Dustin Johnson at a LIV press event, PGA Logo
Left: Photo by Joe Maher/LIV Golf/Getty Images, Right: Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

What Exactly is LIV Golf and Why Is It So Controversial?

If, like me, you've been wondering what the LIV Golf Invitational Series is, then maybe you're living under a rock. LIV isn't some fancy acronym. Instead, it's the Roman numeral for 54. And that's the number of holes each tournament will be.

The LIV golf event outside London that teed off today at The Centurion Club is a significant rival to the PGA Tour. When thinking about ratings and attracting new fans, golf hasn't really found its way to break through the noise.

LIV's motto is simple. Golf, but louder. "Our mission is to modernize and supercharge the game of professional golf through expanded opportunities for both players and fans alike." They are switching up the format for LIV tournament events and causing a stir within the golf community. PGA Tour players are leaving their tried and true competitions to take part in a LIV event that is promising to be the future of the game.

The LIV Format

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson tee off at the LIV Golf Invitational

Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/LIV Golf/Getty Images

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To start, there are fewer rounds. Twelve teams made up of 48 total players will play 54 holes, which equates to three rounds of tournament play. No cuts will be made, so all golfers will have the opportunity to play from start to finish. Each event will decide its 12 teams via a draft the week prior to the event. They will also utilize shotgun starts, which is meant to ensure a faster and more exciting pace of play.

And this will be done over seven regular-season events, culminating in an eighth and final LIV Championship playoff event.

Due to the smaller field, everyone gets a piece of the winnings. The average prize money per finisher in the LIV Golf Invitational in London will be more than $500,000, nearly doubling the average of finishers of The Masters.

Future LIV events have already been planned and if London has spurred controversy, these other sites will as well. LIV Golf will move on from London and play in Portland, Bedminster, Boston and Chicago. It will then find its way to Bangkok, Thailand and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. And, finally, the season will end in Miami.

The PGA Fallout

Brandt Snedeker hits a bunker shot in a practice round

Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The money play is huge, and it's sending shockwaves through the PGA Tour, and it's getting ugly quickly. In all, 17 PGA Tour members are competing in this weekend's inaugural LIV event. Of them, 10 had informed the PGA Tour that they were resigning their membership prior to taking part in LIV Golf.

Whether they resigned prior or not, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has decided to rule with an iron fist. He released a statement suspending all 17 golfers effective immediately. This will prevent them from competing in tour events, as well as the Presidents Cup.

"These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons. But they can't demand the same PGA TOUR membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platform as you. That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners. You have made a different choice, which is to abide by the Tournament Regulations you agreed to when you accomplished the dream of earning a PGA TOUR card and — more importantly — to compete as part of the preeminent organization in the world of professional golf."

LIV has responded by criticizing this statement.

"Today's announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members. It's troubling that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing. This certainly is not the last word on this topic. The era of free agency is beginning as we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London, and beyond."

Looking Forward For The PGA and LIV's Controversy

The Team and individual Trophies at the LIV Golf London Invitational

Photo by John Phillips/LIV Golf/Getty Images

The question that remains at this point is in which events will they be able to compete in the future? The U.S. Open is taking place in Brookline, Massachusetts, next week, and the major has already said all eligible golfers are welcome to play. And that makes sense, because those events are, in fact, open. It's in the name. But winning the PGA Championship and getting awarded the FedEx Cup? That's looking to be out of the question.

But is the PGA really going to remove such a large number of established golfers high up in the world rankings from PGA Tour Events moving forward? The list of golfers who resigned prior to joining LIV are: Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Turk Pettit, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood. While those who hadn't resigned their memberships, but are competing in LIV are: Talor Gooch, Matt Jones, Phil Mickelson, Andy Ogletree, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Peter Uihlein.

The former group who had resigned were hoping to escape punishment by doing so, but Monahan has not been kind. And the same will happen with future competitors, such as Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, who aren't playing in London, but plan to play in future LIV Golf events.

The PGA is claiming greed and saying these golfers are only thinking about money, and not the game. That's half true. Of course, they're thinking about the money. No matter how good they are, not all have, or will have, a decorated career the likes of Tiger Woods or Greg Norman. So you can't fault them for taking part in something that guarantees them a piece of the pie.

But the other half is where more of the reality lies. LIV is creating a golf tour that plays into the playoff format we love so much. It's tackling pace of play (open your eyes, MLB). And it's shaking up the norm of how the game is played.

Is everything sunshine and roses? No. They're competing at two Trump golf courses and in a country accused of committing human rights violations, like the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In February, Mickelson criticized Saudi Arabia (LIV Golf is backed by the country) in an excerpt from journalist Alan Shipnuck's book about Mickelson. He also saw the league as a great opportunity.

"They're scary mother****ers to get involved with," Mickelson said. "...They killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights...They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates."

Despite these concerns, Mickelson decided to join the league anyway, presumably because he was given a massive check. That has been the focus of many detractors of the league — that players have looked the other way because the money is good.

As Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post wrote, "Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, all the breakaway players are helping themselves, even while people suffer — people die — because of the monsters who sign their checks. But at least their wine cellars will be stocked and their four-car garages full. How and why that happens apparently don't matter to them."

One thing is for sure: LIV Golf is shaking up pro golf, for better or for worse.

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