Sunday, March 3, 2024

LIV Golf to hold first Latin American tournament in Mexico

LIV Golf will host its first-ever tournament in Latin America at Mayakoba’s El Camaleón Golf course – ranked as one of the top courses in Mexico – from Feb. 24 to 26.

Twelve franchises of world-class golfers including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Smith and Phil Mickelson, will be competing for the first-place prize. 

Fronted by two-time major winner and former world number one Greg Norman, LIV Golf launched in 2022 with the slogan: “Golf, but louder.”

With 14 tournaments scheduled for the year, LIV Golf’s total purse goes up to US $405 million, making it the most lucrative golf tournament in the world – but also the most controversial. 

Rivaling the PGA tour, the world’s leading organizer of pro golf tours, LIV Golf is bankrolled by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of complicity in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Bin Salman has denied any involvement.

When asked about Saudi Arabia’s regime and the killing of Khashoggi, Norman said “we all make mistakes” while adding they are “changing their culture within their country.”

Critics of the tournament say the series is part of a political effort by Saudi Arabia to buy legitimacy and polish its global image. This practice, known as “sports washing,” has also been used to describe sporting events like the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the 2019 heavyweight boxing match in Saudi Arabia and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

The PIF also invests in other sporting events and leagues, including Formula 1, boxing and football.

Although the tournament now boasts many big names in golf, others have stayed away. For instance, 15-time major winner Tiger Woods said no despite a whopping offer of nearly US $1 billion according to Forbes. Irish golfer Rory McIlroy has also rejected the idea and criticized the entire concept over “moral” issues, the BBC reported. 

Pro golfer Abraham Ancer
Mexican pro golfer Abraham Ancer has joined the Saudi-backed tournament. (@Abraham_Ancer Twitter)

Mexican golfer Abraham Ancer, a regular fixture in the world’s top-50 golfers, told Milenio newspaper that leaving the PGA to join LIV Golf wasn’t an easy decision, but that when he contrasted the pros and cons, “there was no way to say no.” He added he is “pretty happy” and that joining LIV Golf has allowed him to do things that he couldn’t do before. 

Unlike the PGA Tour, LIV Golf pays golfers just for taking part in the tournament. According to the New York Times, Phil Mickelson is being paid US $200 million as an appearance fee. 

The inaugural LIV Golf invitational event took place at Centurion Club, about 30 miles north of London, in October 2022. As for this year’s season, LIV has said that none of the 2023 tournaments will conflict with golf’s four major championships so that the “best players in the game will always be able to make their own choices about where to play.”  

With reports from LIV Golf League Mayakoba, BBC and The New York Times

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