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What LIV Golf Gets Wrong About Team Sports

By: | Tue 14 Mar 2023 | Comments

Golfshake's Derek Clements' New View From The Fairway Column

YOU don't get to pick your football team. It picks you. I am from Glasgow and was born as a Protestant. Thus I support Rangers. There is no choice. It's in my blood.

There have been some good times. There have also been some bad times. Some very bad times. Not just on the field, but off it. The Ibrox Disaster is the blackest day in Scottish football history.

I have spent my entire adult life in England, starting in Liverpool. I have a soft spot for Liverppool but I don't really care if they win or lose.

What on earth does this have to do with golf? Bear with me. 

I just about remember the days when the Ryder Cup saw Great Britain and Ireland being routinely hammered by the USA. I was a youngster when Jack Nicklaus conceded a two-foot putt to Tony Jacklin at Birkdale in 1969, a gesture that resulted in the match being tied.

It was a rare success, if you can call a tied match a success.

And then along came Seve Ballesteros, with Jacklin as captain of a European Ryder Cup team. I have never classed myself as European. I am British. 

But here's the thing. The Europeans changed the Ryder Cup forever. Ballesteros, and Bernhard Langer were superstars. And, by a happy coincidence, we produced the likes of Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle.

I found myself on the edge of my seat, rooting for Ballesteros, Langer, Jose Maria Canizares, Jose Maria Olazabal. We were all united in one cause - beating the USA. And oh how we have all loved it. 

Golf is an individual sport but every two years the Ryder Cup thrills us all. It is team sport at its very best. 

Part of the excitement of watching the Ryder Cup is seeing golfers going head to head in a matchplay format, with the galleries going crazy when crucial putts, bunker shots or chips are holed.

So now consider Dustin Johnson's 4ACES. Ian Poulter's Majesticks. Cameron Smith's Ripper GC. LIV Golf is desperately trying to get us to buy in to its team franchise concept.

Ian Poulter

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

There are 12 teams of four, all playing 54 holes of stroke play. If one of your team is struggling for form you are done. On top of that, while you know exactly where you are while watching matchplay, a team stroke play tournament is an entirely different kettle of fish.

LIV are throwing more than $400m at 14 events in 2023. The biggest prize goes to the individual winner and yet they tell us we are watching a team event. Eh?

Players are wearing branded gear and LIV expects these to become essential items for dedicated fans. And hopes that we will all rush out and buy them. Seriously?

"The most popular sports in the world are team sports," said LIV Golf League CEO Greg Norman. "And our league format has already begun to build connections with new audiences around the globe.

"Major champions, current and future Hall of Famers, and up-and-coming stars are all committed to creating this new platform for world-class competition as the sport evolves for the next generation."

But I say again, as we approach the second event of the year, this format just doesn’t work as a team sport.

But is this line-up enough to attract significant audiences to the American CW Network, a channel that has been likened to 'Dave' in the UK?

It is a revenue-sharing rather than rights deal that will require the golf audience in the US to seek their sport from an unfamiliar spot on the remote control pad.

Beyond the bespoke app and streaming website, more television deals are promised for other territories, including the UK, but that remains unknown for now.

A first sponsorship agreement has been announced, with EasyPost becoming the official shipping solutions partner of LIV Golf.

"Their innovative approach to golf will bring the sport to a broader range of spectators, and that's something we are excited to get behind," says EasyPost boss Sam Hancock.

This is a typical narrative and is centred around LIV being able to tap into a new and younger audience. Does such a thing exist and if it does, is it already being served?

It looked as if it was at the recent and raucous WM Open in Phoenix.

Indeed, the action on the PGA Tour and in the Middle East on the DP World Tour so far this year has been captivating, with the biggest names involved in thrilling finishes. LIV has to find a way to compete with an emboldened status quo.

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Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.

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Tags: LIV Golf daily picks


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