A developing timeline involving the upstart LIV Golf Invitational Series, the PGA Tour, the Premier Golf League and the players who may decide their fate
Talk of an upstart world golf league or tour has dated back to the mid-1990s when Greg Norman proposed a World Golf Tour. That ultimately never materialized, though. Today, Norman is again front and center in creating a rival entity — the LIV Golf Invitational Series — that is disrupting how both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour operate. Whether Norman, 66, who is the Series' commissioner and also CEO of the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Investments, which is funding the eight-event Series along with 10 tournaments on the Asian Tour, can make this latest endeavor a success remains to be seen.
The following timeline compiled from multiple media reports lays out the various twists and turns of a multiyear journey to this point.
> In 1994, Norman reigned as the world's No. 1-ranked player and he attempted to create a World Golf Tour that would feature smaller marquee fields, larger purses and a bona fide television deal. The tour never came to fruition.
> In 1999, the PGA Tour seemingly adopted much of Norman's idea with the formation of the World Golf Championships.
> Speculation about the formation of the Premier Golf League, owned by the UK-based World Golf Group Limited, creates a buzz. The Telegraph reports that the PGL has spent a reported $15 million to share its vision of a new-age World Golf Tour with a number of the world's top-ranked players.
> The still-nebulous PGL attempts to tamp down speculation with a statement:
“There has been significant media speculation relating to our plans to launch The League, a new professional golf format that will be comprised of 18 events per season. Some of that speculation, including details of the proposed format and our financial backers, is inaccurate. While we do not wish to comment further at this time, we would like to say that it is our intention to work with, rather than challenge, existing tours for the betterment of golf as a sport, pastime and media property, and we have partnered with the Raine Group to help make this vision a reality. We appreciate the interest and look forward to providing everyone with further details.”
> Meanwhile, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan reportedly meets with the Tour's 16-man Player Advisory Counsel at the Farmers Insurance Open and says that no player will be a member of the PGA Tour and the PGL. He also sends a memo to Tour players.
JANUARY 29, 2020
> Phil Mickelson plays in the Saudi International pro-am with a group that includes Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation; Colin Neville, a sports consultant for The Raine Group, a reported partner in the Premier Golf League bid; and Andrew Gardiner, a director at Barclays Capital.
"It was fascinating to talk with them and ask some questions and see what their plans are," Mickelson says. "Where they started, how they started, why and just got their background, which was very interesting."
FEBRUARY 2, 2020
> On the final day of the Saudi International, Norman expresses optimism in the proposed PGL. "It’s just a matter of getting all the right components together, whether players stay together," he says. "With my original concept, some players loved it and others didn’t like it. I had corporate, I had television, but you need 100 per cent of the pie to be together before we can bake it. From what I’m seeing here, this one has every chance of getting off the ground."
Perhaps foreshadowing the future, Norman speaks about one of the looming questions with any new league — broadcast rights. “Who is one of the biggest companies in the world right now with a trillion dollar business? Apple. And Amazon. Streaming is the future. ... Why not stream golf on Apple, why not on Amazon? Get out of the box. There are opportunities out there that are far greater than even I could have contemplated back in my day."
FEBRUARY 11, 2020
> Tiger Woods, ahead of the PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational, confirms that he and his representatives have been contacted by the Premier Golf League. "Have I been personally approached? Yes, and my team’s been aware of it and we’ve delved into the details of it and trying to figure it out, just like everyone else. We’re looking into it,” Woods says.
FEBRUARY 19, 2020
> Rory McIlroy, then World No. 1, says he is not interested. “The more I've thought about it the more I don't like it," says McIlroy, who was aware of the idea as far back as 2014. "I read a thing that said if you take the money they can tell you what to do, so if you don't take the money they can't tell you what to do." Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka also announce no interest.
FEBRUARY 21, 2020
> Golf Digest reports that Gardiner, a British attorney and businessman, attends events on the PGA Tour's West Coast Swing before now stepping out as CEO of the Premier Golf League. Gardiner adds that The Raine Group, an investment banking firm that focuses primarily on technology, media and telecommunications, is a partner.
Gardiner unveils his proposal of an 18-event schedule — 10 events in the U.S. and others in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East — that could begin in January 2022.
More PGL plans crystalize: the league would consist of 12 four-player teams, with a team captain who would receive upfront fees. A 13th team would be selected by fans. The captain would decide prior to each round which two players' scores would count for the team. Tournaments would feature a no-cut, 54-hole format, and individuals and teams would compete for shares of the $10 million purse. The winner would receive $2 million.
JUNE 8, 2020
> The PGL tweets an open letter:
An open letter to the world of golf from the PGL team
— Premier Golf League (@premgolfleague) June 8, 2021
> Representatives of the Premier Golf League approach European Tour CEO Keith Pelley with a "compelling offer" to bolster the Tour.
