeed, right?”
“What’s the over/under for this league… two years?”
“Don’t they understand that nobody is going to watch?”
The answers to these queries can be found somewhere within the disconnection between fans of the game and LIV officials, as the parties are undoubtedly viewing this from completely opposite perspectives.
Many observers are posing the insinuating questions above based on what we know about enterprise and consumerism and a heaping dose of common sense. They see that LIV is offering a $25 million purse for next week’s initial event, up to a $50 million purse for the eighth and final event, and wonder how this can serve as a successful business model.
And that’s especially without a TV deal and especially with skyrocketed ticket prices and especially, especially with a field list which mostly resembles a 2009 all-star team.
The easy answer: They don’t care.
I shouldn’t speak for LIV — really, that journalistic lesson has already been learned — but despite such head-turning slogans as, “Shot Just Got Real” and “Golf, But Louder,” the guess here is that they’re not really concerned whether you like real, loud golf or not.
This is about things other than appealing to a massive fan base. It’s about causing a disruption in the placid world of professional golf tours, something Greg Norman, the LIV CEO, has wanted to accomplish for more than a quarter-century. (“Free agency has finally come to golf,” he declared in Tuesday’s press release.)
It’s about the challenge and the game of seeing what it takes to woo some world-class golfers away from life as they know it. And yes, it’s about sportswashing, that chic phrase which seems to be working, as we’re collectively talking more about the Saudi Arabian government as a golf organization and less about it as a regime with a horrible human rights record.
Extending this disconnect is the inability from fans to shake the idea that the golf should matter. Oh, sure. The player who finishes in first place will receive more money and accolades than the player who finishes in last place, but really, this league is more akin to the old Ice Capades, which would take competitive figure skaters and place them in a non-competitive environment, traveling the world to ply their craft for money, without any concern about winning or losing.
Reciting his best Crash Davis speech, Tiger Woods recently said, “I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past.”
This ain’t it. This has nothing to do with legacy and everything to do with players working three times less and receiving three times more.
Even though most of us would be tempted by such an offer, murderous regime notwithstanding, fans are still going to have a difficult time wrapping their minds around this — and for good reason.
These events won’t be about identifying the best player while building a unique brand to rival the existing foundation and they won’t be about stealing consumers away from the mainstream product.
Not for now, at least, from an outsider’s perspective.
The answers to all those questions above, though, is that yes, it will succeed; and yes, it’ll last longer than two years; and yes, they likely understand internally that the initial tournaments won’t exactly cut into the existing market share.
It will survive and endure, though, because the powers-that-be are motivated to make that happen, from the executives intent on sportswashing to the players intent on padding their bank accounts.
That’s all something that the rest of us, observing from afar, will learn to realize as this continues. And it will.