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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: ‘Languishing’ LIV Golf badly needs another big gamechanger

LIV Golf's Dustin Johnson in their Bangkok event earlier this year.
LIV Golf's Dustin Johnson in their Bangkok event earlier this year.

Before the end of this month, LIV Golf are due to announce their completed schedule for 2023.

It’ll end a relative period of almost complete silence from the ‘rebel’ tour. They announced four venues a couple weeks ago – Mexico, Singapore, Adelaide and Valderrama.

Ten more for the planned 14-event schedule – six more than in 2022 – are to be confirmed. One will be Jeddah, the rest likely all in America.

It’s not thought that LIV will announce any more marquee names who are joining up for next year just yet.

The rumour a couple of months ago was that Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele were poised to jump.

Schauffele shut it down completely last month when he told the No Laying Up podcast he wasn’t going. He said his BFF – recently elected to the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council – wasn’t either.

There are 11 LIV players in the world’s Top 50 as the year ends. But those players are clearly being slow-walked by the OWGR.

Even if they do end up getting rankings, – which is a long way from a sure thing – they’re not going to be backdated. And it almost doesn’t matter anymore.

Even once approved, the points they’ll get playing where they do week-to-week will be essentially useless due to the OWGR’s updated strength of field ratings.

The ‘three outcomes’

Given where LIV were in January and where they are now, it would be very premature to say they’ve hit the buffers. But you do get that impression from a series of sources, not least the latest published in this weekend’s New York Times.

The article, by Alan Binder and Sarah Hurtes, is based on documents detailing what US consulting firm McKinsey & Company projected as the LIV project’s potential financial targets.

McKinsey are one of the consultants employed by the Saudi regime for their wider Vision 2030 project. This is the plan pivot their economy from oil to more sustainable moneystreams.

McKinsey’s assessment had LIV as “a high-risk, high-reward endeavour”. They advised there were three possible outcomes: “languishing as a start-up; realising a ‘coexistence’ with the PGA Tour; or, most ambitiously, seizing the mantle of dominance.”

For the latter, LIV needed all the top names, specifically Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, to sign up.

They also needed a big buy-in from the great and good of Golf Inc., the boardroom movers and shakers currently associated with the PGA Tour, or “business, sports, legal and political titans”.

Finally, they really needed a network TV deal. No good having an innovative format if no-one is watching it.

They got Mickelson. I suppose you could still argue that the increasingly unhinged Donald Trump is a political titan. But from what I can see, they’re missing everything else so far.

The two remaining options

CEO Greg Norman with Yasir Al-Rumayyan (far left) at LIV’s event in England in June.

So since the hostile takeover option has clearly failed, it’s either the languishing start-up, or the ‘co-existence’.

Co-existence is unlikely while these lawsuits are flying around. And if anything, it suits the primary defendants, the PGA Tour, that these continue at the snail’s pace of the US judicial system.

The process has clearly shown that rather than named CEO Greg Norman piloting LIV, it’s really been Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the head of the Saudi’s PIF fund and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s best buddy, at the controls.

Norman’s departure has been rumoured for some time. But it seems to me LIV can’t live with him or without him.

His presence is clearly toxic due to his widespread unpopularity in the game. But unless Mickelson steps forward, there’s really no-one high-profile enough to front this thing.

Al-Rumayyan may be a golf fanatic and have a bottomless pit of money behind him (and that’s debatable) but he’s going to attract zero attention.

There’s still no prospect of LIV creating any revenues, or a TV deal. No sponsors other than Saudi government lackeys are onboard. LIV gets multiple headlines about the disputes and the intrigue, and almost nothing about the actual product.

After a tumultuous year, LIV still badly needs another gamechanger. If not, the ‘languishing start-up’ seems the likely result.

Gallacher’s example underlined by new post

Richie Ramsay, Calum Hill, Connor Syme, Grant Forrest, Robert MacIntyre, Louise Duncan and Marc Warren joined Stephen Gallacher (far l) at his centre of excellence launch last month.

Stevie Gallacher’s appointment as captain of Europe’s Junior Ryder Cup team next year is a excellent decision by Ryder Cup Europe.

There’s obviously his own Ryder Cup connection, as a former player and his uncle Bernard’s career as player for GB&I and captain for Europe. But his involvement in youth golf through his Foundation makes it the perfect choice.

We all guessed that Stevie wouldn’t do it by halves when he started out, using his old mate Paul Lawrie’s version as a template.

Paul’s been an exemplar in this sphere for years. But visiting the new state-of-the-art training facility at Kingsfield in East Lothian when it launched in October, you were stunned at the extent of Stevie’s commitment to make a difference.

“My career and any success I’ve had would be a waste of time if I didn’t give back,” he said that day.

The presence of virtually all of Scotland’s best young pros at that launch was significant. Not just because of the obvious respect and affection they have for Gallacher, but also because he’s an example to them.

“There should be 50 of these across the country,” said Robert MacIntyre, one of those at the launch. You get the idea that with Stevie and Paul’s example, there’s actually a chance of that.