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Has LIV changed golf forever? Paul McGinley reviews turbulent 2022 and next steps within the sport

LIV had an eight-event inaugural season in 2022 and have plans for an expanded schedule next year, with Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith and Phil Mickelson among the players to have left the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed circuit

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Dame Laura Davies has welcomed the decision to allow golfers who joined LIV Golf to play at The Masters in 2023

Paul McGinley discusses a turbulent year for the sport and reflects on the impact the emergence of LIV has had on golf's traditional tours…

It has been a year of turmoil for golf off the course, with the two main traditional tours in the game challenged by the emergence of a rival Tour and league called LIV. They are financially supported by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which is the same sovereign wealth fund that holds a large share in Newcastle United.

Their entry into golf's ecosystem has put them in direct competition for players, sponsors and venues with the two main established tours in golf.

Historically these two main tours in the game have been member-owned organisations and they provide platforms for their members by putting on events to play and earn a living, with the two tours collectively representing golfers for over 50 years.

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Rory McIlroy said in November that Greg Norman needs to step down from his position as LIV Golf chief executive immediately because golf's tours need an 'adult in the room' to help end their feud

All of the game's very best players, from Ben Hogan to Jack Nicklaus to Sir Nick Faldo to Tiger Woods, have come through these pathways and have used these platforms to go on and dominate for a period of time as the world's best players. It's fair to say the emergence of another rival tour has rocked the professional game to its foundations, as it grapples with new dynamics at play in the professional golf landscape.

Despite narratives around growing the game, it's money paid to some of the game's leading and best known stars that has been the overriding factor in LIV's emergence.

Golf is a sport that is based on a business model very unique and different to any other sport, in that its players are not contracted employees or guaranteed any income. They only earn money based on performance and act as independent traders, where they pick and choose when and where they want to play, from a tour schedule that historically consists of 40 or more events per year.

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Scottie Scheffler feels there's more talent in the PGA Tour after many players decided to join LIV Golf

That model was challenged by the business model of LIV, where players were paid huge sums of money and the bigger names contracted to play every event on the schedule, as well as playing for huge prize monies in their limited field events. The chance to earn such astronomically huge sums of money was very enticing to many and it's understandable how some were enticed to leave and take the huge offers, particularly those in the twilight of their careers.

As they left to build up and promote a rival Tour and commercially compete against the existing tours for TV rights etc, both tours independently took the view that players joining LIV could not come back to play their events whenever they wanted and sanctions were put in place. This has led to the inevitable court cases that are due to be heard in 2023 in Europe, while America looks like it will be 2024 before their case is heard.

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US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick looks back on an incredible year when he became a major champion in Boston back in June and caps it off by parading the trophy at his beloved Sheffield United on Boxing Day

As someone who has been involved with the DP World Tour in various roles over the years, it's been an interesting time to be part of what has been a huge building narrative and one that has taken front as well as back-page headlines.

I believe that the tours have thrived and stood the test of time through the years and will continue to do so, as long as the game's top players support them. This so far has become clear as most of the game's very best players have remained loyal, with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in particular very vocal in their support.

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Tiger Woods had his say ahead of The Open on players that have chosen to go and play on the breakaway LIV circuit

What next for LIV?

A return on investment seems a long way off for LIV, with many reports suggesting that several billion dollars have already been invested and to date there is no sign of a TV contract or the emergence of commercial partners.

LIV will tell you that this has been an incredibly successful year for them and that everybody loves the product, which is based on team as well as individual play, but as of yet there's no real evidence to suggest that.

It's clear that the emergence of LIV is damaging the game and its members organisations, as the product of golf has now become diluted and divisiveness become clearer. The day that Dustin Johnson became the first big-name player in his prime to jump ship to LIV, professional golf changed forever.

The very top players are getting paid vast sums of money to join and have decided to pursue a different path, knowing the probable consequences and collateral damage they would encounter. They are commercially going to hurt the Tours and in turn players they have left behind while hugely benefiting themselves financially.

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Phil Mickelson said earlier this year that it is 'remarkable' how much LIV Golf has improved and suggests that it's now a force in the game that's not going away

I find it quite remarkable that the guys who have gone to LIV see themselves as the victims in all of this. Is it fair that they are allowed to come back and cherry pick events to play on tours that they are now actively competing against?

I'm hopeful that things will eventually start to settle down, although I find it very hard to see what kind of a compromise could be made that is not going to be detrimental at some level to the two existing main tours in the game.

The overwhelming emotion about what has happened in the sport for me is sadness, in the fact that the collective spirit that we've always had as part of members organisations, represented by our tours, is no longer and will never be the same again.

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