Jay Monahan’s $3B Move Behind LIV’s Back Was a Must: Recent Updates Shed Major Concerns
The fact that the PGA Tour needed help—in gazillions of dollars—was always a no-brainer. After all, PIF, the financial arm that bankrolls LIV Golf, boasts a war chest of $700 billion. Therefore, everyone was happy to see a deal with Strategic Sports Group. Even the players who have been on the opposite side of the spectrum. Interestingly, PIF Chief Yasir Al-Rumayyan sounds positive about SSG’s involvement in the PGA Tour Enterprises, of which LIV Golf will also be a part in the foreseeable future.
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For Al-Rumayyan or his trusted general, Greg Norman SSG’s involvement was not a necessity. Although their product hasn’t found wholehearted acceptance, the number of naysayers is slowly declining. This reality was not lost on Monahan & Co. If we needed any further proof, the recent success of LIV Golf Mayakoba and the Tour’s troubles with sponsors make it even clearer.
How does SSG fit into the picture?
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The Tour is failing to retain title sponsors beyond their contract. Honda, a sponsor for 42 years, has already left. So will Wells Fargo and Farmers Insurance once the original agreements run their course. To increase the purse size further and sustain it, Ponte Vedra has issued new guidelines that will require the tournament hosts to put up a separate fund for the purse. On top of that, per the new plans, a part of the revenue will also head towards the PGAT headquarters.
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The $3 billion from SSG will obviously be a shot in the arm for the PGAT chief when he is facing backlash even from the inside. Including SSG also serves the dual purpose of having leverage over PIF in case they fail to reach an agreement. Also, to avoid a stumbling block from the Senate, bringing in a group of American investors was a clever move.
Furthermore, as of now, Jay Monahan remains the head of PGA Tour Enterprises rather than Yasir Al-Rumayyan, as was promulgated during the initial agreement. The way the Senate Investigation Committee has kept on its dogged pursuit of PIF’s activities, in all likelihood, having PIF as the only outside investor would’ve caused some further troubles.
Let’s not forget that one of the main concerns of the Richard Blumenthal-led Permanent Subcommittee of Investigation was why the Tour thought it necessary to partner with the Saudi Sovereign Fund instead of looking for investors within the USA. SSG offers Monahan an answer should the question arise again. Furthermore, LIV Golf’s growing power and popularity have become a cause for concern for the Tour’s top brass.
LIV Golf is getting more acceptance
LIV Golf recorded its highest viewership in Mayakoba. Sports TV Ratings revealed that the final day of the inaugural event recorded 432K viewers, which was its highest as of now. The number was also more than double what it garnered on Saturday (168K).
Pebble Beach PGA (Saturday), CBS: 1.951m
LIV Golf (Saturday), CW: 168K
LIV Golf (Sunday), CW: 432K https://t.co/I7csAFZ3vK
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) February 6, 2024
LIV, however, couldn’t snatch the audience away from the PGA Tour as easily as they pounced and pinched some of its biggest stars. While it still falls way short of what the PGA Tour garnered in repeat viewing of the 1.21M, for the Tour, Mother Nature played in the hands of its competitor. The PIF-funded team totally capitalized on a Sunday without any competition from either the NFL or the PGA Tour.
On the @PGATOUR, CBS drew 1.211M viewers on Sunday for the replay of last year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Last year's live coverage: 2.273M on Sunday
This Saturday, which included Wyndham Clark's course record 60, drew 1.951M. Saturday last year: 963K. pic.twitter.com/JxyrudJQxf
— Josh Carpenter (@JoshACarpenter) February 6, 2024
But the viewership statistics tell only half the story. This year’s broadcast on CW has scored multiple points against the PGA Tour. Firstly, LIV has capitalized on its shotgun start to show more golf. Sans the commercials that plague the Tour’s broadcast.
Secondly, the mounting criticism against the fledgling league was the loud music. Greg Norman, sensing the pulse and perhaps also wanting to get more eyeballs in Las Vegas, has reached an appeasement. The Great White Shark has finally turned the volume down. And if it did half the job of dismantling the criticism of ‘exhibition’ matches, the latter half was done with a spectacular on-course performance.
LIV Golf lacks competitiveness? Think again
The first event of the calendar year did a good job of burying the ‘exhibition match ’ label deep under the Mexican soil. A thrilling playoff between Joaquin Niemann and Sergio Garcia went quite late in the evening, with the Chilean emerging as the victor over his close friend. The first event was heading towards a three-way playoff before Jon Rahm squandered the opportunity late.
Nevertheless, Niemann’s third round was preceded by another shot at history. The 25-year-old, once considered a top talent on the PGA Tour, scored 12-under, 59 in the first round. The only second time a player scored sub-60 in the PIF-funded side’s three-year history.
Slowly, it seems LIV Golf has been shaping up. With two of last year’s four major champions, they have one of the strongest fields with a guaranteed appearance in 14 events. Niemann’s resounding victory and his lamentations have once again raised the voices for granting LIV Golf OWGR points. Either that or the Majors should consider an alternate route to include LIV Golf Pros.
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Jon Rahm was asked if he believes Joaquin Niemann deserves to be included in the majors, "Its a little bit sad but hopefully its something we see a change in the future." #LIVGolf pic.twitter.com/8qv6D0T22q
— Chris McKee (@mrmckee) February 6, 2024
The only outliers are still the teams. It’s a rather tricky thing, considering that’s the USP of PIF chief Yasir Al-Rumayyan’s product. After all, that’s what they want to cash in on in the future. So far, it hasn’t worked their way. Very few teams have generated considerable revenue from sponsorships. While for individual players, landing sponsors hasn’t been a problem, LIV, as a product, struggled to sell their ‘teams’ as an idea worth investing in.
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