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Is LIV Golf Invitational trying to create a team franchise model like the NBA or NFL?

LIV Golf has implemented a new team system that resembles how sports like basketball or football work.

LIV Golf has implemented a new team system that resembles how sports like basketball or football work.
Kevin C. CoxGetty

Teamwork is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about professional golf, it might not be the second or third either. In a sport where each action is individual and most time is spent on silence, it’s not easy to see how golf could implement a team model that creates the kind of brand value that franchises like those in the NBA or NFL have. LIV Golf will try to create something similar with their team system and a final tournament with seeded squads fighting for a prize.

A format nothing like the Ryder Cup

Henrik Stenson joined LIV Golf and immediately lost his spot as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, but he will still have a chance to be part of a team, perhaps even be the captain of one. The Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup are the two marquee team events in golf. Both of them have special rules and ways of making golf more of a real team sport, by playing either foursomes or fourball, and their history makes players want to work together to win. Well, at least for Team Europe, not so much in Team USA’s case sometimes, since their success on these events has historically often relied on the individual matches.

LIV Golf’s team system has nothing to do with these bi-annual events, as players on each team play by themselves and their scores are added at the end of the tournament. Part of the prize pool is distributed among the three best teams, and that’s where their partnership ends. It is also difficult to get to know these teams as the 48-player playing field changes each tournament, so even if the team’s captains or names remain the same between weeks, the players involved do not.

A draft and some cool names, not much more

“Each team will have a LIV appointed team captain who will select their 3 open team positions via a snake draft format. The captain will be one of the four starting players but will also have the responsibility to set the lineup each week, choose the scores that will count and act as an on- and off-course captain for the team.” Those are the rules under which teams are decided on a weekly basis, and even if the circuit’s best players are part of the field at every event and keep their captain’s role on the same team, it’s not easy to see what kind of identity they can achieve.

It is true that this is all a work in progress as LIV Golf is still recruiting players from the PGA and figuring out the best format for the coming months and years, but so far each team is just a cool name, such as Dustin Johnson’s 4 Aces GC or Sergio García’s Fireballs GC, and a promise of much more in the future.

An economic project and a team tournament

On May 19th LIV Golf released a statement announcing the signings of sports industry executives Matt Goodman, previously at the Cleveland Browns, and Laurence Miller, from Manchester United, as the people in charge of creating a franchise model for LIV Golf, launching this same summer.

“This team is passionate about establishing a creative concept where our players and franchises drive deeper fan engagement and inspire more people to play this great game, and I’m thrilled to be part of it,” said Miller. Each team is supposed to have “unique logos, colors, and names, much like other major global sports teams”. The next step for this franchise model was reported recently:

These “principal players” are the main bet LIV has made so far, paying hundreds of millions of dollars to get Mickelson, Johnson or DeChambeau to lead their project. Not only do they get the signing bonuses, they also have the chance to take a stake in the ownership of these teams. If they can actually create a system that makes each team different and drives interest and revenue up, these players will have a chance to create something that looks nothing like the PGA Tour and pushes golf forward. If not, they will still be playing in similar conditions to their previous ones albeit making much more money.

The bracket system for LIV Golf Invitational's Team Championship tournament
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The bracket system for LIV Golf Invitational's Team Championship tournament

This bet on using a team system will have its first real test in the LIV Golf Invitational last event of the season, a special Team Championship that will “be a seeded four-day, four-round, match play knock-out” between teams. It will also be the biggest tournament prize-wise: “The season-ending Team Championship will have a total prize fund of $50MM where all 12 teams receive a cut ($16MM to first place and $1MM to 12th). Each player receives a 25% cut of team earnings.”

The LIV Golf Invitational comes back next week in New Jersey at a course owned by one of its biggest supporters, Donald Trump, Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.


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