NOVEMBER, 27, 2020
> The PGA Tour announces a strategic alliance with the European Tour, buying an estimated $90 million minority stake in European Tour Productions, the the European Tour's media production company. Monahan is also named to the European Tour's executive board. "Emphatically, this is not a merger,” Pelley says.
APRIL 20, 2021
> Golfweek reports that the PGA Tour has had a Player Impact Program in place since January 1. The program will distribute a pool of $40 million among 10 players, with the player deemed most valuable receiving $8 million.
MAY 4, 2021
> Reports of deals ranging between $30 and $100 million to Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Mickelson to play in a Saudi Arabian "Super League" begin to surface. Other names being reported include Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler.
The latest news appears to signify that there are now two proposed leagues in development and that The Raine Group is not part of the Saudi Arabia plan.
> At the Wells Fargo Championship, Monahan addresses Tour players and sternly warns them that their participation in the new league could result in either a suspension or a lifetime ban from the PGA Tour.
OCTOBER 27, 2021
> Golfweek reports that select media meet with Norman in New York City to hear plans for a new Saudi-backed golf series and that Norman will be the commissioner. Little more is reported as media members who attended the session are asked to hold the news until the following week.
OCTOBER 29, 2021
> Norman is announced as CEO of LIV Golf Investments, which is backed by Public Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia with reported assets of more than $500 billion.
LIV Golf Investments commits at least $200 million in prize money over a 10-year period to help fund a series of 10 annual events on the Asian Tour, starting in 2022. The Asian Tour has been dormant since March 2020 due to COVID-19.
“This is only the beginning,” says Norman. “LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create additive new opportunities across worldwide professional golf. We will be a cooperative and respectful supporter of the game at every level, and today’s announcement alongside the Asian Tour is the first example of that."
The Saudi International, which is not part of the 10-event slate, will become the Asian Tour's flagship event.
Also, ESPN reports that Norman will become commissioner of a yet-to-named Saudi Arabian-backed league that surfaced in May. The league, which plans to begin play in 2022, is not associated with the Premier Golf League that proposes 18 tournaments with 48-player fields and a start date in 2023.
> LIV is representative of the Roman numeral 54.
> The Telegraph reports that courses owned and operated by former U.S. President Donald Trump and his family are under consideration as host venues for the new Asian Tour events. Norman and Saudi golf officials reportedly met with Eric Trump, the former president's son, earlier in the week, and Turnberry, Bedminster and Dubai are thought to be contenders.
NOVEMBER 1, 2021
> In a Q&A interview with Golf Digest's Dan Rapaport, Norman speaks on a wide range of topics related to LIV Golf Investments' involvement with the Asian Tour. When asked what his pitch to players would be about playing on the Tour and in the 10-event series being backed by LIV Golf Investments, Norman says: "The players should keep their eyes open … to opportunities that allow [them] to do what you want to do as an independent contractor. Seve [Ballesteros] and I were staunch supporters of that, of growing the game of golf on a global basis. The tours should keep their eyes wide open, because the Asian Tour will be there. And it’s not geographically confined to Asia. It’s going global with tournaments all over the world."
> With the recent Norman and Asian Tour announcements, where does this leave the Premier Golf League?
Geoff Shackelford reports in The Quadrilateral that the PGL has reached out to the PGA Tour as recent as early September to discuss a "merging of the current [PGA Tour] structure with most of the original PGL concepts." Two sources told The Quadrilateral that the PGA Tour received, but did not act upon, a memo and deck from the PGL.
Indications are that the PGA and European tours are about to go head-to-head with the Asian Tour on a number of fronts, and the PGL is now willing to side with the proven product. Shackelford asserts: "Yet the PGL believes it has found a way around the ugliness of reinventing professional golf, as we could see any day now with player defections to the Saudi-back proposal. The briefing suggests 'there would be no cliff edge, no bans and no threat to players’ pensions or OWGR points.'"
> The 'No Laying Up' podcast discusses extensively the developments involving Norman and the Premier Golf League.
NOVEMBER 5, 2021
> LIV Golf Investments begins to fill in its C-suite roster by appointing Sean Bratches as chief commercial officer and Ron Cross as chief events officer. Bratches arrives after rising to executive vice president of sales and marketing at ESPN and serving as managing director of commercial operations for Liberty Media, which acquired Formula 1. Cross spent the last 30 years in various leadership roles at the PGA Tour and Augusta National Golf Club. Cross spent two decades at the PGA Tour running premier events, including the Presidents Cup, Tour Championship and World Golf Championships. At Augusta National, he helped develop the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the Latin America Amateur Championship, and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.
NOVEMBER 10, 2021
> LIV Golf Investments continues adding executives by naming Will Staeger as chief media officer, Slugger White as vice president of rules and competition management, and Jane MacNeille as vice president of communications.
