LIV Golf: What to know about the controversial Saudi-backed league before first tournament

The first tournament will take place in London at the Centurion Golf Club and will run from Thursday to Saturday and feature some of the top stars in the sport, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.

While the stars have come out for LIV Golf, there has been a ton of controversy about the money being pumped into the league and those golfers spurning the PGA Tour to play for the rival league.

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The LIV Golf Invitational begins at The Centurion Club on June 8, 2022, in St Albans, England.

The LIV Golf Invitational begins at The Centurion Club on June 8, 2022, in St Albans, England. (Joe Maher/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

LIV Golf Investments is running the show with legendary golfer Greg Norman as the CEO and commissioner of the league. The majority shareholder of LIV Golf Investments is the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, which is chaired by the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Golfers who decided to participate in the league have been accused of helping Saudi Arabia’s “sportswashing,” in which the government uses sports to deviate from its human rights record. Among the issues that were brought up over the last few months was Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Mickelson made startling comments in an interview as part of an unauthorized biography about him. Those excerpts were published in February, creating a firestorm and tremendous backlash against him. He missed the Masters and PGA Championship because of it. Mickelson said at the time he was still joining the league because of the opportunity it brought, fully knowing the government’s human rights record. Mickelson would later apologize for his comments.

At LIV Golf’s media availabilities, many golfers faced questions about Khashoggi and the idea of “sportswashing.” Graeme McDowell was one of the pros who defended joining LIV Golf, saying he accepted the “poloraizing decision” to join the tour.

LIV Golf Invitational trophies are seen at The Centurion Club on June 8, 2022, in St Albans.

LIV Golf Invitational trophies are seen at The Centurion Club on June 8, 2022, in St Albans. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

PHIL MICKELSON ‘EXCITED’ FOR LIV GOLF, READDRESSES SAUDI ARABIA’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

“I really feel like golf is a force of good in the world – I just try to be a great role model to kids. We are not politicians. I know you guys hate that expression, but we are really not, unfortunately. We are professional golfers,” he said.

“If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to help them on that journey using the game of golf and the abilities that we have to help grow the sport and take them to where they want to be.”

The PGA Tour rejected releases for members who wanted to play in the Saudi-backed league.

Phil Mickelson on the 14th hole ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational on June 8, 2022, in St Albans.

Phil Mickelson on the 14th hole ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational on June 8, 2022, in St Albans. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

“Members who violate the tournament regulations are subject to disciplinary action,” the Tour said earlier this month. “As communicated to our entire membership on 10 May, PGA Tour members have not been authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour tournament regulations.”

Johnson, Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen were among those who resigned from the PGA Tour to compete for LIV Golf.

The competition

There will be 48 players competing in the tournament. Those players were separated into 12 four-man teams for a team element of each tournament. The players will compete in three rounds without the prospect of a cut.

“The addition of the team competition also has captured the interest of players. Twelve appointed team captains take part in a snake-order draft to determine the three open positions for each of their 12 four-man teams,” LIV Golf says.

“The best two scores from each team in the first two rounds, along with the best three scores in the final round, will be used to determine the team winners.”

Players and their teams

Dustin Johnson during the Pro-Am ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational on June 8, 2022, in St Albans.

Dustin Johnson during the Pro-Am ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational on June 8, 2022, in St Albans. (John Phillips/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

  • Dustin Johnson (4 Aces GC)
  • Shaun Norris (4 Aces GC)
  • Oliver Bekker (4 Aces GC)
  • Kevin Yuan (4 Aces GC)
  • Phil Mickelson (Hy Flyers GC)
  • Justin Harding (Hy Flyers GC)
  • Ratchanon Chantananuwat (Hy Flyers GC)
  • Chase Koepka (Hy Flyers GC)
  • Wade Ormsby (Punch GC)
  • Matt Jones (Punch GC)
  • Ryosuke Kinoshita (Punch GC)
  • Blake Windred (Punch GC)
  • Martin Kaymer (Cleeks GC)
  • Pablo Larrazabal (Cleeks GC)
  • JC Ritchie (Cleeks GC)
  • Ian Snyman (Cleeks GC)
  • Kevin Na (Iron Heads GC)
  • Sadom Kaewkanjana (Iron Heads GC)
  • Hideo Tanihara (Iron Heads GC)
  • Viraj Madappa (Iron Heads GC)
  • Sihwan Kim (Smash GC)
  • Scott Vincent (Smash GC)
  • Jinichiro Kozuma (Smash GC)
  • Itthipat Buranatanyarat (Smash GC)
  • Peter Uihlein (Crushers GC)
  • Richard Bland (Crushers GC)
  • Phachara Khongwatmai (Crushers GC)
  • Travis Smyth (Crushers GC)
  • Ian Poulter (Majesticks GC)
  • Lee Westwood (Majesticks GC)
  • Sam Horsfield (Majesticks GC)
  • Laurie Canter (Majesticks GC)
  • Louis Oosthuizen (Stinger GC)
  • Hennie Du Plessis (Stinger GC)
  • Charl Schwartzel (Stinger GC)
  • Branden Grace (Stinger GC)

Other info

Lee Westwood talks to Phil Mickelson during the Pro-Am ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational on June 8, 2022, in St Albans.

Lee Westwood talks to Phil Mickelson during the Pro-Am ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational on June 8, 2022, in St Albans. (Charlie Crowhurst/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

Tee time: 9:15 a.m. ET

Watch: LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook

Prize money

The prize money totals $ 25 million, including $ 4 million to the individual champion of the event.

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