LIV Golf and The Phony Team Format

Greg Norman, LIV Golf Orlando,Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Norman, LIV Golf Orlando,Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Phony. As a $3 bill. In one word, that’s the reason why the LIV Tour’s concept of team golf has failed to grasp the interest of the vast majority of the game’s fans, and why it will continue to fail to do so.

The whole LIV concept is phony.

It purports to set up a new form of competition, that of teams pitted against one another. But there is no true competition because all the teams are, at their apex, controlled by the same entity, namely the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

And that ultimate unity renders the entire concept of team vs. team rivalry artificial, which is to say phony.

You don’t have to think very hard to recognize this baked-in shortcoming to the LIV premise. All you have to do is compare the LIV concept of  ‘team’ competition with true team competitions, such as have existed forever in major team sports worldwide.

Contrast the organization of LIV with the NFL and the phoniness of the former becomes readily apparent. LIV has a dozen teams of four players each. The NFL has 32 teams of 53 players each. The numbers are functionally irrelevant; here’s what’s critical.

In LIV, the players on all 12 teams have their paychecks written by the same guy. In the NFL, each team has a separate owner, and at the most practical level it is the 32 owners – operating through the players they hire – who are in competition with one another.

In LIV, no matter which ‘team’ finishes first, second, or twelfth, the owner makes out the same because the owner is the same in all 12 cases, the PIF. The PIF ‘owner’, then, has absolutely no motivation to improve any particular team at the expense of another, because to the PIF all competition has a zero-sum outcome. Every win is also a loss. All that matters is that the game is played.

In the NFL, if the Cowboys beat the Eagles Jerry Jones wins and Jeffrey Lurie loses. That gives both owners a powerful incentive to improve their teams at the direct expense of their opponents.

That’s called competition. It’s what makes all team sports interesting both at the professional and college level, and it is precisely what’s missing from the LIV concept.

Could team golf work at the professional level? Yes…although it would require the introduction of an ownership structure. That would mean some number of franchise owners – operating independent of one another within the mutually agreed on constraints of the league – actually competing with one another to sign free agent players or draft them, presumably out of college.

In theory, there’s no particular reason why a consortium involving the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, and LIV couldn’t set up some sort of ‘schedule’ of team tournaments – presumably working around the big individual events.

Just considering the PGA Tour, there are plenty of ‘routine stops’ whose format could be changed from rote and repetitive stroke play to some form of team competition without greatly threatening the game’s structure as we have known it.

One could even envision without too much difficulty some sort of post-season tournament akin to the Super Bowl or World Series.

Obviously, that would require the acquiescence of some tournament sponsors, which may be the biggest reason why it probably won’t happen. Magnitude-level change is often threatening, and this sort of change would be magnitude-level. The sponsor of the Valero Texas Open might not be all-in for such change.

The salient point isn’t what will happen or even what could happen. The salient point is why LIV’s team concept has failed to catch on with the vast majority of fans. They understand that the ‘team’ competition is merely a veneer, a shell.

Next. Taylor’s Canada win is no plus at the U.S. Open. dark

At the meaningful level of a truly independent team as North American sports fans understand the term, such teams don’t exist.

In fact, the closest parallel to the phony LIV concept of competition is probably professional wrestling, where the performers all work for the same promoter.

In other words, LIV is the WWE of golf.