This week, the leaders of LIV Golf presented a different message
The breakaway league has tried to tread lightly since LIV Golf’s start. Act too aggressively, and you risk turning off prospective players and supporters. Acting too submissively would prevent it from causing the disturbance necessary for its success. LIV attempted to strike a balance by criticizing the PGA Tour when the opportunity presented itself (“surely you joke,” etc.) while retaining their desire to negotiate a compromise with the Tour.
This week, the language was different. This implies that LIV is also adjusting its public strategy.
In an interview with The Australian, Greg Norman made the change known. The dynamic, according to Norman, has changed after a year of what he claims were attempts to find common ground with the Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan. He no longer desires to meet.
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Norman remarked, “We have no interest in sitting down with them because our product is working.”
How you feel about the upstarts will determine how you see Norman’s most recent publicity blitz, as it does with everything LIV. You may counter that because the Tour has made it clear they don’t want to meet with him, Norman can declare he doesn’t want to meet with them.
You could counter that Norman and LIV are celebrating because they have overcome many early challenges if you are more accepting of the new league. The ability of the circuit to draw in top talent and host events was questioned by sceptics. Even though the PGA Tour still has the majority of its top-ranked players, a sizable portion of the top 100 golfers have switched to LIV due to its vast payouts. The events and the related broadcasts went off without a hitch, putting on a show for tens of thousands of spectators each day. And over time, concerns about the league’s Saudi backing have become increasingly lost in the daily news flurry.
Although LIV’s launch hasn’t always gone well, considering the short turnaround time and lack of preexisting infrastructure, it has been competent. Of course, having money helps with it. Money will always be a valuable resource.
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LIV’s stars have also come out as the fields have gotten stronger. Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith, two of the league’s most prized acquisitions, have won its last two competitions. On Sunday, Norman boasted about their accomplishments on Instagram, claiming they were the “real” World Nos. 1 and 2. LIV benefits from top stars performing at their best.
That does not imply that LIV will succeed. Its broadcasts have only so far been available without advertisements on YouTube and its website. Despite a fantastic live performance, LIV had trouble keeping its crowd over the weekend. The Massachusetts event peaked at 75,000 viewers on Friday, 75,000 viewers on Saturday, and 182,000 viewers on Sunday, according to one assessment of viewership data, which reported peaks of 50,000, 63,000, and 95,000 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
It’s NFL season, after all, and the PGA Tour’s Napa event didn’t break any viewership records, so a decline was to be expected. LIV will eventually need to find an audience that more closely approaches that of the Tour, given their high aspirations.
Enter Norman again. Additionally, he stated that LIV is in talks with four different networks. In an interview with ESPN 1000 Chicago, he remarked, “All I can say is that the interest coming over our plate right now is significant. It’s coming, as DeChambeau stated it much more succinctly. A broadcast agreement would be a substantial step towards LIV’s legitimacy, delivering more viewers and a more alluring offering for prospective investors or franchise owners. While CBS, NBC, and ESPN have PGA Tour deals, FOX, which terminated its USGA pact in 2020, has been mentioned as a potential landing destination.
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Is Norman altogether speaking the truth? It’s difficult to say. It is accurate to say that interest in LIV is high. But it might be harder than he thinks to convert that desire into actual deals. Norman and the equity-owning captains of LIV are aware that if the first few significant sponsors fail, a domino effect might cause several more to fail. As a result, it is to LIV’s best advantage to project strength. So Norman is doubling down on the arrogance and confidence that LIV is based on. His Instagram account is filled with montages of him interacting with fans. He skydived into one event and got a mullet at another. He has always been the centre of attention. And this week, he’s taking that fight to Capitol Hill, where he intends to speak with lawmakers about the model and goals of the circuit.
“Given the PGA Tour’s attempts to stifle our progress in reimagining the game, we think it’s imperative to educate members on LIV’s business model and counter the Tour’s anti-competitive efforts,” a LIV spokesperson reportedly told the Washington Post.
One result of Norman spending more time in the spotlight and exuding strength and aggression is that he gives LIV golfers the cover to approach the contentious league in their way.
The most well-known player in LIV, Phil Mickelson, chose a slightly different strategy. Mickelson has been unusually cautious in his media appearances since his remarks on the circuit’s Saudi sponsors almost destroyed the league. But this week, he made a much more ambitious prediction about the future of professional golf.
“The PGA Tour, for the last 20 or 30 years, have had all the best players in the world. That will never be the case again. LIV Golf is here to stay, and this type of divisive talk is doing nobody good,” he allegedly said. The last sentence made a moderate suggestion from Mickelson. In contrast to Norman, Mickelson—who, it should be noted, is a plaintiff in action against the PGA Tour—wants to see a settlement between the two leagues.
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“Working together is the best course of action,” he declared. “I think that the world of professional golf needs the old, historical history of the game product that the PGA Tour provides, and I think that LIV provides a cool, updated feel that is attracting a lot younger crowd, and that’s being proven in the people that are watching and the age of the people that are watching.”
Other professionals have already been fired. In a playful allusion to Shane Lowry’s phrase after winning the BMW Championship a week earlier, Talor Gooch referred to his team’s championship as “a win for the good guys.” In an interview with the Times, Patrick Reed, who is suing Brandel Chamblee and the Golf Channel for $750 million (yes, really), lashed out at “insulting” remarks made by Rory McIlroy and others.
However, several athletes, including Smith, Johnson, and Bryson DeChambeau, have decided to avoid the action as much as possible. Smith remained silent when asked how many of McIlroy’s tears could fit in his Claret Jug (joking inquiries like this are common at LIV press conferences). Johnson said it was “not up to me” to criticise the Tour for leaving Chicago off its yearly schedule. I go to the tournament locations. DeChambeau stated emphatically that he does not want the PGA Tour to be destroyed. “Never would I want that to be my aim? I still admire them and am grateful for all they have done for the game as a whole,” he remarked.
The finest golfers from India and Chile, Anirban Lahiri and Joaquin Niemann, respectively, gave the most compelling testimony of the week. According to them, LIV has allowed their compatriots to see more of their golf on a powerful platform. Niemann claimed that after some early backlash, Chileans appear to have accepted LIV.
He remarked that everyone in Chile is delighted and can now watch me more during the round than they previously could.
Naturally, LIV’s recruits have strong incentives to present a positive image of their new community. (Tourists have several reasons to highlight the current infrastructure.) However, it appeared that they fully committed to the message this week. LIV is now utilising offence. Consider the seriousness with which DeChambeau views his LIV choice:
“Winning the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, and the NCAAs is something I’ll never forget, but I think my most significant success will perhaps be LIV Golf and what they’re going to do for the game when I look back on it in a decade, 20 years from now, or 30 years from now. That is my opinion, he declared.
It’s like poker; how long can you keep bluffing, right? He added another telling line.
Who holds the most substantial hand, though, is yet unknown.
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