Although 2023 may have introduced some uncertainty, for the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman, the vision is as clear as ever. LIV Golf is going nowhere, and the 2023 season finale in Miami was confirmation of that belief.
LIV Golf, the upstart golf tour consisting of 12 teams of four players, just capped off its second season. It was a year where eight events were expanded to 14, The CW signed on as the league’s first broadcast partner, Bryson DeChambeau shot a final round 58 to win at Greenbrier, and Brooks Koepka conquered the field at the PGA Championship.
At the end of it though, 48 players descended on Miami, where four teams would eventually reach the Sunday finals. Those teams were the Crushers, RangeGoats, Torque, and defending champions 4Aces. And having already crowned the league’s individual champion, Talor Gooch, before the start of the tournament, Crushers captain Bryson DeChambeau led his team of Anirban Lahiri, Charles Howell III and Paul Casey to victory by two strokes over Gooch's RangeGoats.
It's impossible to talk about LIV without mentioning money, and a lot went around on Sunday afternoon after the dust had settled, $50 USD million to be exact. The lion's share of it went of course to the winners, with four members of Crushers splitting a pot of $14 million USD. Ultimately though, the point of having such a large purse allocated towards the team component is to fuel competition.
In a day and age where new fans are finding their way into the sport, LIV is continuing to lean into what sets it apart from traditional competitions. Every once in a while, an individual like Tiger Woods comes along and grabs the public’s attention, but those types are once-in-a-generation. In order for golf to grow as a spectator sport, LIV is betting on the idea that people are more invested in the collective. And it feels like not only the fans, but the players, are already buying into the league’s team concept just two years in.
“I can't be happier with this team of mine,” said Bryson DeChambeau after his team lifted the season ending trophy. “Any time you get a win with a team, I'd say honestly that's more important than individual stuff. Look, majors are great but there's a team behind you there. I've got a team, my own team."
For LIV members, being part of a team represents an opportunity to own something too. Another unique aspect to LIV's concept is that the captain of each team owns a 25% equity stake in their team, with each team functioning as its own mini-franchise. Compared to other tours where players function as individual contractors and have little say in determining the overall direction of the tour, members of LIV have a lot more agency. Owning a franchise comes with a plethora of sponsorship opportunities, and the recent interest from brands and investors proves that LIV is on to something.
In the run up to the season finale, RangeGoats captain Bubba Watson said he had received as many as 20 inquiries from potential sponsors. “There were three in Singapore, and then after Singapore the floodgates opened,” he said. “There were even more. There’s been talk this week. I met with people this week. There are quite a few.”
Even before the start of the tournament, the tour created anticipation for its flagship event by collaborating with hip-hop's favorite jeweler and Par 3 Podcast co-host Ben Baller. Every sport needs its crown jewel. Football has Super Bowl rings, basketball has championship rings, and now the same can be said for LIV Golf. Designed by Baller himself, the first ring was awarded to individual champion Gooch before the tournament, and four more will be made for the Crushers GC team champions in the coming months. The rings are 14 karats of gold and 10 carats of diamonds, which include ultra-rare VS and VVS varieties.
“I took a year's absence from jewelry making and this was my first project back on my comeback tour,” said Ben Baller about the project. “Once I built a solid friendship with RangeGoats Captain, Bubba Watson, I knew I had to do it. Especially after the amazing time I had in [LIV Golf] Chicago, and playing in the LIV [Golf] Pro-Am.”
On the topic of pro-ams, the one in Miami this year had quite possibly the best turn out yet, with former NFL players Reggie Bush and Brice Butler rubbing elbows with TikTok sensation Snappy Gilmore and internet personality Blake Webber. The best part of it though: all the aforementioned names are hardcore golfers in their own right.
F1's team-meets-individual dynamic is often mentioned in reference to LIV, and as the weekend wrapped up, the winners were celebrated on stage as if they had just completed a record lap time. The same stage was then used for another one of the event's main attractions: a live concert. Just as he had done in Adelaide earlier in the year, DJ Fisher, known for his blend of techno and house, played out a live set for fans and left everyone in a positive mindset leaving the golf course.
As we look to next year, LIV Golf's Gary Davidson is on record that an expansion beyond the current 12 team roster could be on the cards, and a new COO Lawrence Burian has just been announced. The 2024 schedule is beginning to come into focus, and one of the highlights will include a stop in Las Vegas during Super Bowl week. Another new feature of 2024 will be a revised promotion/relegation system, similar to how something like the UK's Premier League works. What that means for LIV is that the four bottom performers from the previous season will battle it out to earn back their spot in a high stakes showdown. Officially dubbed LIV Golf Promotions, $1.5 million USD will be on the line this December in Abu Dhabi. Get your popcorn ready for what's to come.