LIV Golf has stayed on the front foot in its tussle with the leading men’s tours by bringing forward its plans to launch a star-studded super league.
It will see the Saudi-backed big-money circuit – at odds with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour over the services of the world’s leading players – significantly expand its number of tournaments, increase total prize money to $405m and formalise the Asian Tour as a feeder competition.
The move means the LIV Golf League will launch a year earlier than previously stated, while the Asian Tour tie-up could resolve a stand-off with golf chiefs over ranking points.
It comes on the eve of the third event in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which is taking place at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, in New Jersey, from Friday.
LIV Golf chief executive and commissioner Greg Norman said its “expanding global platform will add a new dimension to the golf ecosystem as we know it, one that provides an opportunity for players and fans around the world to help maximise our beloved sport’s true potential.”
The LIV Golf League is set to consist of 14 tournaments, almost doubling the eight events in this year’s inaugural Invitational Series.
The league will see the establishment of 12 permanent franchises consisting of four players each and captained by major winners such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau – like all LIV Golf sign-ups, now banned from the PGA Tour.
These teams will do battle at each tournament, culminating in a Team World Championships match play finale.
Captains “will compete and have the ability to build their franchises as they see fit in an effort to gain the greatest fan following and sponsor interest,” LIV Golf said.
Norman has said LIV Golf and its backers, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, hope the franchises mirror the rapid growth in value of those in other disruptive sport competitions, such as cricket’s Indian Premier League
“Our franchise model will bring new energy and excitement to fans from all corners of the world, establishing a league of teams to connect and grow with,” he added.
The LIV Golf League will feature promotion and relegation from the International Series of 10 tournaments on the Asian Tour.
Stars of the league are “expected to compete in numerous International Series tournaments”, LIV Golf said, in a move that could provide them with much needed ranking points.
Players need points to qualify for majors but remain unable to play on the PGA Tour, while LIV Golf has not yet succeeded in gaining ranking status for its events.
“The International Series will attract new talent and offer unprecedented pathways that develop the next generation of stars,” said Norman.
“LIV Golf is committed to making sustainable investments that grow the game now and for the future, and we are proud to turn these dreams into a reality.”
Other players signed up to LIV Golf include Henrik Stenson, whose defection saw him sacked as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, and former team-mates Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
Fifteen-time major winner Tiger Woods and former world No1 Rory McIlroy remain among the critics of the new circuit, which they have accused of dividing the game.
One man happy to tee off at Bedminster this week is the club’s owner, former US president Donald Trump, who is due to play in Thursday’s pro-am competition.