Staeger has more than 25 years of experience rights deals and production groups with the likes of ESPN, Endeavor, WWE and Dick Clark Productions. White is a long-time rules official who retired from the PGA Tour in 2020. MacNeille has 15 years of marketing and communications experience, including the last seven years as head for communications for the Greg Norman Company.
"As we pursue our goal of enhancing the global golf ecosystem, we are focused o building upon our strong foundation of sustainable growth, and are pleased to welcome Will, Slugger and Jane to leadership team," Norman says. "Their combined experience and expertise will be invaluable and instrumental, guiding LIV Golf Investments into the future."
NOVEMBER 21, 2021
> Monahan sends a memo to players outlining that 85 percent of the PGA Tour's consolidated revenue is tournament related — either from sponsors or from domestic and international media. Also, Monahan writes that 55 percent of the Tour’s 2021 revenue will be paid to the players in the form of prize money, bonus programs and other benefits. The memo appears to refute Mickelson's claim on Gary Williams' "5 Clubs" podcast in September that the Tour only pays 26 percent of its revenue to the players.
> Around Thanksgiving, Mickelson has a nearly hourlong telephone conversation with Alan Shipnuck, a former Sports Illustrated journalist who now writes for the Fire Pit Collective website and is authoring an unauthorized biography about Mickelson that is scheduled for a May 2022 printing.
In the conversation with Shipnuck, who does not reveal the details of the call until Feb. 17, Mickelson opens up on a number of topics regarding the Saudi Arabians and the proposed unnamed league. Mickelson says he is not eager to join the new league, but believes he could use the upstart as leverage against the PGA Tour.
"They’re scary m-----f------ to get involved with," Mickelson says of the Saudis. "We know they killed (Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape how the PGA Tour operates.
"They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics but we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want (the new league) to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the (PGA) Tour."
JANUARY 18, 2022
> David Hill, a former Fox executive, becomes the latest in a long line of LIV Golf Investments appointments. Hill will serve as a consultant to the production team. He previously served as president of Fox Sports and helped launch the NFL during his 40-year career in entertainment and media.
Hill was part of Greg Norman’s original plan to start a rival golf league called the World Golf Tour in the mid-1990s. That idea eventually failed because Fox Sports dropped its backing.
Hill will be charged with, among other things, bringing innovative ideas and a new way of showcasing golf in whatever mediums Norman’s proposed new league is showcased.
FEBRUARY 2, 2022
> In an interview with Golf Digest, while playing in the PIF Saudi International, Mickelson speaks of the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed,” which was leading players to consider playing in the Saudi-backed league that reportedly offers larger purses, guaranteed payouts and 54-hole, no-cut tournaments.
“It’s not public knowledge, all that goes on," Mickelson says. "But the players don’t have access to their own media. If the Tour wanted to end any threat, they could just hand back the media rights to the players. But they would rather throw $25 million here and $40 million there than give back the roughly $20 billion in digital assets they control. Or give up access to the $50-plus million they make every year on their own media channel.
“There are many issues but that is one of the biggest. For me personally, it’s not enough that they are sitting on hundreds of millions of digital moments. They also have access to my shots, access I do not have. They also charge companies to use shots I have hit. And when I did ‘The Match’ — there have been five of them — the tour forced me to pay them $1 million each time. For my own media rights. That type of greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious."
The PGA Tour offers no comment.
FEBRUARY 17, 2022
> The Fire Pit Collective website publishes parts of Shipnuck's November interview with Mickelson. Along with his incendiary comments about the Saudis, Mickelson adds that he and three other unnamed players paid for attorneys to draft the proposed league’s operating plan. Mickelson also suggests that the league, which has the backing of LIV Golf Investments, is part of the Saudi government’s attempts at “sportswashing.”
FEBRUARY 20, 2022
> Via social media, Dustin Johnson and later DeChambeau pledge their allegiance to the PGA Tour. They join a list of players that include Koepka, McIlroy, Rahm, Woods, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
In a statement posted by the PGA Tour on Johnson's behalf, he wrote: “Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of speculation about an alternative tour; much of which seems to have included me and my future in professional golf. “I feel it’s now time to put such speculation to rest I am fully committed to the PGA Tour.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to play the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family. While there will always be areas where our Tour can improve and evolve, I am thankful for our leadership and the many sponsors who make the PGA Tour golf’s premier tour."
DeChambeau wrote: “While there has been a lot of speculation surrounding my support for another tour, I want to make it very clear that as long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I. As of now, I am focused on getting myself healthy and competing again soon. I appreciate the support."
For months, both Johnson and DeChambeau were believed to be players being courted by the Saudi-backed league. Their statements are viewed as blows to the league.
