The breakaway series kicked off at Centurion to mixed reactions. We asked two of our writers – one who was there, and one who wasn't – for their thoughts
So was it a success? Alex Perry, watching from home, and George Cooper, who made the trip to Hertfordshire to see what the fuss was about, have their say…
‘Maybe casual fans will like it, but LIV Golf is not for me’
I’ve made my feelings clear about this series, writes Alex Perry, so I want to come at this purely from a golf perspective.
It was… just not very exciting? Not terrible, but there wasn’t anything that made me drop what I was doing to tune in. That’s the problem when the only competition you have is with yourself for a few extra (hundred) thousand.
Let’s start with what did work.
The F1-style leaderboard was a cool touch – once you’d worked out which player belonged to the acronym – although it often told us what had happened before the accompanying footage.
So what didn’t work? Well, the team element, for starters.
We didn’t see the draft, and two of the teams – notably the eventual winners – were pre-determined. What’s the point of that? And who cares? We follow our sports teams for a variety of reasons – and “because the 2010 US Open champion picked them” is not one of them. The fact that Torque is just letters away from my beloved Torquay was as close as I got – not that I could tell you who was representing. I won’t be buying a cap.
Things didn’t really seem to pick up once the actual golf started. The commentators tried in vain to drive the excitement, but ultimately it ended up being rather irritating.
Jerry Foltz will have seen hundreds of hole-outs from the fairway in his many years working for the Golf Channel, yet any time any player landed their ball within 10 feet he yelped into his microphone like an excitable puppy.
But that wasn’t Foltz’s biggest crime. Sat alongside Arlo White, best known on this side of the Atlantic as the commentator on Ted Lasso, he consistently pushed the “growing the game” lie, before inexplicably telling us that “the fans love him” when Patrick Reed was announced on air as LIV’s latest signing.
Did the shotgun start element add anything to it? Other than ensuring each day’s play didn’t go past the four-and-a-half-hour mark, not really. It just so happened that the player leading going into the final day ended up winning. Will it be as good when someone makes a run through the field and ends up sealing the trophy on the 15th hole in front of no one?
Indeed, its biggest success actually proved to be that it finished on Saturday. It meant we weren’t distracted when Linn Grant was making history at the Scandinavian Mixed, or Rory McIlroy was holding off Tony Finau and Justin Thomas in an epic finish at the Canadian Open.
The problem LIV has is that there isn’t enough to keep the ardent golf fan interested. Maybe casual or new golf fans will enjoy it – but I’m not either of those things. Even on the PGA Tour’s less exciting weeks, you’ll always find a story that will warm the heart. At Centurion, Hennie du Plessis finished 2nd, picked up one of the biggest cheques handed out to a golfer, quadrupling his career earnings in the process, and looked like he couldn’t care less.
It’s exhibition golf in the crudest form, and it’s not for me.
‘They got everything off the golf course right’
It’s just down the road, writes George Cooper, so what choice did I have? It was far from your typical golf tournament, I’ll say that. But when was it ever going to be?
Like most in attendance at Centurion, I was drawn into attending out of curiosity… and by free tickets, which had seemingly been given away in their masses by the breakaway league. So off to St Albans I went – which is not in London despite what the black cabs and fabricated grenadiers seemed to suggest.
From a spectator’s point of view, the shotgun start made things frustratingly awkward. I usually relish long days at The Open or BMW PGA Championship, trying to cram in as many golfers as possible. But the format complicated things. It was pretty chaotic, everyone understandable flocking to the marquee groups – if we can call them that – and although I was able to watch a decent share of action, it was noticeably jarring to keep up with play and figure out where best to watch.
I noted the crowd seemed younger than usual, too. Less of the senior fan in full golf attire, more of general sports fan who fancied a day out.
And that’s exactly how it felt. A day out. The fan park was buzzing from start to finish, complete with a quirky crazy golf course, stacked bar, and dance booth. I thought it would quieten down once the golf started. It didn’t. All in all, the golf felt secondary.
Even the hysteria of seeing Phil and DJ seemed to fade as the day went on, and everyone had their ‘look who I’m watching at the golf’ photo.
The prices were absurd, so it has that in common with every other golf tournament. Thirty-five quid for a cap with the LIV Golf logo plastered across it, anyone?
The food stands were good, though, and it seems they got everything away from the golf nailed on.
Most fans I spoke to were in the same boat as me – there for a free day out, curious to see what the fuss was about, and all in all I’m happy to say it was fun.
Would I pay to go to a LIV event? Only if tickets were considerably cheaper than the £70 advertised, and even then it would have to be on my doorstep. I certainly wouldn’t make the effort or financial commitment I would for a proper tournament.