As LIV Golf launches its new world order at the Centurion Club what does the future hold for golf?

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Perhaps the strangest aspect of Greg Norman's LIV Golf press conference at the Centurion Club last month was that he might have asked the best question. It was his answers, of course, that provoked most of the headlines and one in particular, relating to the human rights record of Saudi Arabia whose Private Investment Fund is driving the $2 billion project. But his query "What is the PGA Tour afraid of?" got a little lost. Norman argues that he wants an open market and insists that this is what the PGA fears, but his rally cry in favour of competition was either naive, disingenuous or pointed. While he believes, with some justification, that the current main tours want to maintain the status quo, there is clearly much more to it. LIV, after all, could have gained a share of the market with considerably less money than they have flung at the sport. That they chose to do so with such staggering levels of cash reveals that they wish to completely transform the landscape.

PGA Tour HQ might well be self-interested and keen to keep hold of its power, but it is also considering the potential impact of that weight of money: it needs to beware that the sport is not capsized. Let's contemplate a few possibilities for the future, ones that might illustrate why the future of golf is deemed so ripe for takeover.

Imagined future #1 - everything stays the same

A little naive but it could happen. A world where golf either side of the pond just potters along.

It's worth bearing in mind that the sport is currently (currently) doing very well for itself with a host of corporate sponsors around the world and hundreds of players making an exceptional living. For example, a golfer in America has cashed over $16 million without winning, while another in Europe has banked over $4 million with five career top fives. That's not counting off-the-course earnings.

Imagined future #2 - old white men stop watching

Given how much corporate money is swilling around the sport it is slightly astonishing how few people actually watch it. The viewing figures (across the world) are incredibly reliant on old white men on the east coast of America who have difficulty sleeping, which is not to say that they try dropping off in front of it, rather that they prefer watching it to tossing and turning in bed early every morning. What happens when they die? Who watches? And then who buys the TV rights? And who sponsors it? LIV Golf believe they have the (or an) answer: a new audience.

Imagined future #3 - the Saudis step in

Could LIV Golf sit alongside existing ventures? What would happen next?

Consider what might occur on the DP World Tour. Rolex currently stumps up $7 million per event in the elite series. If that sits alongside the Saudis' $25 million per event Rolex suddenly look less swanky and actually a bit naff.

Why should Rolex (and other big-name, large-investment sponsors) hang around? Or consider a direct example. Dustin Johnson was sponsored by RBC who also sponsor this week's Canadian Open. Johnson jumped ship to LIV, RBC dropped him. If more golfers jump ship to the Saudis, might RBC drop the tournament?

If LIV Golf money swamped the market, other sponsors might be in no position, or not care, to keep up. They'd clear off. LIV might argue others would step up.

Or they would. Their strength in this situation would be enormous.

Those who might have noted the modern trend for kleptocrats, oligarchs, regimes, oil barons and various lackies to seek the privatisation of, well, just about everything, might ponder the ramifications of this.

And might also consider that the privatisation of golf is something that the PGA Tour might well be afraid of.

The DP World Tour regresses to a version of the Challenge Tour, the PGA Tour is like the Korn Ferry Tour, four Majors and the world's best spend the rest of the year fannying around playing identical split team events (now owned by franchises). Can you imagine peak Tiger Woods enjoying frittering his golf on that sort of a schedule?

Future #3.1 is what happens if the Saudis transform the landscape and then clear off, leaving it in the lurch. Imagine the sport sneaking back to old corporate partners and asking if they could fill the void? They could try but might be told where to go. Or might have to accept a lot less money than is floating around now.

If a business owner with 40 customers has the option to bin them for one customer who pays considerably more than all of them combined it initially seems like a great idea. But if that one customer goes elsewhere, he's stuffed and looks like a fool. Something else the PGA Tour (and/or golf) might be afraid of.

Imagined future #4 - some sort of fudge

Compromise. Could happen. Hard to know who would be pleased with it and therefore why it might happen.

Imagined future #5 - 2060

A possibility: the world is such an appalling place the idea that anyone ever fretted about golf's future seems utterly absurd. There is civil war and disease in pretty much every country, a few mega-rich men live in air-conditioned bubbles, they're dying off in luxury, everyone else is dead, feral or boiling hot. Augusta National has gone brown, no Masters invitations have been sent since 2057. A cryogenic Donald Trump is in his fourth spell at The White House and has now been declared bankrupt 17 times.

Another possibility: There was a second Arab Spring, this one worked, Saudi Arabia is a democracy, history compares LIV Golf to the rebel cricket tours that visited Apartheid South Africa and the England football team that raised 11 arms to Hitler in Nazi Germany, they also compare the golfers who didn't join LIV with Stan Cullis who didn't raise his arm ("Count me out") and didn't play for England ever again. Actual golf no longer exists so most folk don't give much of a toss either way. The only Major is a long-driving contest that remembers Bryson DeChambeau as a sort of martyr figure.

Imagined future #6 - the worm that turned

LIV Golf goes big. The players buy-in. The tours have to accept change. Two years of big bucks and revolution. Then the Saudis fall in love with indoor bowls. All those old men have died. No-one else watches golf. Very few play it. Women do though. And women's sport has continued to rise as a spectator sport. Men's golf needs sponsors. It can't find them. Because women's golf grabbed all their old sponsors and they are showing a bit of loyalty. Wouldn't happen, but it would be quite funny if it did. The Two Ronnies and Diana Dors ahead of the game.

The article As LIV Golf launches its new world order at the Centurion Club what does the future hold for golf? appeared first on Planetsport.com.

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