Leaked records reportedly show that LIV Golf was advised it would have meet a specific set of targets in order to achieve success – goals it so far has yet to meet.
Confidential documents reportedly advised that LIV Golf would need to snatch top players, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, develop a strong fanbase and assimilate easily into the sport’s eco-system in order to be successful.
The Saudi-backed breakaway plowed its way onto the scene earlier this year luring many of the sport’s biggest stars away with massive deals and splitting golfing world in two.
LIV Golf as reportedly advised it would need Rory McIlroy (L) and Tiger Woods (R) on board
The Saudi-backed breakaway, led by CEO Greg Norman, broke onto the scene earlier this year
The league’s promoters have insisted their aim is to revitalize the sport but it appears Saudi officials were actually warned that they faced steep challenges in confidential documents obtained by the New York Times.
One of the more prominent documents, prepared by McKinsey & Company, which has advised the kingdom’s leaders since the 1970s, laid out three possible outcomes for LIV Golf: a struggling start-up, coexistence with the PGA Tour and dominance over the game.
In the most successful outcome, LIV Golf would have projected revenue of at least $1.4 billion a year in 2028.
Many have criticized the rebel tour as a ‘sportswashing’ exercise (pictured right, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia at LIV’s event in Chicago)
However, according to the Times, the report noted that ‘by contrast, a league mired in start-up status—defined as attracting less than half of the world’s top 12 players, navigating a ‘lack of excitement from fans,’ reeling from limited sponsorships and confronting ‘severe response from golf society’ could stand to lose $355 million.
The report claimed that the Saudi-funded circuit would have to attract 12 top players and, in particular, the participation of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson in order to achieve a more optimistic financial forecast.
LIV has fallen short of that objective having only obtained one member of the star-studded trio, which has a combined 25 major wins, in Mickelson.
Furthermore, of the 12 players listed, which included Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson, only the lefty, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson have joined.
Out of the star-studded trio LIV was advised to secure, only Phil Mickelson has joined
Mickelson has arguably been one of the biggest supporters of the breakaway but he came at a reported price of $200million and his involvement has also been mired in controversy.
In an interview with Alan Shipnuck, who published an unauthorized biography of Mickelson in May, the six-time major champion reportedly referred to the Saudis as ‘scary motherf*****s to get involved with.’
‘We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates,’ Mickelson is quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, McIlroy and Woods not only shunned the series but have been the strongest voices against LIV Golf among the PGA Tour loyalists.
Northern Irishman McIlroy has not only shunned the series but has been strongly against it
Woods, the most iconic name in the sport, was reportedly seen as so essential, due to the interest and sponsorships he could attract, that LIV made an offer to the 15-time major winner in the region of ‘$700million to $800million,’ according to CEO Greg Norman.
However, the 46-year-old has been one of its biggest antagonists, slamming the organization and questioning players’ motives for joining at The Open in July.
More recently, ahead of the Hero World Challenge, which he was hosting in the Bahamas at the beginning of the month, Woods said he ‘did not know what their end game was’.
He conceded that the PGA Tour ‘can’t compete dollar for dollar’ with the Saudi-funded series, but he said that ‘an endless pit of money’ was not a surefire means to ‘create legacies.’
15-time major winner Woods reportedly rejected an offer of around $700-800m to join LIV
LIV has so far been streaming its tournament coverage on its YouTube channel but has failed to attract significant viewership.
It drew 900,000 for its final round of its Chicago event, 700,000 for Bedminster and 600,000 for Boston but only managed a mere 300,000 for Bangkok, according to Golf.com.
Norman said in November that a television deal was ‘a priority’ for the series and would be proof that LIV can exist in golf’s eco-system but as its new season nears a deal has yet to emerge.
NBC, CBS, ESPN, Apple and Amazon all balked at buying LIV Golf’s first media contract, according to a report in September.
After the multiple rejections, LIV was reportedly on the verge paying FOX Sports to broadcast its events, rather than selling its media rights to the Rupert Murdoch-owned sports network.
The event in Chicago, won by Cam Smith (pictured) drew 900,000 viewers for its final round
LIV has also failed to seamlessly slot into golf’s eco-system as it has been met with severe backlash and is embroiled in civil lawsuits against the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour.
LIV’s rebels have also faced immediate suspension from the PGA Tour the minute they have teed it up at an event on the circuit.
But one of McKinsey’s biggest concerns, the ban of LIV’s players from golf’s biggest stages – the majors – has so far been avoided.
Many have criticized the rebel tour as a ‘sportswashing’ exercise to improve Saudi Arabia’s public image in light of its human rights record, particularly following the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
According to The Times, experts claim that the Saudi’s insistence on breaking into a dwindling sport, despite the warnings of challenges, shows they have aspirations beyond financial success.
LIV Golf recently announced that its second season will kickstart at Mayakoba resort, Mexico – a former PGA Tour venue – on February 24-26, 2023.
As it moves more towards its franchise model, featuring promotion and relegation, the Saudi series appears to be facing sink or swim time.
El Camaleon Golf Club, which has hosted the PGA Tour’s WWT event, will open the season
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk