The future of men’s professional golf may remain in flux but LIV Golf is not going anywhere, according to one of the chiefs who works most closely with the circuit which has changed the face of the sport.
While talks continue between its backers, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and bosses of the PGA and DP World Tours over a consolidation of the elite game, the latest chapter in LIV’s evolution is about to play out this week.
At the inaugural LIV Golf Promotions events at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, more than 70 players will tee it up with the aim of securing one of three spots in the lucrative LIV Golf League alongside stars such as Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith next year.
Featuring the best players from the Asian Tour’s elevated International Series, it is designed to cement the pathway between the Far East and the big time – and points to a roadmap for LIV Golf beyond the global uncertainty.
“I don’t think that’s a question anymore. We’re robust. We’re going for it. There is no turning back at this point,” Rahul Singh, head of the International Series, tells City A.M.
“We’re creating opportunities. We’re building the platform further, we’re establishing the pathway. At this stage, there’s no question – LIV is here to stay.
“I think the model will continue to develop. We would very much like to see a partnership with other tours to make sure that we there’s a cohesive, global plan. But beyond that, there is no doubt in any of our minds that we’re full steam ahead.”
For now, Singh is focused on the first LIV Golf Promotions event, which begins on Friday, offers a prize fund of $1.5m and has a unique format.
Only the top 20 of the 60 who play round one will make it to Saturday, when 14 exempt players join the field and scores reset. Then the top 20 at the end of round two advance to the final day, which features 36 holes and a potential floodlit finish.
“It’s sort of a shootout every day,” he adds. “There’s quite a strong likelihood that you may get into a playoff, and if that happens, that’s going to be played under lights.
“The 18th hole at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club is lit, so in case we don’t have three outright winners at the end of play on Sunday, we’ll just continue and replay into the evening. So it should be fun.”
The LIV Golf Promotions event provides more opportunities for players to qualify via the Asian Tour and International Series, increasing from two last year to a potential four.
But only one is guaranteed to go up, International Series order of merit winner Andy Ogletree, while the others must come through this week’s tournament, where the opening up of the field to any pros keen to take a shot has increased competition for one of the three coveted spots.
Major winner Jason Dufner and England’s Laurie Canter are among those entering, but Singh insists Asian Tour regulars can’t have any complaints about outsiders jumping the queue for LIV Golf, where top earning players can bank £30m in a year.
“It’s a global platform. I think our players need to understand what we’re giving them as an opportunity – we’re not giving them a free ride, they’ve got to earn their way into playing at the highest levels of global golf,” he says.
“It’s a life changing opportunity. And anyone who’s looking at that with anything but a glad eye is just shooting down what we’re creating for them. So I think everyone has embraced it.”
Beyond this week, Singh is also busy planning next year’s International Series, which was itself born out of a partnership within LIV Golf.
Prize money will increase again in 2024 to around $23m, more than double the total on offer in the 2022 launch season, while in time he hopes to grow the series from 10 events to 12 or 14. A return to the UK is also on the cards, but the venue is yet to be confirmed.
“We’re continuing to grow. We’re seeking partnerships. The partnerships that we are assigning are multi-year partnerships. The prize money will continue to grow. And I think in an ideal world, we’ll add a couple more tournaments next year, and then keep going from there,” he says.
“We would like the series to be perceived as the elite series within the Asian Tour. That’s where our sweet spot would be, where we want potential partners to see our tournaments as being the elevated version and the pathway into LIV.”