LIV Golf: Why The Saudis Care So A lot About Golf

With LIV Golf taking the winter off, we fortunately get a break from professional golf’s nice civil warfare. It’s been good not questioning who’s leaping leagues, who’s staying and the way the hell do they determine Official World Golf Rating factors. (We did look it up. The mathematics will make your hair damage.)

In Half 1 of this collection, we shared the story of Performance54 and the way this high-powered – and Saudi-backed – British PR agency is influencing the way you get your golf data. In Half 2, we heard from a legendary sports activities agent and famend golf coach on LIV, legacies and money. And we touched on why Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund (PIF) is giving Greg Norman, LIV’s CEO, $2 billion US.

On this version, we’re going to look at PIF a bit extra carefully and dive into why the Saudis care a lot about golf. Do the Saudis count on LIV to interrupt the PGA TOUR and take over skilled golf? Or are they after one thing totally different?

True, this collection is a tad exterior the norm for MyGolfSpy. Positive, the LIV-PGA TOUR kerfuffle is significantly much less significant to your Saturday foursome than, say, the brand new Titleist TSR. Nevertheless it has been the story of the 12 months in skilled golf. And our aim is to give you a uniquely MGS perspective into among the fascinating layers of this story.

LIV Golf

What’s PIF?

I’d be prepared to wager all of Yasir Al-Rumayyan’s cash and most of my very own that, previous to this 12 months, most of you had by no means heard of PIF.

PIF, as all of us now know, is Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund. Established in 1971, PIF is a sovereign wealth fund charged with offering loans to develop the Saudi economic system. A number of nations have sovereign wealth funds, with cash constructed from every nation’s pure assets. Within the case of Saudi Arabia, that’s oil.

PIF has greater than $620 billion in money readily available yearly, with an eye fixed towards $2 trillion by 2030. At the moment, Norway has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund at $1.3 trillion, because of North Sea oil deposits. PIF invests $40 billion yearly immediately in Saudi-based companies together with airways, protection and high-tech companies, leisure enterprises, even espresso farms. Actually, if you happen to had been to go to Saudi Arabia, it could be not possible to discover a enterprise that isn’t linked to PIF.

Saudi Arabia

Not too long ago, PIF has branched out, investing closely in U.S. blue-chip shares and securing possession stakes in companies similar to Uber, Disney, Boeing, Fb, Financial institution of America, CitiGroup and BP.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan is the Public Funding Fund governor. The Harvard-educated Al-Rumayyan is a licensed huge deal in Saudi Arabia. He’s additionally chairman of the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil firm (the biggest company on the planet) and Sanabil Non-public Fairness Investments, the bulk proprietor of Performance54.

He’s additionally a golf nut, who carries a 12 handicap and counts Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia as golf buddies.

Imaginative and prescient 2030 and The Man Who Would Be King

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is Saudi Arabia’s prime minister in addition to the inheritor to the throne. “MBS” is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and his rule is absolute. In 2016, as one in every of his first official duties as Crown Prince, MBS unveiled an bold, all-encompassing strategic framework for his nation known as Imaginative and prescient 2030. Merely acknowledged, Imaginative and prescient 2030’s aim is to create a diversified, sustainable and—of their phrases—progressive economic system and society that’s not depending on oil.

Saudi Arabia

And PIF’s bottomless barrels of oil cash fund your entire program.

Golf and its shut first cousin, tourism, are key pillars of Imaginative and prescient 2030.

“It’s going to be essentially the most welcoming nation on this planet,” Golf Saudi CEO Majed Al Sorour is quoted as saying. “Our normal of lodging, our normal of welcoming all totally different nationalities, shall be above and past all expectations.”

The Saudis are sinking ridiculous quantities of cash into creating vacationer points of interest. All the pieces from a Six Flags amusement park to luxurious lodges and historic and cultural points of interest are on the desk. Simply this 12 months, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt and Rosewood signed mega-deals to develop luxurious resorts whereas Hilton and Radisson introduced plans to construct practically 80 lodges in The Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia

The reasoning is easy. Saudi Arabia needs to develop into a world enterprise middle. To try this, it wants world companies to arrange store within the desert. To encourage that, the nation wants to offer locations to go, sights to see and issues to do.

