What is the LIV Golf Invitational Series?

After months of speculation and back-and-forth between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, the new Saudi-backed series is to get underway on the outskirts of London on Friday. Here’s all you need to know about who is taking part, what is the format, and why the new league has divided the world of golf.

Who is teeing up in London?

Phil Mickelson will end his self imposed golf exile this week.

The event is not being recognised by the Official Golf World Ranking (OWGR), meaning no world ranking points will be on offer during the tournament, although that hasn’t stopped a number of high-profile names agreeing to play at the Centurion Club.

Former world No 1 Dustin Johnson and Ryder Cup legends Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were among the most notable names to commit, with major champions Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen also involved. Phil Mickelson was added to that list on Monday evening after months of controversy surrounding comments he made about the breakaway series.

Former British Masters champion Richard Bland and PGA Tour veteran Kevin Na also signed up, while reigning US Amateur winner James Piot is among the young players featuring in England.

Some 42 players were initially named in the field for the inaugural event, with five more added after the Asian Tour event at Slaley Hall on Sunday.

How did the concept start?

Greg Norman has been the public face of LIV Golf.

Reports first began to surface of a rival league to the PGA Tour as far back as 2019, but it was only in late 2021 that the proposal truly began to take shape with the formation of LIV Golf Investments.

This new entity, with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – owners of Newcastle United – as its majority shareholder, made an initial $200million commitment to the Asian Tour, later increased to $300m, and appointed former world No 1 and Open champion Greg Norman as its CEO.

In March, despite the PGA Tour threatening to hand out lifetime bans to players who defect to a rival league, LIV Golf announced the schedule for an eight-event, $225million invitational series beginning at Centurion Club in St Albans on Friday.

LIV is the Roman numeral for 54, which is the number of holes to be played in each event. It also refers to the lowest score a player can shoot were they to birdie every hole on a par-72 course.

Why is it so divisive?

The Saudi Arabian regime has been accused of sportswashing.

Due to the PIF’s links to the Saudi government, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman serving as chairman, LIV Golf has faced accusations of sports washing.

Norman has adamantly denied such claims, telling the media last month that Saudi Arabia is “changing their culture within their country” and insisting “I do not answer to Saudi Arabia. I do not answer to their government or MBS”.

Comments from a Mickelson interview with author Alan Shipnuck, who is writing an unauthorised biography of the six-time major winner, came to light in February, in which the 51-year-old questioned Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and called the regime “scary”.

Mickelson has since apologised for his “reckless” comments.

What is the tournament format?

The players will compete individually and as part of a team.

All 48 players compete against each other in a traditional stroke play format, with the lowest 54-hole total from the no-cut event being the winner, while a draft will help allocate players into the team format.

Each team will have a LIV appointed team captain who will select their three open team positions via a snake draft format, similar to those used on the Ladies European Tour in the Aramco Team Series.

For the first two rounds, the best two stroke play scores will count for each team. For the third and final round, the best three scores will count, with the lowest overall team score after 54 holes being named the team winner.

The format changes in the Team Championship, which is a seeded four-day, four-round, match play knock-out tournament. The top four seeds automatically receive a bye through the first round, with the remaining eight teams playing against each other to see who reaches the quarter-finals.

How much money is on offer?

The first seven events all have a prize purse of $25million, with $20m being distributed between the 48-man field and the remaining $5m being shared between the top three teams at the end of each week.

The winner will receive $4m (£3.2m), considerably more than the $2.7m awarded to Scottie Scheffler for his victory at The Masters and Justin Thomas secured for his PGA Championship success, while every player is guaranteed at least $120,000 just for completing 54 holes.

An Individual Champion will be crowned at the end of those events, with a $30m fund distributed for the top three players of the season, providing they have played in a minimum of four tournaments.

The prize purse doubles for the season finale in Miami and sees $50m allocated between each of the 12 four-man teams. Each player receives a 25 per cent cut of team earnings, with $16m awarded to the winning team and $1million for the team finishing 12th.

Where to next?

Trump National Doral Miami will host the end of season tournament.

The inaugural event in London is the first of eight tournaments due to take place over the next few months, including five in the United States and two in Asia, with an expanded schedule then planned in the coming years.

Pumpkin Ridge GC in Portland from June 30-July 2 and Trump National Golf Club Bedminster from July 29-31 are the next two events, with further US-based tournaments take place in Boston from September 2-4 and Chicago from September 16-18.

Stonehill Golf Club in Bangkok is the venue from October 7-9 and Royal Greens Golf Club – the site of the Saudi International in recent years – hosts the following week, with the season-ending Team Championship then hosted at Trump National Doral Miami from October 27-30.

LIV Golf plans to have 10 events in its 2023 calendar before expanding to 14 tournaments from 2024, although dates and locations for those have not yet been confirmed.

“We have a long-term vision and we’re here to stay,” said Norman, the CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, via a release. “We’re going to grow the game, give more opportunities to players, and create a more entertaining product for fans.”

How to watch:

As of this writing, the LIV Golf tournament in London will not be available to watch on TV. The only way to catch the action is online. LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook will carry live streaming coverage of the tournament. The coverage begins at 2pm GMT on Thursday.

This week is the start of what is set to be an intriguing period for the game of golf. With Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na resigning their membership of the PGA Tour in order to compete in the LIV series all eyes are on the PGA tour to see what actions they will take against the rebel players.

The USGA have this evening announced they will let any golfer who has earned a spot compete in the US Open next week. Watch this space.

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