PGA vs LIV battle takes shape

LIV Golf,(Photo by John Phillips/LIV Golf/Getty Images)
LIV Golf,(Photo by John Phillips/LIV Golf/Getty Images) /

The battle lines between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf are starting to sharpen. At the heart of it all are billions of dollars being invested on both sides.

For most of the summer, LIV Golf was gaining momentum. As new LIV signees were announced, it felt like death by a thousand paper cuts to the PGA Tour. Golf fans were subjected to LIV players wax not-so-poetic about growing the game, spending more time at home with family, and making “business decisions.”

At the same time, the PGA Tour dithered, taking body blow after body blow from LIV defections. Their frozen shock allowed LIV Golf to control the narrative.

However, the PGA Tour finally did what LIV Golf probably didn’t think they would do – they pushed all their chips in.

The PGA Tour recently announced purses would dramatically increase for next year. Players will get a stipend even if they miss cuts. Each PGA card holder will make $500K (against future earnings) to essentially create a guaranteed salary.

In addition, the PGA Tour outlawed LIV players from playing in PGA Tour events. An American court agreed with the PGA Tour in the run-up to the FedEx Cup Playoffs; setting the stage for the big lawsuit scheduled more than a year from now.

Just this week, the PGA Tour announced that LIV players who currently hold a PGA Tour card will not be allowed to renew that card. It is the equivalent of a retreating army burning every bridge they cross to prevent the enemy from advancing.

Most interestingly, LIV Golf and Greg Norman appear to be completely caught off guard by the recent offensive tactics taken by PGA Tour players and Executives.

How do I know LIV Golf wasn’t expecting the PGA Tour to flex their pocketbook? Look at how Greg Norman responded to Jay Monahan’s major announcements.

This is not a response a CEO gives when their competition essentially steals their thunder. It’s schoolyard taunting. It’s a man caught off guard.

In the days that followed, Norman made another “major” announcement in the back-and-forth battle. LIV players can wear shorts.

That’ll teach’em.

The pathetic social media taunting and loosening restrictions on men’s golfing attire reveal the truth about LIV Golf. They only have one bullet in the chamber – money. LIV Golf’s great gamble was that the PGA Tour was too fat and happy to pony up the prize money they clearly had in the bank.

The PGA Tour, finally getting off their back foot with the help of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy rallying the troops, did what needed to be done six months ago.

Take no prisoners, move to DEFCON 1, and fight to win the war, not the press conference. That’s how wars are won.

For too long, the PGA Tour tried to wrap itself in a blanket of tradition, history, and familiarity thinking that would stem the tide. Creating a warm fuzzy for your fans is one way to go, but that road clearly wasn’t the one to victory over LIV Golf.

It feels good to talk about capturing “hearts and minds,” as we did in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. But I need not remind you how those conflicts ended. (Hint: Not well).

The PGA Tour seems to finally be understanding this. Yes, tradition and history matter. But they rarely beat out a $100 million contract from the Saudi Crown Prince.

The PGA Tour got the memo and PGA Tour stars will now be paid on par with other sports leagues.

It may seem sad that it all boils down to money. No one likes to think their entire existence can be reduced to the number of zeroes on their bank account balance.

It’s taken the better part of a year, but at least the PGA Tour is understanding that’s the battleground they have to fight upon.

LIV Golf can certainly up the ante. They could double tournament purses to $40 million without blinking an eye. The rub is that such action only further defines them, and LIV players, as a one-note sad trombone.

Dustin Johnson signed a reported $125 million contract to go to LIV. This past weekend he won an event and added another $5+ million for individual and team earnings. The payouts are already ridiculous.

Making them more obscene isn’t going to raise the profile of LIV Golf.

The only reason to go to LIV – as it’s always been – is the lump sum signing bonus. It remains a Faustian bargain. You can have your yachts and planes. You can play less golf. You can spend more time with your family. You can set up future generations of children.

But you can’t do it on the PGA Tour if you take a bite out of the LIV apple.

There is no right or wrong. Every man makes their own decision. Every man must live with that decision. And, critically, every man must accept their decision.

The moves by the PGA Tour are forcing a lot of LIV players to come to terms with acceptance. Some seemed to grasp it early on. Dustin Johnson was the first big name to go, resigned his Tour card, and has made virtually no comment about ever coming back to the PGA Tour.

Next. Who Is The Best LIV Golfer?. dark

I didn’t peg DJ as the deepest thinker on the LIV golf tour, but he at least seems to understand the consequences of his actions. Maybe next time all the guys are on the LIV Golf “Soul Plane” en route to their tournament in Bangkok, DJ can explain that idea to a few confused has-beens.