It’s hard to believe it’s been just 568 days since LIV Golf teed off its inaugural event in London in June of 2022.
Over its last two seasons as the eight-event LIV Golf Invitational Series in 2022 and the 14-event LIV Golf League in 2023, the upstart circuit led by Greg Norman and financially supported by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has taken some key steps forward.
The circuit signed not only some of the game’s best players in Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and most recently Jon Rahm, but also some of its best characters in Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson. The group picked up a TV deal with the CW. Both the league and its teams have signed sponsors and hired staff. The league currently has three of the last five major champions.
But with the 2024 season around the corner, LIV still has some serious work to do before its first event in Mexico in February. Here’s how LIV Golf can improve in 2024.
Announce the full schedule and rosters on time
At the Team Championship in Doral back in October, LIV officials were supremely confident for a second consecutive year the schedule and rosters would all be announced by the start of the new year. It’s a month out from the start of the 2024 season and, once again, those who follow the league still don’t know the full schedule or team rosters. That’s simply unacceptable for a league that wants to be taken seriously and be competitive in the American sports market.
LIV made its biggest signing to date with Rahm earlier this month, but nobody knows what team he’ll be on or who he will play with. Cleeks GC and Ripper GC both have two vacant spaces. Iron Heads GC also has a spot. LIV did well earlier in its free agency period but has since dropped the ball (more on that to come).
Former President Donald Trump claimed the league was returning to his Doral property near Miami, April 5-7, but the dates are still listed as LIV Golf USA with “to be announced” on the league’s website. On the flip side, there’s been zero word on the locations of the final two events of the season, the first of which will decide the season-long individual champion and the second which will host the season-finale Team Championship. What’s the hold-up?
Folks who work for LIV have often described the process of getting the league off the ground as building a plane while it’s in the air. In the league’s infancy that’s been true, and over its first two years LIV deserved a bit of leeway. It’s now getting to the point where the group needs to be more proactive and much less reactive.
New team names
Last year Bubba Watson and Cameron Smith knocked their team rebrands out of the park with RangeGoats GC and Ripper GC, respectively. Now it’s time for Cleeks GC to follow suit.
The more off the wall, the better. Similar to Minor League Baseball, LIV should lean into the wacky and wild logos and names. Create something that will pop, stand out and cause a reaction other than “what the hell is a cleek?”
The lowly Iron Heads GC and Majesticks GC both need a rebrand as well, but the last-place squads probably need to prioritize putting together a competitive roster first before they design a new logo and threads.
Keep leaning into the team drama
Soccer’s two transfer periods are as important to some fans as the matches themselves. The NFL and NBA offseasons provide year-round content for both leagues. If LIV wants to gain traction with more than its current small crop of fans, it should take notice of how other successful leagues operate.
LIV largely kept things in-house last year and botched its slow drip of a schedule and team release. They improved by at least getting 11 of the 14 events announced already, and it was smart to have players like Talor Gooch talk about the various trades that have been made this offseason on LIV’s social channels.
There are plans for a mid-season transfer period in 2024 where teams can make trades, and LIV will need to take advantage of that time because the action on the course frankly still isn’t doing enough to garner attention from fringe fans.
Match play event during the regular season
Even though some of the matches were duds on paper, the Team Championship in October was intriguing even if the people playing were not. Why? Two words: Match play.
Even for the die-hard golf fans, stroke play tournaments get boring. We see it all the time. A mid-season match-play event could be worth more money and offers the chance to try something new and use different formats. Give the fans an added reason to tune in, and they will.
Improve the broadcast schedule (and crew)
Friday’s first rounds in 2023 weren’t on television and could only be streamed. International events on a tape delay make for a bad look, especially when compared to live events in the same time window. With six domestic events and eight around the world planned for 2024, LIV’s small following of dedicated fans in its biggest market will know the outcome hours before the event airs. The playoff in Jeddah last year between Talor Gooch and Brooks Koepka should’ve been must-see TV. For a league struggling to lock in fans on a consistent basis, that’s a glaring weakness that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Now for the talent. This reporter can be prone to hyperbole at times and knows live television isn’t easy. However, the constant over-the-top expressions to manufacture hype and drum up interest are disingenuous to those watching. On Saturday during the Team Championship, within a matter of an hour, Jerry Foltz said Phil Mickelson was playing 39-year-old Dustin Johnson in his prime as if it was 2019 again and Arlo White said the 4Aces GC and HyFlyers GC match was “box office” no less than three times.
White has improved as a golf broadcaster after an extremely successful career as the lead voice for NBC’s soccer coverage. David Feherty is David Feherty, you know what you’re getting each round. But on-course reporters Dom Boulet, Troy Mullins and Su-Ann Heng leave something to be desired. Analysts should provide color and teach viewers something about what’s happening, and LIV’s staff lacks in that department. Yes, it’s only two years in, but this crew should be much better by now. It might be time to look elsewhere.