Why the PGA Tour has little to worry about after drab LIV Golf opener

Forgettable format, lack of leaderboards, poor performances - the inaugural LIV Golf tournament failed to live up to the hype. 

Andy Roberts's picture
Mon, 13 Jun 2022
Why the PGA Tour has little to worry about after drab LIV Golf opener

If we are to take the human rights angle and politics completely out of the mix to focus solely on the golf, the opening event of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series was quite frankly a poor first attempt at "evolution and change" for the sport. 

How any of the 48 players teeing up at Centurion Club - and other PGA Tour pros heading to LIV Golf such as Patrick Reed - can attempt to con us that a forgettable add-on team format with embarrassing team names in a shotgun start is the development we have all been crying out for in the game is beyond me. 

Come on. We all know why they are here. 

And don't even start me on Graeme McDowell's comments about being fully behind Saudi Arabia's attempts to turn things around.

Oh sorry, I said I was going to keep politics out of it. 

Lack of quality golf, especially from the stars

The only reason people rocked up to the LIV Golf Invitational London in the first place, once they had made a U-turn from London to Hertfordshire, was because players were handing out free tickets on their social media channels. 

Even the most ardent golf fans were not prepared to hand over £67 of their hard-earned cash for a daily ticket on the off chance that Charl Schwartzel and Hennie du Plessis could potentially end up battling it out to become the first ever LIV Golf champion. 

Fair play to Schwartzel, he won $4 million for stumbling home with a 2-over 72 in the final round for a 7-under par total, capping things off in style with a three-putt bogey for the fans at the par-5 18th.

Joking aside, the course was actually playing pretty tough and Schwartzel did putt extremely well. In fact he rarely missed a putt inside of 10 feet until the last few holes, no doubt when he starting thinking about what was all at stake. 

Without question, the two-time PGA Tour winner deserved to walk away as the victor and see out his first victory anywhere around the world in six years. He was certainly the most solid player of all those in contention. 

Dustin Johnson, who was paid in the region of $150 million to join LIV Golf, tried to enter the mix on Saturday but he was always too far off the pace to contend.

DJ was the star name entering the week and he finished in eighth place on 1-under par during a week that saw only eight players break par.

Other big names such as Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson all finished out of contention and well over par. 

These were really the five standout players that everyone had come to see, and they disappointed. They were a combined 27-over par. 

Mickelson, when we spotted him at different times during the final round, looked jet-lagged, sluggish and as if he would rather have been anywhere other than a golf course.

But given he is getting paid in the region $200 million for his services to LIV Golf, he bravely plugged on for a 10-over total.

That saw him finish tied 33rd in the 48-man field, pocketing him $150,000 in the process. 

Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, then picked up another $750,000 for being one quarter of the victorious Stinger GC team led by captain and 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. 

That took his three-day earnings to $4.75 million. Kerching.

Commentator chaos

While Schwartzel was finishing things off on 18, lead commentator Arlo White, who had little to no experience in the sport prior to joining LIV Golf, showed us he had little to no experience in the sport prior to joining LIV Golf. 

White, who has been a football commentator for decades, was telling us how we were watching Branden Grace behind the 18th green while in fact it was actually team captain Oosthuizen. 

The more experienced Jerry Foltz had to kindly step in and point this out to an embarrassed White in the commentary booth. In the words of Curtis Strange: "You'll learn."

Then there was the third man in the comms box, Dom Boulet, a respected golf commentator who once played on the Asian Tour. 

Only he thought it was right to sign things off for the week with: "All the critics were wrong that there would not be any emotion."

Thanks, Dom. 

I mean you are probably going to stifle a smile and look fairly happy when your wife and kids run onto the green, especially when $4.75 million is about to enter your bank account on Monday morning. 

Patrick is pumped. Apparently. 

Sentiments of emotion and energy at the first LIV Golf event were echoed by Reed, who was welcomed onto the broadcast via video link just moments after his name was read out like he was about to enter a Royal Rumble in Portland.

"It's Patrick Reed, the fans love him," said Foltz, bringing out his inner Jim Ross after learning Reed had committed to the next LIV Golf event in the United States.

Do they, Jerry? Do they love him? 

I mean with all due respect to Reed, he is hardly the most popular player on Tour. 

On came Reed, who like Foltz, was no doubt keeping to script himself. 

"It's awesome to hear their energy and just how excited they are for the event," said Reed. 

"I have talked to a lot of guys after the first two rounds. They told me not just how well it's run but the turn out of the fans, the excitement on the course and the energy of it all. The energy seems so lively, they are so pumped and ready to go."

Really, Patrick? Energy? 

The only energy I saw on Saturday afternoon was a can of Red Bull powering me through the five-hour round snoozefest unfolding before my eyes. 

The Red Bull was also helping me keep me eyes open as I had been told not to blink. 

"Just the thought of being part of an evolution and change for the better is unbelievable," added Reed, who continued to dot the i's and cross the t's. 

What change for the better exactly, Patrick? 

