LIV golf vs. PGA Tour continues to crush golf, & the ramifications are endless

Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club on the LIV Golf schedule is preposterously possible. That’s where the state of professional golf exists; if you think it, it may happen.

The damage LIV Golf has done to professional golf cannot be calculated, and there is no visible end to a mess that Saudi Arabia has made in an attempt to diversify its bank account. The best comparison here is when open wheel auto racing split between CART and the Indy Racing League in the 1990s. The sport never recovered.

Professional golf will endure, due in part because it will intentionally/unintentionally lean more heavily into the 1 percenters even more than it does now. That 1 percent will keep pro golf afloat, however it looks.

This week, the PGA Tour’s schedule continues with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club. The field is about as good as PGA Tour event can draw outside of the majors.

Jordan Spieth and that recently jailed thug Scottie Scheffler will play Fort Worth this week, with the future of the entire sport in a rough so deep no can see their Titleist. What that future looks like no one knows, but all concepts are on the table.

“The hard part to that answer is the PGA Tour has a vision of what it wants to look like, and what it should evolve into,” PGA Tour regular and former Colonial champion Adam Scott said Wednesday. “At the moment, there is another party they are negotiating with, and they have to believe in (the Tour’s) vision. I don’t know what that vision is.”

It has been nearly one year since the announcement that LIV Golf would “merge” with the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour. We really don’t know much beyond that. The PGA Tour declined to comment for this story.

Policy and board members have resigned, and high profile players such as Tiger Woods and Spieth have joined the negotiations. On Wednesday at Colonial, Spieth disagreed with the speculation that the negotiations are in a “bad place and moving slowly.”

“Things are moving positively from both sides,” he said. “I think we’ll ultimately end up in a place where professional golf is the best it’s ever been. Both sides believe that. ...

“I’m very optimistic. I think that’s starting to resonate among the players as they get more information.”

This counters what PGA Tour star Rory McIroy told reporters last week before the PGA Championship when he said, “The Tour is in a worse place because (of the negotiations with LIV Golf).”

People in the world of golf are prepared for a reality where members of Saudi Arabia’s leadership will have a voice in pro golf. A potential deal would effectively allow Saudi Arabia’s PIF fund (a bank account with endless zeroes) to be a minority investor in the PGA Tour. It’s not a “merger.”

Whether a deal would allow the existence of LIV Golf or whether it would die is a large unknown. LIV Golf is in its third year and continues to expand but, according to those who work in professional golf, it remains a money pit.

This is where Fort Worth and Colonial come in to this discussion.

LIV Golf has made a name because it bought names. Phil, DJ, Koepka, Rahm and DeChambeau are all LIV names now. What LIV doesn’t have is a name course.

With the possible exceptions of Doral in Miami and Andalucía at Valderrama, none of the courses on the LIV schedule do much for the average golfer.

Colonial is a name golf course that golfers know.

What LIV Golf is doing is adding courses, globally, in major metro areas. Beginning June 7, LIV Golf will make its debut in Texas at the Golf Club of Houston. That tour will return to Texas on Sept. 20 at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton for its “Team Championship.”

Despite Colonial’s good standing on the Tour schedule, the event is like most every other not named The Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open. Save for spots such as The Memorial, Torrey Pines in Southern California and a few others, Tour events nervously look at its title sponsor.

Running a Tour event is expensive. The Charles Schwab Challenge features a purse of more than $9 million.

Currently, the investment firm led by Charles Schwab himself has several years left on its agreement as the title sponsor. Most PGA Tour tournaments have turned into high-end corporate entertaining events, and, for now, Schwab and the Colonial are good.

As Colonial learned with previous title sponsors MasterCard, Crowne Plaza hotels and Dean & DeLuca foods, you never know when or why the relationship may end. Ambitions change. Budgets change. A new CEO may not like golf.

In 2017, the Houston Open lost its desired spot on the schedule when Shell ended what was the third-longest tenure as a PGA Tour event title sponsor. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane bailed out the event, and it’s now called the Texas Children’s Hospital Open.

Last year, AT&T ended its relationship as the title sponsor of the Byron Nelson PGA Tour event in Dallas. It’s now called the CJ Cup Byron Nelson; people familiar with that tournament said event organizers had to lobby the South Korean-food company to keep the name Byron Nelson.

These realities make a course like Colonial, and many other tournaments just like it, “vulnerable” as professional golf evolves. If LIV Golf aspires to expand its footprint, would it “buy” a name course the way it bought name players?

To do so will require it to maintain its commitment to a brand that has yet to gain much traction but has done considerable damage to pro golf; the PIF’s zeroes are so endless it can afford whatever crazy scenario you can conceive.

A million things would need to happen for LIV Golf to come to Colonial Country Club, but who would ever have guessed the PGA Tour would be calmly negotiating with the Saudis about getting together?