What is the LIV golf series? A deep dive into the PGA's rival tour


Professional golf is about to enter a new era.

LIV Golf gets underway on Thursday with the LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club outside of London. The Saudi-backed rival league of the PGA Tour boasts stars like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, in addition to several other players from the Tour.

Ahead of LIV Golf’s inaugural tournament, here’s everything you need to know about the breakaway league.

What does LIV Golf stand for?

The “LIV'' in LIV Golf isn’t an acronym. Rather, it stands for the Roman numeral of 54 for the number of holes each tournament will be, and the score a golfer would have if they birdied every hole on a par-72 course.

Who owns LIV Golf?

LIV Golf is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The Saudi Arabian government initially pledged $400 million to start the league. 

Greg Norman, a former two-time major winner and world No. 1 golfer, is the CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf Investments. Legend Jack Nicklaus said he rebuked an offer of over $100 million from LIV Golf to do a job similar to Norman’s.

Beyond its investment in sports, including ownership of English Premier League team Newcastle United, the Saudi Arabian government has been accused of human rights violations, including suspected involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Phil Mickelson expressed concern about the Saudis’ “record on human rights” last year before ultimately joining LIV Golf.

What is the format for LIV Golf tournaments?

LIV Golf tournaments will consist of three 18-hole rounds taking place over three days. They will feature a traditional stroke play format with a shotgun start, where all golfers begin play at the same time on different holes, and no cuts.

While an individual winner will be crowned, there is also a team aspect to the competitions. The 48-man field is divided into 12 teams of four. Before each event, 12 league-appointed captains will pick three players apiece in a snake draft. 

For the first two rounds of a tournament, a team’s two best scores will count. For the final round, a team’s three best scores will count. The team with the lowest combined score at the end of three rounds will win the team portion of the tournament.

Which players have joined LIV Golf?

While Mickelson and Johnson are the headliners, the LIV Golf field for the opening event also includes five other major winners: Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Graeme McDowell.

And two more major winners, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, reportedly are set to join for the league’s second tournament.

Talor Gooch, Richard Bland, Shaun Norris, Matt Jones, Pablo Larrazabal, Sam Horsfield, Lee Westwood, Ryosuke Kinoshita, Scott Vincent, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Bernd Wiesberger, all of whom were in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking as of June 5, are in the field for the inaugural 48-man tournament as well.

You can check out the full field and list of teams for the LIV Golf Invitational here.

What are Dustin Johnson’s and Phil Mickelson’s LIV Golf contracts?

Johnson received a contract worth around $125 million to join LIV Golf, according to the Daily Telegraph. And Mickelson got an even bigger deal, with the New York Post reporting it's worth approximately $200 million. For context, Mickelson’s career earnings with the PGA Tour are $94.96 million and Johnson’s are $74.3 million.

Norman said LIV Golf made a high-nine-figure offer to Tiger Woods, but the 15-time major champion turned it down.

What are the LIV Golf payouts? 

Golfers will earn additional money in the tournaments, too. The eight events scheduled for this year will award $255 million in total prize money. The first seven tournaments are regular-season events with each having a $25 million purse and a $4 million prize for the individual winner (the rest of the field will split a $16 million pot with the last-place finisher getting $120,000). The top three teams at each regular-season event will split a $5 million pot, with $3 million going to the winner, $1.5 million to second place and $500,000 to third place.

For comparison, this year's Masters and PGA Championship -- two of the four majors -- each had a $15 million purse with a $2.7 million first-place prize. The projected 48th-place payout at the Masters was $41,100 and at the PGA Championship it was $35,000.

The top three individual golfers at the end of the LIV Golf regular season will split a $30 million bonus, with $18 million going to the top golfer, $8 million to second place and $4 million to third place. Finally, the eighth and final tournament will be a championship with a $50 million purse.

What is the LIV Golf schedule?

As previously mentioned there are eight tournaments scheduled for this year. Ten tournaments are planned for 2023 and 14 are planned for 2024 and 2025.

Five of the eight 2022 events will be held in the United States, with Boston, Miami and Portland being among the host sites. Here’s a look at this year’s slate:

St Albans, England, Centurion Club: June 9-11

Portland, Oregon, Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club: June 30-July 2

Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump National Golf Club Bedminster: July 29-31

Boston, Massachusetts, The International: Sept. 2-4

Chicago, Illinois, Rich Harvest Farms: Sept. 16-18

Bangkok, Thailand, Stonehill Golf Club: Oct. 7-9

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Royal Greens Golf Club: Oct. 14-16

Miami, Florida, Trump National Doral: Oct. 27-30

Can LIV Golf players also play in majors?

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour did not grant releases for any of its members to partake in the  LIV Golf Invitational. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan even threatened to take away membership cards from those who play in the rival league.

At least six golfers – Johnson, Garcia, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel, Kevin Na and Branden Grace – have already resigned their PGA Tour memberships. Those who don’t (like Mickelson, who said he doesn’t plan to give up his Tour membership) are likely at least looking at a suspension for playing without a proper release.

So what does all of this mean for the majors? Well, the PGA Tour doesn’t run the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open or Open Championship. So the decision of whether or not LIV golfers can compete will be up to the governing bodies that oversee each respective major. 

The United States Golf Association, which runs this month’s U.S. Open, has already ruled that LIV golfers who have qualified, which includes Mickelson and Johnson, will be allowed to play at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. 

The fourth and final major of 2022 is the Open Championship in July. A spokesperson for the R&A, which oversees the Open Championship, told GOLF.com on Wednesday “we haven’t commented on it and don’t plan to as it stands” regarding the matter

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