LIV Golf Invitational Series: All you need to know about the new Saudi-backed £200m circuit
There is a lot that is new at the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which starts at Centurion Club near London this week, from the 54-hole format to the combination of team and individual scoring.
But that is the tip of the iceberg, with much more profound changes to the way golf is played and watched at the top level on the horizon.
Here is a run down of what the series is, how it works, what is at stake and how the competition is due to evolve over the next few years.
What is the LIV Golf Invitational Series?
This year’s inaugural series is the first iteration of a new circuit for golf’s top players; a taster of what the format will be like and how the action will play out.
There are eight events in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series, beginning at Centurion Club near London this week and also taking in the US, Thailand and the Middle East.
The first seven are three-day tournaments comprising both individual and team scoring, but the eighth and final leg is a four-day match play knockout contest.
What is the format of the LIV Golf Invitational Series?
Where typical tournaments take place over four rounds, one of the key characteristics of LIV Golf events is that they are condensed into 54 holes – LIV is 54 in Roman numerals.
The field is also smaller than usual at just 48 players, but there is no cut so every competitor is guaranteed to be involved for the full three days.
Those 48 players are split into 12 teams, each with a captain who then picks the remaining members of his team via a draft on the week of the event.
To improve the experience for viewers, the day’s play takes place over just four and a half hours, with players starting at different holes – known as shotgun starts.
How does the scoring work?
The individual element of each event works just like any other stroke play competition, with the lowest score winning.
In the team contest, each side’s best two stroke play totals count for the first two rounds. On the final day there is less margin for error, with the best three scores counting.
For the series finale, match play rules apply instead. The 12 teams will be seeded, with the best four sides receiving a bye into the second round.
Who is playing in the series?
We only know the field for the first event so far, but those signed up include former world No1 Dustin Johnson and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson.
England’s Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, fellow Ryder Cup stars Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer are also on board, as are major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Players must play at least four of the first seven events to be in contention for lucrative bonuses, so it’s likely most of those at Centurion will play the majority of the first season of the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
How much prize money is on offer at the LIV Golf Invitational Series?
There is big prize money on offer at the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – $255m (£204m), in total.
Each of the first seven events carries a purse of $25m, with $20m for the individual competition, including $4m for the winner.
The team competition is worth another $5m, of which the winning team shares $3m.
At the end of the first seven events, an individual series champion will receive an extra $18m, with $8m for second and $4m for third.
A further $50m is up for grabs at the eighth event, the Team Championship. The winning team bank $16m, with each player receiving an equal share.
What else is happening at the series?
Once the final putts have been holed, the entertainment will continue off-course, with each event offering concerts from big-name music acts.
Craig David, James Bay, Jessie J, Melanie C, James Morrison and John Newman are all due to perform at Centurion Club this week, as part of a lively “apres golf” offering.
A London-themed fan village will feature Borough Market-inspired food and drink, Covent Garden street performers and childrens’ activities including face painting and soft play.
Guests can also improve their technique with some tips from professional golf coaches, or take part in virtual competition in the Metaverse Tent.
How does the series relate to a proposed super golf league?
The LIV Invitational Series will retain the same structure in 2023, only with additional dates added to the calendar.
But in 2024 it is set to evolve into a fully fledged league, in which each of the 12 teams has a star captain and a roster of players who take part for the whole season.
The teams will have their own distinct identities and LIV golf hope that they can emulate the success of cricket’s Indian Premier League.
Indeed, the big-name captains will also be minority shareholders in their teams, with the idea being that they help grow the value of their franchise with a view to attracting investors and ultimately selling some of their stakes.
In year three of the league, so 2026, a transfer market will open which will allow teams to trade and poach rival players, introducing another new element to professional golf.