With Monday being the last day PGA Tour players can ask for a release to play in the first LIV Golf International Series event outside of London in June, the upstart organization run by Greg Norman has more than 70 players who have registered for the initial tournament.
Included among those players are 15 who are ranked among the top 100 in the world, a LIV Golf spokesperson told SI.com/Morning Read. Due to player confidentiality agreements, the names of the players are not being released.
While it is not the haul of top-ranked players Norman and his LIV Golf Investments organization originally envisioned when attempting to put together a league that would have a 14-tournament schedule, it appears to be better than expected after the organization pivoted in the wake of controversial comments attributed to Phil Mickelson in February.
LIV Golf announced its eight-tournament schedule on March 16 and has been accepting tournament applications over the last month.
Mickelson, who won the PGA Championship last year for his sixth major title, has not played since early February and was severely criticized for his association with the league and harsh comments about the PGA Tour. Several players who were believed to be close to signing deals with LIV Golf backed off.
Norman was named in October as CEO of LIV Golf Investments and commissioner of the new league, which was forced to alter plans, with the league concept being scrapped for two years and simply a series of events to be staged in which players are free to participate as often or as little as they want.
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This year’s schedule begins June 9-11 at the Centurion Club outside of London, the week prior to the US Open and the same week as the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open. PGA Tour players are required to seek a release – essentially permission – to compete in any conflicting events. DP World (formerly European) Tour players also must seek releases and players are expected to get answers 30 days prior to the start of the event.
Because the event is overseas and the tournament is not at this point part of a new tour, players could expect to receive the releases they desire from the PGA Tour. It is quite likely there will be past major champions among the group competing, as well as multiple former PGA Tour winners. LIV Golf expects to have to turn down applicants, as its fields are capped at 48 players.
What is unclear is what will happen in July when LIV Golf plays its first domestic event outside of Portland. The PGA Tour, per policy, does not grant releases for domestic tournaments. That event is being played opposite the Rocket Mortgage Classic, held in Detroit.
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.
LIV Golf was set to announce Monday that its season-ending event will be played at Trump National Doral in Miami, Oct. 28-30. That event has a $ 30 million purse and will strictly have a team format, with details of the teams will be determined and a format still to be released. But there will be 12 four-man teams, with the winning squad splitting $ 16 million and $ 1 million going to the last-place team.
The LIV Golf Invitational Series will have several exemption criteria to determine the field, which includes players from the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, Asian Tour, Australasian Tour, Sunshine Tour and Japan Tour. There is an exemption category for the top three players from the Asian Tour International Series and the top two from the International Series London event. From there, the top 22 available players off the Official World Golf Ranking as well as invites will fill the field.
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.