LIV Golf: Greg Norman Show Us The Money!

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 20: Greg Norman of Australia looks on from the fourth tee during the final round of the PNC Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando on December 20, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 20: Greg Norman of Australia looks on from the fourth tee during the final round of the PNC Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando on December 20, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

We now know where Greg Norman and LIV Golf will have eight pay-for-play events.  Norman says LIV is offering $250 million in prize money for all of them.  He said that the purses will be $20 million/ event with $5 million to the winning team. The last event in the series will be a purse of $30 million.   We are about to find out who wants the money and if they are getting what was promised.

Now, let’s do some math. Seven events times $20 million is $140 million. Plus $30 million for the finale, that’s $170 million.  Plus $5 million for each winning team, per event, that’s $40 million or a total of $210 million. It’s not $250 million.

So, the first question is who is getting the other $40 million?  Perhaps Greg Norman?

Beyond that, there’s the question of who would get paid what in each event.

In each of the first seven exhibitions, only 36 players of the 48 players get paid. Twelve guys go away unhappy. No one has said if the final is a different method of play.

Divided equally, the $20 million purse is $555,555 per player for 36 players. Even though it’s a team, is it paid out the same way an individual event would be? or is it paid out equally among the team members? (Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, for instance, earn an equal amount that the players designate to charities.)

No one knows if it’s divided equally among all players on the team, and if it’s not equal jealousies are bound to occur.

Then there’s the $5 million for the winning team, divided by 12 players on the team, and if it’s equal, it would be $416,667 per player.

But no one knows if it’s divided equally among all players on the team.  If it’s not equal, jealousies are bound to occur.  And if it is equal jealousies are bound to occur.  The old, I made 8 birdies and I should get more than so and so syndrome will rear its ugly head about 30 seconds after the finish of the first event.

Maybe each week the first-place team gets $10 million, the second-place team gets $6 million and the third gets $4 million. If that’s the case, the first-place team maybe gets $833,333 per player if the team splits equally. The second-place team would get, $500,000 per player, assuming an equal split.  Third place, $333,333 per player. For fourth place, twelve guys get nothing.

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In eight events, for someone who plays them all, it’s hard to extrapolate the results since we don’t know the payout scheme.  If a team won none of the events and finished fourth every time, those players would have given up their membership on a recognized Tour to gain nothing.

If a team finished third each week, it could be $333,333/ player x eight events or about $2.6 million/ per player.  But if that team finished last half the time and third half the time, it would be about $1.3 million.  If the team won only one of the events, it would be just the one-time winning share of a $20 million purse plus the share of $5 million. In other words, it could be under $1 million.

For comparison, the 100th place on last year’s PGA Tour money list was $1.2 million.  Last year, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, and Collin Morikawa each earned more than $7 million on the PGA Tour.  The PGA Tour average for last year was $1,485,055.  Francesco Molinari, No. 125 of the 2021 money list, earned $996,977.

If the LIV purse is divided equally all the way around, except for the teams that finish fourth who get zero, the eight weeks could add up to $1 million per event or as much as $7-8 million/ season.  A lot of players might have an interest in just showing up and playing three rounds of golf for that much money.

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The whole LIV Golf thing is not competition in the ordinary sense of tournament golf. Usually, golfers who might be interested in this sort of thing have passed the age of being competitive. They are no longer realistic contenders for winning any PGA Tour events, never mind major championships.  That’s why it’s perfect for someone like Lee Westwood, or until he won the PGA last spring, for Phil Mickelson.

There’s no mention of world ranking points, flawed though they are, for this pay-for-play series, and without that, there’s no entry into majors except through qualifying.  Golfers would lose points over time until they fell out of the system. But for a guaranteed payday, maybe they don’t care. They play golf to earn money, after all, even if the richest among them don’t ever think about money. They don’t think about it because they have it.

Golfers who opt for this would probably not have automatic qualification for the Masters.  Unless otherwise exempt, they would still have to qualify for the U.S. Open and the British Open.  And it’s likely they would not be invited to play in the PGA.  And for sure, they would never see the inside of the locker room of the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse for The Players, guaranteed.

Also, by jumping to LIV, there would be no FedEx Cup money. It’s kind of a guarantee for PGA Tour players in the top 125 each year.  For the top 30 who get to Eastlake, there’s also the FedEx Cup final payouts, which are not insubstantial, with the winner getting $15 million last year.

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So, it’s a guessing game for them and for us.  Every golfer who is interested has to consider whether his long-term value on the PGA Tour is better or worse than with the LIV events.

An example might be Daniel Berger. (And Berger has never given any indication that he wants to jump ship. He’s just an example that’s not a Rory McIlroy.)  He has won four times on the PGA Tour, and yet, he has won more than $22 million so far.  He’s only 28, so barring additional injury, his future is in front of him. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t win at least another $22 million, perhaps twice that.

And unless a golfer has a long-term contract with the LIV league, why should he take the chance when he knows he has the PGA Tour? The only reason is if he is tired of playing golf on a tour and tired of having a certain number of events he must play and if, in his heart, he knows it’s unlikely he’ll win again on any tour. It’s impossible to say who that is, but it is possible to say who it isn’t.  It isn’t the guys who have come out in favor of the PGA Tour. It might be the guys on the fence.