By Kelvin Lee, M. Blake Fortune, II
In the world of golf, there has been a rebellion. And, like most rebellions, it’s a strife of ideas between traditional systems and the neoteric revolters. On one hand we have the well-established kingdom of the PGA Tour. Founded in 1929 by the Professional Golf Association of America (PGA), it’s been the absolute governor for competitive golf, and to enter its gilded halls is a testament to pinnacle performance and mastery of craft. It’s an honor to compete and have your name on those white leaderboards. It’s what makes you a professional golfer. But at what cost? You sign your media rights over, you become an exclusive product without a guaranteed contract, you are subject to the whims and rules of your overseer without trial, and your compensation isn’t directly tied to performance. Now these complaints aren’t just inherent with the PGA nor are they completely justified, but grievances exist and are likely felt by those most affected: players who are older, less marketed and in the bottom half of scorers. In the end, and much like most things, it comes down to money. And this is where the LIV tour comes in. Started this year and bankrolled by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia (imagine a bottomless pit of money, then double that), the LIV tour seeks to address any problems with the PGA while also bringing golf into a modern age with shotgun starts, no cuts, and team play. There’s now competition in the marketplace and the Saudis are winning the battle for headline names, with Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, and Dustin Johnson just to start. PGA competitors are asking themselves: “Why stake my career tournament to tournament when I can get a guaranteed and handsomely paying season elsewhere?” Of course, bribery doesn’t always work. Tiger Woods declined a high nine figure offer to join LIV. But I have doubts that others won’t be tempted…
-Kelvin Lee, Portfolio Manager
Let me ask you a question- If someone stuck a $100,000,000.00 check in front of you to play golf, would you take it? Don’t worry, for most of us, we will never experience such a thrill. However, for some LIV golfers, that dream has become a reality. The catch? There is none… well, other than the millions more to be made throughout the actual season, and of course the scrutiny of the general public.
For the many opponents of the LIV tour, arguments are being made on human rights and a threat to the purity and traditions that the game of golf has established. For the supporters, arguments are being made based on generational wealth opportunities and a shortened season that allows for ample recovery and more time with loved ones.
What about the PGA tour itself? The Tour has essentially suspended indefinitely any player who participates on the LIV Tour. This has created a lot of noise, and players on the LIV tour are currently filing suit against the PGA tour for monopolistic behavior (Side note- for those of you that don’t know, the only “legal” monopoly in professional sports is the MLB… via its antitrust exemption).
We spoke with Riley Davenport, a professional golfer based out of Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, on the current state of professional golf:
Riley Davenport: “Being around professional golf for the past decade, LIV golf has put a wedge right down the middle of the tour. It’s a shame that these two tours couldn’t come together and make an electric “series” or set of 8 events to bring more money and exposure to golf. Now we are taking some of the top talent and dividing it, unfortunately, which is diluting the talent level you see every week on the PGA tour. There are still so many factors that must play out for LIV, but so far it seems like they have a head of steam and are not stopping. It will be interesting to see if the PGA tour changes their tone and comes to the table for negotiations.”
In talking with Riley on the golf course several weeks ago and he made a compelling case for professional golfers to join LIV. From week to week on the PGA, winnings are split with coaches, caddies, and other team members, and travel is not comped. For those with the opportunity to join the LIV tour, it can be argued that guaranteed money could, in fact, be life changing.
– M. Blake Fortune II, Managing Partner
To contact the author of this story:
Kelvin Lee at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
M. Blake Fortune, II at firstname.lastname@example.org