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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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LIV Golf’s Future Remains Undecided

  • LIV Golf concludes its 2023 season this weekend in Miami.
  • The league still has not released concrete details for its 2024 schedule.
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
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LIV Golf concludes its second season on Sunday with the final round of its 2023 team championship at Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami.

If it returns for a third season in 2024, the league’s makeup will be anyone’s guess. 

A variety of scenarios are on the table for 2024, ranging from not much change at all to working alongside the PGA Tour — or even nonexistence.

An official LIV schedule for next season hasn’t been released. LIV Golf would not provide a comment to Front Office Sports about when a 2024 schedule would be unveiled. 

In the wake of the controversial agreement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced on June 6, negotiations for a definitive deal have hit major road bumps and faced significant slowdowns. A source even tells FOS that the PGA Tour is much closer to a deal with Endeavor and other firms than it is toward making the framework final

Along the way, the PGA Tour has received new interest from multiple U.S.-based investors.

A Dec. 31 deadline was put in place to reach a definitive agreement — and now, the looming status of the PIF deal holds the keys to LIV’s future. 

Here are the likeliest options for LIV Golf’s immediate and long-term future.

If The Deadline Is Delayed …

Taking the most recent events and reports into account, the PGA Tour and PIF’s failure to reach a definitive agreement by the Dec. 31 deadline appears to be the most likely immediate outcome.

Should that happen, the sides could agree to extend the deadline to a future date, or even indefinitely. This could be the most frustrating scenario, leaving golf fans without answers to when and if LIV players will ever have the option of being reintegrated into the PGA Tour.

Ahead of this weekend’s event, Phil Mickelson warned that more PGA Tour players could be joining LIV next year — since a provision from the framework that agreed LIV would stop poaching players has been dropped. “I’ve been fielding calls, as we all have, from players that are agents to PGA Tour players, to DP World Tour players that want to come over,” Mickelson said.

Despite the lack of official details about its 2024 schedule, LIV officials have remained publicly and privately bullish about their long-term prospects ever since the landmark deal was originally announced. LIV’s U.S. media partner feels the same way. 

“We’re not concerned,” Brad Schwartz, the CW’s president of entertainment, told FOS. “We’re excited to be along for the ride as long as the ride goes.”

The network has a multiyear deal with the league and has been increasingly optimistic since some of the initial controversy around it has died down. “As long as LIV keeps going, we’ll keep going,” Schwartz added.

But while the future of LIV may remain up in the air for another season, some hard decisions will have to be made sooner than later.

If The Deal Gets Done …

Even with the widely held expectation that a deal won’t be reached by Dec. 31, it’s still possible something could get done by the end of the year or shortly after.

“I would think they would figure this out,” one industry source said to FOS.

If that’s the case, LIV could still keep operating as it is, at least for another season. “It’s the right thing to do,” the source added. “It’s marketing. Maybe you’re not executing upon the deal until 2025, but the anticipation there. You spend the whole 2024 season just talking about how exciting 2025 is.”

Depending on the specific pathways back to the PGA Tour, LIV players could theoretically play some tournaments on both tours. But any significant changes to the pro golf landscape would likely take place in 2025.

A more drastic option, if a deal is completed, would be the immediate dissolution of LIV. 

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan originally said he couldn’t see a scenario in which LIV would continue hosting competing events long-term. But as negotiations play out, the Tour has been much more vague about 2024 plans.

LIV stakeholders don’t want to think about the league coming to an end. And if a deal isn’t ultimately reached, the controversial tour may never cease operations.

If The Deal Is Called Off …

The PGA Tour calling off negotiations with the PIF would bring about the most chaotic scenario.

LIV would no doubt go back to recruiting PGA Tour players, as Mickelson has already suggested. But the league would still face an uphill battle in its quest to gain Official World Golf Rankings Points.

The OWGR board denied LIV’s application this month, resulting in a snarky statement from LIV and players like Dustin Johnson saying that “you can’t really use the world ranking system anymore.”

But on the legal side, even if a deal isn’t reached, the end of litigation didn’t only benefit the PGA Tour, which spent tens of millions in legal fees. It also allowed PIF — which had a pending appeal that could have ultimately impacted its other business interests in the U.S. — to end the legal fight “without losing face,” a source familiar with the matter told FOS.

On the media front, The CW feels the launch of LIV has been a benefit regardless. 

Even though LIV isn’t pulling PGA Tour viewership numbers, its events draw in the hundreds of thousands, doubling or tripling the CW’s previous weekend content. “Saturday and Sunday afternoons were really kind of wastelands for CW stations,” Schwartz said. 

Of course, the PIF could opt to end LIV on its own terms without a PGA Tour partnership, although its recent actions point to that being unlikely. Saudi Arabia just launched a new company, SRJ Sports Investments, to focus entirely on sports.

With LIV’s season concluding and the PGA Tour in the midst of its FedExCup Fall schedule, things may get eerily quiet for the next few months. And if there’s no news by Dec. 31, the PGA Tour will have lots of questions to answer in January at its 2024 season-opening event in Maui.

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