The first LIV Golf Invitational Series event will have 19 of the top 100 players in the world, six of whom are currently ranked in the top 50.
A source told SI.com/Morning Read that LIV Golf Investments received 170 entries for the June 9-11 event at the Centurion Golf Club outside of London, with 36 ranked among the top 150 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Several amateurs, who have apparently worked out NIL (name, image and likeness) deals, will also be part of the 48-player field.
Player names are being withheld until releases from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour become official in the next few days, although LIV Golf is expected to wait past next week’s PGA Championship to make them public.
Among the players publicly disclosed as having sought permission to play are Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer.
Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, announced on Tuesday an infusion of $ 2 billion from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia that will help launch its eight-tournament schedule this year, a 10-tournament slate in 2023 and the league, which in 2024 and 2025 will have 14 tournaments that include 12 four-man teams. Norman is in London for a promotional event tied to the first tournament.
Tournaments will take place across the Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Europe and North America.
“We have a long-term vision and we’re here to stay,” Norman said in a press release. “We’re going to grow the game, give more opportunities to players, and create a more entertaining product for fans. We believe in adding new experiences and energy to golf, and that includes building out our future schedule in more global markets.
“We’re creating an entertaining product that will increase golf participation and attract new fans across a broader global footprint. We realize it won’t happen overnight, and we’re excited for the LIV Golf opportunities will add to the game as we continue to grow. ”
While Norman will not have an abundance of top-ranked players as originally envisioned when attempting to put together a 14-tournament schedule for this year, the numbers are better than expected. LIV Golf organizers believe there are weak spots on the PGA Tour schedule that present an opportunity.
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The recent Mexico Open, for example, had just 31 of the top 100 players in the world, with winner Jon Rahm the only player ranked among the top 15. Rory McIlroy was the only top-10 player at the Wells Fargo Championship won by Max Homa.
The first LIV Golf event will be played opposite the RBC Canadian Open, which is expected to have a strong field as it is played for the first time in three years due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is the week prior to the US Open.
But Norman and LIV Golf organizers are banking on the fact the prize money of $ 25 million – with $ 4 million going to the winner – will catch attention, along with a 54-hole, no-cut concept with shotgun starts and only 48-player fields and an added team format.
LIV Golf announced its eight-tournament schedule in March after having to pivot from its original plan to produce a 14-tournament schedule the included 12 set teams each week.
It did so in the wake of comments disclosed by Phil Mickelson, who was highly critical of the PGA Tour as well as the Saudi regime – all of which caused several star players who were believed to be on board to backtrack. Meanwhile, Mickelson lost several sponsors, issued an apology, and took a self-described leave.
Mickelson, who won the PGA Championship last year for his sixth major title, has not played since early February and has been severely criticized for his association with the league. His status for next week’s PGA Championship remains unclear.
Norman was named in October as CEO of LIV Golf Investments and commissioner of the new league. Its original plans have been altered, with the league concept being scrapped for two years and replaced with a series of events in which players are free to participate as often or as little as they want.
To be able to play in the LIV events, PGA Tour players were required to seek a release 45 days in advance of the scheduled start of the event.
Because the event is overseas and the tournament is not at this point part of a new tour, players were expected to get releases. Several major winners and former PGA Tour winners are expected to participate.
What is unclear is what will happen in July when LIV Golf plays its first domestic event outside of Portland, July 1-3. The PGA Tour, per policy, does not grant releases for domestic tournaments. That event is being played opposite the John Deere Classic.
The big lure, of course, is the prize money being offered. The 54-hole events have no cut and will employ a shotgun start for the first two rounds. The first seven events will have $ 25 million purses, with $ 20 million for the individual portion: $ 4 million will go to the winner with approximately $ 120,000 being paid for finishing last. The top teams play for an extra $ 5 million. Some players are also expected to receive appearance fees. The season-ending team event has a $ 50 million purse.
The LIV Golf Invitational Series is part of LIV Golf Investments, which says its mission is to “make strategic investments in golf to enhance the global golf ecosystem and unlock the sport’s untapped worldwide potential.” The Public Investment Fund, an autonomous wealth fund administered by the government of Saudi Arabia, is the main shareholder.