The thought of openly endorsing anything Saudi-funded makes a lot of people nauseous.
Unless you’re Greg Norman. And some others; Phil Mickelson, perhaps.
The startup Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational stokes curiosity and fears, the latter from the PGA Tour, which is all but inviting a lawsuit from players who want to hop between the two tours.
The PGA Tour has said its players cannot play in the LIV Golf Invitational; Norman, and others, scream that’s illegal because the players are not tour employees.
The LIV Golf Invitational is funded by the Saudi Sovereign fund. According to Bloomberg, this Public Investment Fund is worth close to $1 trillion, which is allowing this new golf league to offer golfers potentially life-altering prize money.
This is complicated. Players are contemplating blowing off the PGA Tour because what is being offered in the LIV Golf Invitational is the type of money that could make even the most principled man think twice about anything.
What is not a complicated issue is the format, and wrinkles, this series plans to use, which has undeniable appeal.
The type of appeal that a current tournament on the PGA Tour should try.
Looking at you, Chuck Schwab.
After two years with either zero, or limited, attendance Colonial returned to its normal standing both in the city of Fort Worth, and on the PGA Tour calendar.
Now is as good of a time as any for Colonial to pull its Sorenstam out of the bag, bomb it over the trees and go for the green.
The 2023 Charles Schwab Challenge should adopt some of the LIV Golf Invitational format alterations. At least for a year or two.
Starting with the prize money, the CS Challenge could not mimic all of the LIV Golf Invitational series, but more than enough to infuse some interest.
The LIV promises to do the following: 48 players on 12 teams that are selected via a draft.
It’s 54 holes. No cuts. Shotgun starts.
No PGA Tour event will adopt a 54-hole format; it’s one less day of gate revenue.
The smaller field would require some negotiating. A player draft of names you know from the tour.
There is something to this that the event planners at the Charles Schwab Challenge should consider.
A draft featuring players such as Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Scottie Sheffler and Tony Finau would be interesting.
The concept of “teams” has interest value, both as a spectator, and as a bettor.
This could be fun.
“The reality is nobody wants to tune in (to a PGA Tour event) until Saturday afternoon just to even look,” said long time former PGA TOUR pro Mark Brooks, who is from Fort Worth and now lives in Austin.
“If you look, and nothing grabs you, then you are not carving out two hours on your Sunday to watch. And the ratings are backing that up. They’re just not that good right now because there is a lot competition.”
He speaks of golf’s ever struggling ratings on TV.
“But, if you shake something really hard,” Brooks said, “you watch.”
Brooks is 61. He is both a golf purist, and a golf realist.
You don’t have to turn PGA Tour golf into Top Golf, but if you are not Augusta, the U.S. Open or the PGA Championship, then you best be creative rather than relying on the conventional model.
This is about customers, specifically younger ones who are accustomed to constant varietal stimulation.
“I think more people who are in the business get it,” Brooks said. “Let’s get real. Shirttails are going to be out. Caps are going to be flipped around, and there is going to be music playing. OK? Enjoy. You don’t have to play with them, but this is your new member.
“As long as they are respectful of the game, and the people, let them have all the fun they want.”
As traditional as Colonial is, it has done this before.
In 2003, it was Colonial who allowed Annika Sorenstam to play Hogan’s Alley against the boys. She didn’t make the cut, but her appearance generated interest few golf tournaments, outside of the majors, ever enjoy.
There was a price; many top players made it a point to skip Colonial for the next few years because they were not happy with what they felt was a PR stunt.
A.) It was a PR stunt.
B). It’s pro sports.
Notice the first two letters of pro sports are P-R.
Once you turn pro, the priority is profit. Notice the preponderance of “PR” in those words.
The players of this generation are far more apt to “get it” than the crew from 20 years ago when Annika crashed their boys’ club. They are not going to be offended by a format change; they would likely embrace it.
Schwab, who was a caddie as a kid, is both a golf lover, and a golf purist.
He’s also one of the more shrewd, savvy, businessman around.
Neither he, his tournament, nor Colonial, Fort Worth or anyone associated with the PGA Tour need endorse the LIV Golf Invitational series.
It doesn’t mean they can’t steal some of their ideas for the 2023 Charles Schwab Challenge.