It was 54 holes, one round shorter than a "proper golf tournament", few of us could keep pace with the team leaderboard, and rounds were taking close to five hours. 

Back to the drawing board, I would say. 

Forgettable team format and difficult to keep track of the scores

While the team names were shockers through the card, the bigger issue for me was how these teams were even selected in the first place?

Were some pre-determined and others drafted?

Who knows exactly, but some of the 12 teams looked to have no chance from the get-go given the strength in depth of other teams, one of which won the tournament by 14 shots.

When a team wins by that sort of margin, you should probably take a second look at the draft. 

I also thought it was tough to keep track of the team leaderboard during the action.

I appreciate they featured the individual leaderboard down the left side like they do on the F1, but the team leaderboard was very much an afterthought and only appeared every now and again during the broadcast. 

The team event was worked out as follows: the best two of four scores in Round 1, the best two of four scores in Round 2, and the best three of four scores in Round 3 combined to produce the team score.

I genuinely had to look that up as we had not even been told during the coverage. 

Why the lack of team score updates?

Was it because there was too much volatility with the team scoring, especially with three scores counting on Saturday? Surely they could have added a ticker along the very bottom of the screen to keep us up to date on the team scores? 

The PGA Tour's FedEx Cup initially had teething problems starting out so perhaps we should give LIV Golf a free pass on it for now, but for starters I thought it was forgettable. 

Of course, Reed enjoyed it though: "It's refreshing to see team golf again."

To be fair, it might be the only team event you do see again, Patrick. 

Lack of leaderboards

A lack of live scoring was another bugbear of mine.

If you were busy with family or friends and just wanted to keep up to date with the scores every now and then without watching the live coverage - which did feature on the LIV Golf website and YouTube - then you had little chance. 

A live scoring leaderboard added to the LIV Golf website would be a nice touch for future additions, just like you see on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour websites. 

But a general lack of leaderboards was a common theme, even on site at Centurion Club. 

A few more were needed for sure, especially for a shotgun start where holes were in constant use throughout the day. 

There were giant boards at certain places like on 17 and 18, but really apart from that there were not enough to keep spectators - and players - notified as to what was going on out there. 

Thankfully most spectators were just happy to keep themselves busy in the bars or take advantage of the tented village area, which to be fair, was actually pretty good by all accounts. There was plenty to keep the average golf fan busy with a range of activities and music. 

Shotgun starts contributed to five-hour rounds

I had my suspicions about shotgun starts when it was first revealed by LIV Golf last month, and I was right to be concerned. 

LIV Golf can play the "faster day" card all they want... but rounds were taking in the region of five hours to complete, so let's not pretend there was some form of speed golf going on out there. 

Three-balls taking just under five hours is too long. I'm not saying this does not happen on the PGA Tour now and again, but LIV Golf is making this whole shotgun start format a big thing when really it adds nothing to the grand spectacle. 

If anything, it makes it more complicated, especially for the new golfer entering the sport - if that is their goal here to grow the game. Players finishing on different holes all over on the course just does not weigh up and never will in a professional golf tournament. 

In fact I asked 30 fans on site as to what they made of the shotgun start at LIV Golf and 24 of them said it added nothing to their viewing experience. Only six of them said they would like to see more of it. Most of them were saying how long the rounds were taking, too. 

As a result of the shotgun start, it was also impossible to see on the leaderboard who exactly had how many holes left. It's all good saying "2 holes to play" in the top left corner, but actually, some players had 3 left and others had 1. 


Taking all politics out of the equation and LIV Golf's opening event was something of a turn off. 

The forgettable team format needs plenty of work going forwards, as too does the live scoring with two tournaments going on at once. 

"Evolution and change" is clearly at the forefront of LIV Golf operations judging by their press releases, but it is certainly a work in progress after what I saw at Centurion Club last week. 

As for positives, the tented village / fan zone area was actually really good and there was plenty to keep fans occupied in and around the golf going on, so I do give credit to tournament organisers there. 

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson are two huge first signings for LIV Golf, and so too is Bryson DeChambeau when he joins forces for the Portland event at the end of the month. 

Others are reportedly on the way, too. 

But if LIV Golf is to truly compete with the PGA Tour then it needs to pick up the very best players in the game and be producing finishes of the calibre we saw at the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday night between Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau. 

That is what golf fans want to see at the end of the day. Not a slug fest between a bunch of South Africans and Peter Uihlein.

You can come up with as many unique team formats as you want, but if you have not got the very best players in the world to showcase our sport in the best possible light, then you will find it very hard to be successful and bring it to the masses. 

A bit like Saudi Arabia's atrocious human rights record, LIV Golf has serious room for improvement. 

Oh sorry, I went there again.

What did you make of the inaugural LIV Golf tournament? What did you make of the standard of golf? Did you enjoy the team aspect? Share your thoughts over on the GolfMagic social media channels or come and join us over on the GolfMagic YouTube channel, where you can see our latest video from Centurion Club.