FEBRUARY 22, 2022
> With the proposed Saudi league on the ropes after Johnson's and DeChambeau's commitment to the PGA Tour, Mickelson apologizes for his recent comments. Conspicuously absent from his remarks is any mention of the PGA Tour.
A Statement from Phil Mickelson pic.twitter.com/2saaXIxhpu
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) February 22, 2022
While Mickelson takes some accountability for his words, he suggests that some of his comments from the November interview with Shipnuck were meant to be off the record.
“I have always known that criticism would come with exploring anything new. I still chose to put myself at the forefront of this to inspire change, taking the hits publicly to do the work behind the scenes," Mickelson writes.
In the statement, Mickelson is positive in his comments of LIV Golf Investments and offers those brands with which he is associated “the option to pause or end the relationship as I understand it might be necessary given the current circumstances."
> Around the time Mickelson releases his statement, KPMG, which has been a sponsor of Mickelson since 2008, ends its endorsement agreement. Hours later, Heineken N.V., whose Amstel Light brand Mickelson endorsed, cuts ties with him. Workday says it will not renew its agreement with Mickelson at the end of March.
> Shipnuck later rebukes the Hall-of-Famer's claim about his comments being off the record.
FEBRUARY 25, 2022
> Callaway Golf announces it is going to "pause" a relationship with Mickelson that dates back to 2004. In 2017, Callaway signed Mickelson to a lifetime extension.
FEBRUARY 26, 2022
> The PGA Tour confirms Mickelson's removal as host for The American Express tournament in La Quinta, California. Also, the Mickelson Foundation, which served as the tournament's charitable arm and had a contract through 2024, will no longer be associated with the tournament.
Mickelson was not in attendance at this year's event held in late January.
MARCH 15, 2022
> The Premier Golf League, which for months appeared laying dormant, makes a splash. A letter sent to PGA Tour leadership and Rory McIlroy, one of four player-directors on the PGA Tour policy board, outlined a proposal for a partnership with the PGA Tour.
The proposal calls for a series of 18 tournaments featuring $20 million purses. Team events will run simultaneously and winners will receive an additional $1 million. In addition, there would be a season-ending team event with a winner-take-all purse of $20 million.
The proposal, according to Fire Pit Collective, was presented to the board and discussed by Player Advisory Council members at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship.
MARCH 16, 2022
> Greg Norman, CEO for LIV Golf Investments, announces the first definitive details of the Saudi-backed league for which he is the commissioner. The league will be called the LIV Golf Invitational Series and consist of a series of eight 54-hole tournaments, four of which will be held in the United States.
LIV Golf Investments is providing $400 million seed money. The league which will offer a $255 million total prize purse and begin June 9-11 in London. The seven regular-season events will have a $20 million for the individual portion and $5 to the team portion. Each no-cut tournament will have a maximum of 48 players.
The LIV Golf Invitational Series 2022 schedule will visit the following dates and locations:
- June 9-11: Centurion Golf Club, London
- July 1-3: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Portland
- July 29-31: Trump National Golf Club Bedminster – New Jersey
- Sept 2-4: The International, Boston
- Sept 16-18: Rich Harvest Farms, Chicago
- Oct 7-9: Stonehill, Bangkok
- Oct 14-16: Royal Greens Golf Club, Jeddah
- Oct 28-30: Team Championship, TBD
How the schedule overlaps with the PGA and DP World tour schedules:
PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open, St. George's Golf and Country Club, Toronto
LIV Golf Invitational: Centurion Golf Club, London
DP World Tour: Volvo Car Scandinavian, Tylosand, Sweden
June 30-July 3
PGA Tour: John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Ill.
LIV Golf Invitational: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, North Plains, Ore.
DP World Tour: Irish Open, County Kilkenny, Ireland
PGA Tour: Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit Golf Club, Detroit, Mich.
LIV Golf Invitational: Trump National Golf Club Bedminster – New Jersey
DP World Tour: Hero Open, Fife, Scotland
PGA Tour: Open (2022-23 schedule not announced)
LIV Golf Invitational: The International, Boston
DP World Tour: Made in HimmerLand, Farso, Denmark
PGA Tour: Open (2022-23 schedule not announced)
LIV Golf Invitational: Rich Harvest Farms, Chicago
DP World Tour: Italian Open, Rome, Italy
PGA Tour: Open (2022-23 schedule not announced)
LIV Golf Invitational: Stonehill, Bangkok
DP World Tour: Spanish Open, Madrid, Spain
PGA Tour: Open (2022-23 schedule not announced)
LIV Golf Invitational: Royal Greens Golf Club, Jeddah
DP World Tour: Andalucia Masters, Sotogrande, Spain
PGA Tour: Open (2022-23 schedule not announced)
LIV Golf Invitational: Team Championship, TBD
DP World Tour: WGC-HSBC Champions, Shanghai, China