6 Numbers That Show How Saudi Money Forever Changed Golf


On the eve of the British Open, the last major of the 2022 that starts Thursday, here’s how LIV Golf has upended the sport since it stormed onto the scene earlier this year—in six numbers.

Key Facts

$25 million: That’s the purse for each LIV Golf regular season event, thanks to financing from the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, surpassing every tournament on the PGA Tour, including the leading $20 million purse at the Players Championship in March.

About $54 million: That’s how much the PGA Tour pledged to increase its purse by across eight tournaments in 2023.

Nine: That’s how many golfers in the sport’s top 40 rankings—Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Abraham Ancer, Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, DeChambeau, Kevin Na, Talor Gooch and Patrick Reed—have joined LIV Golf.

92%: That’s how much the purse for golf’s four majors has increased over the last 10 years – though each major still pays out far less than an ordinary LIV Golf event (the U.S. is the most lucrative one at $17.5 million).

2.78 million: That’s how many viewers CBS averaged during the final round of the RBC Canadian Open last month that overlapped with LIV Golf’s first event, marking a 22-year high for the tournament, according to Sports Business Journal, experiencing an apparent ratings bump from the added publicity from LIV Golf.

Key Background

LIV Golf formally launched last fall with Australian former world No. 1 Greg Norman as its chief executive, but began to truly make waves in February when Mickelson defended his ties to the Saudi-backed league with inflammatory comments about the Saudi government’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its criminalization of homosexuality. Mickelson said and disappeared from the public eye for months before playing his first tournament in June at LIV Golf’s first-ever tournament at the Centurion Golf Club near London. The PGA Tour announced last month the suspension of any golfers playing in LIV Golf tournaments from the tour. DeChambeau made his LIV Golf debut at the series’ first U.S. tournament June 30, where Koepka, Reed and Ancer also made their debuts.

Crucial Quote

Ancer, DeChambeau and Wolff bluntly explained their motive for joining the new outfit during a joint press conference last week: money. DeChambeau said his decision was a “personal business decision,” Wolff called it a “money thing,” and Ancer said “getting paid bigger, better” convinced him. Though not as strongly worded, DeChambeau echoed Michelson’s comments about looking past the Saudi government’s history of human rights violations, saying he hopes “people will see the good that they are doing and what they are trying to accomplish, rather than looking at the bad that’s happened before.”

Surprising Fact

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, perhaps the PGA Tour’s staunchest defender and LIV Golf’s chief critic, changed tone this week, calling for the leaders of the PGA Tour and its European counterpart the DP World Tour to sit down with LIV Golf brass to make amends. McIlroy told the BBC on Wednesday the situation is “messy” and “unfortunate,” but conceded “if these people are serious about investing billions of dollars into golf, I think ultimately that’s a good thing.”

Big Number

94,000. That’s how many viewers the YouTube stream of LIV Golf’s first ever round June 9 averaged, according to Apex Marketing. The new tour has no major TV deal, streaming its events on YouTube, Facebook, its website or the DAZN streaming service.


Several sponsors cut ties with LIV Golf players in wake of their decision to join, including Rocket Mortgage, the Royal Bank of Canada, KPMG and UPS, but notably most golf apparel companies have stayed out of the ongoing power struggle.

Further Reading

Rory McIlroy Advocating for Golf Tours to Meet and Try to Settle ‘Messy’ Situation (Sports Illustrated)

‘A Money Thing’: Golfers DeChambeau, Wolff, Ancer Bluntly Explain Why They Joined Saudi-Backed LIV (Forbes)

When It Comes To Prize Money, LIV Golf’s Debut In London Blows Away The PGA Tour (Forbes)

LIV Golf Has Marquee Names and Giant Purses. So Why No TV Deal? (New York Times)

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/dereksaul/2022/07/09/6-numbers-that-show-how-saudi-money-forever-changed-golf/