LIV tour sparks ethical debate for professional golfers


Phil MIckelson, a defector to the LIV tour, tees off. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Devin Brainch, Sports reporter

Is money or legacy more important? That is the question many golfers worldwide are asking themselves with the rise of a new golf league, LIV Golf. 

Around a year and a half ago, this brand-new, Saudi-run tour emerged and dominated golf headlines everywhere. The LIV tour is a completely different golf league with a massive budget and different rules and systems. LIV refers to the Roman numeral 54, which is important in golf because there are a total of 54 holes played in a single tournament. 

In the PGA, only the top golfers receive a big paycheck, but even the player who finishes last in a LIV tournament can still take home $100,000. For golfers, moving from the well-established PGA Tour to the LIV Tour could be viewed as a financially-motivated decision, as profiting with LIV is much easier. Many well-known PGA golfers switched to LIV in the last year including Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. 

On the Netflix show, “Full Swing”, some golfers said playing with LIV will allow them to spend more time with their families.

However, there is controversy over the source of all this money, given Saudi Arabia’s questionable human rights record. Also, the long-standing legacy of the PGA is undeniable, giving a player legitimacy in the golf world. 

Not all golfers have accepted LIV’s massive paycheck to join the tour. According to Greg Norman’s comment on NPR, Tiger Woods turned down a $700 million offer from LIV. 

As of now, players who have defected to LIV have been suspended from tournaments sponsored by the PGA Tour. 

The division between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour was amplified last week as the first of four major golf championships of the year, The Masters, teed off. The Masters is an invitational tournament hosted by the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. While the PGA has control over many professional golf tournaments, it does not run the Masters. Eighteen LIV golfers qualified for this tournament and competed alongside PGA Tour golfers. LIV player Brooks Koepka was leading for much of the tournament, until the last day when he missed a million-dollar putt and ended up tied for second place. 

PGA player Jon Rahm eventually took the win and was honored with the traditional Masters green jacket, along with over three million dollars for the championship. Koepka left the tournament with half that amount but will continue to make millions through his LIV allegiance. 

So again, we ask the question – is money or legacy more important? In the end, it is up to the player and what they value most. Top players, whether they are affiliated with LIV or the PGA, will continue to make millions of dollars. But for many in the PGA, legacy and reputation may not be enough to hold them back from swinging their shots toward LIV.