In a span of six months, LIV Golf went from a Saudi-financed pipe dream with no signed golfers to a legitimate PGA Tour rival with six Masters champions and a former president on board – here’s how it got to that point.
February 17An excerpt from an upcoming biography on Phil Mickelson explains his association with LIV Golf despite the Saudi Arabian government being “scary motherf*ckers” who execute gay people and murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, leading several long-time sponsors to drop Mickelson and causing the 52-year-old to disappear from the public eye for several months.
May 31LIV Golf lands its first big-name American in former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson in a reported deal worth over $100 million – a major surprise given his earlier pledge to the PGA Tour – and causing him to lose several sponsors.
June 9Play begins at LIV Golf’s first-ever tournament, but it’s overshadowed by the PGA Tour’s suspension of its 17 members who signed with LIV Golf and future suspensions for anybody who plans to play in its events.
June 22Former world No. 1 and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka joins LIV Golf, announcing he’ll play in the tour’s first U.S. event in Portland beginning June 30.
July 11The PGA Tour confirms to Forbes it’s under investigation by the Department of Justice over alleged antitrust violations in its attempts to ward off its budding challenger, expressing confidence in the probe’s results though legal experts said the case may hold water.
July 12Tiger Woods, arguably the most influential golfer of all-time, tears into LIV Golf during a press conference at the British Open, accusing those who left the PGA Tour for the new circuit of turning “their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.”
July 19Former President Donald Trump insists all golfers should “take the money now” and join LIV Golf, offering his strongest support yet for the league.
July 28Trump competes in LIV Golf’s pro-amateur event ahead of its tournament July 29-31 at his country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and claims “nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11” in response to protests from families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who assert the Saudi government played a role in the atrocities, which Trump previously said was the case (the Saudis have always denied involvement in 9/11, though most of the attackers were Saudi nationals).
July 29Legendary sports broadcaster Charles Barkley turns down LIV Golf after a public flirtation between the two parties, delivering a blow to the tour in a sign of its uncertain television future, as it has yet to sign a media agreement with any major broadcaster or streaming service, though LIV Golf remains optimistic.
August 1LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman confirmed Woods turned down between $700 million and $800 million to join LIV.
August 3DeChambeau, Mickelson and nine other LIV Golf players file a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, alleging the tour has acted in a “nakedly anticompetitive manner” and revealing Mickelson was first suspended in March, far earlier than originally known.
August 9A federal judge rejects a request from three LIV Golf players for a temporary restraining order against the PGA Tour to play in its FedEx Cup Playoffs, giving the PGA Tour a win in the first of many upcoming legal battles.
What To Watch For
If the Official World Golf Rankings’ board rejects LIV Golf’s application to include its events into the ranking calculations, likely keeping many LIV Golf players out of major tournaments and setting the stage for a massive legal dispute. As it stands, LIV Golf tournaments are unlikely to meet the board’s criteria for inclusion, according to documents obtained by Golf Digest. Craig Seebald, antitrust lawyer at Vinson & Elkins, told Forbes last month a rejection of LIV Golf’s application could add fuel to the Justice Department’s antitrust case against the PGA Tour, as it may violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and directors of the majors are among those on the Official World Golf Rankings’ board.
LIV Golf Is Here To Stay (Forbes)