Golf is a kind of issues.

Golf Within the Kingdom

Whereas LIV is the Saudis’ highest-profile golf enterprise, it’s not the one one. The Aramco Sequence accounts for greater than 40 p.c of the prize cash on the Girls’ European Tour. Each ventures, nevertheless, are wheels on a a lot bigger bus.

At the moment, there are seven golf programs in Saudi Arabia. The latest is the Nicklaus-designed Qiddiya close to the capital metropolis of Riyadh. It’s a prototypical resort course with vast fairways, no tough, a par-3 course and a big follow space. The event itself is typical of a Imaginative and prescient 2030 program. The bold mission options amusement parks, a safari park, a high-end resort and spa and a residential neighborhood.


In keeping with the Saudi Golf Federation, at the least 14 extra programs are slated to open by 2030. The strategy could be very a lot Area of Desires-ish: If we construct it, you’ll come.

“For vacationers who’re choosy about their golf programs, (Saudi Arabia) is quick turning into a vacation spot on par with Pebble Seashore and St Andrews.”  Go to Saudi Tourism web site

Golf Saudi is the motion arm of the Saudi Golf Federation. Its strategic plan reads like a Harvard Enterprise Faculty mission, full of company buzzwords like mission-vision statements, targets, timelines and strategic goals and pillars.

Among the many goals:

  • Develop a golf ecosystem to drive jobs, create companies and enhance income streams
  • Present entry to golf by way of entertainment-based entry-level golf initiatives
  • Join golf tourism by driving curiosity in new properties and locations
  • Place golf by way of occasions that showcase Saudi as an progressive and progressive society

This system takes a company strategy to creating sport and tradition. Targets embody enrolling 500 children per week in golf camps, creating 50,000 golf-related jobs and insuring a couple of million individuals at the least attempt the sport.

Jack Nicklaus Qiddaya

How Does LIV Golf Match?

It’s vital to place this primary season of LIV in perspective. Study Golf Saudi’s playbook and it’s clear the 2022 season was merely a beta check to show the idea. In that context, you may say it was a smashing success. In a matter of months, LIV organized and introduced eight occasions, signed dozens of gamers, created a broadcast platform and upset the sport’s establishment a lot that the PGA TOUR needed to essentially alter its mannequin.

Even if you happen to take into account LIV to be nothing greater than “sportswashing,” it’s clearly accomplished that job as nicely. Phil himself known as the Saudis “scary mom***kers.” However the aim of sportswashing, on this case, isn’t to persuade individuals human rights violations as outlined by teams similar to Amnesty Worldwide don’t exist in Saudi Arabia. As a substitute, it’s to raise the narrative that Saudi isn’t any worse than Dubai or China. And if you happen to’re holding tournaments in and doing enterprise with these international locations then, hey, why not us?

However don’t for a minute assume Golf Saudi and PIF wish to destroy the Tour. Which may be Norman’s aim however Golf Saudi will do what’s finest for Golf Saudi in assist of Imaginative and prescient 2030. If which means hanging a deal to peacefully coexist with the Tour, then that’s what LIV will do. And if it means dumping Norman and changing him with somebody extra amenable to détente with the Tour, then they’ll try this. Don’t assume floating Mark King’s title a number of weeks in the past was an accident.

Doesn’t LIV Have To Make Cash?

In a phrase, no.

Two billion {dollars} over two years is pocket change to the Saudis. Within the grand scheme of Imaginative and prescient 2030, LIV is solely overhead. As talked about, it’s sportswashing, pure and easy, and it’s working. LIV is doing its job and, so long as the remainder of Imaginative and prescient 2030 strikes ahead and Golf Saudi can level to LIV as a web optimistic on its targets and goal scoresheet, it doesn’t have to make cash.

LIV Golf

The New York Instances not too long ago reported {that a} consulting agency employed by the Saudis ready a number of potential outcomes for LIV. Essentially the most optimistic and unrealistic situation had LIV signing the highest 12 golfers on this planet, attracting big-money sponsors and touchdown an enormous TV deal, all with out retaliation from the PGA TOUR. In that situation, it predicted LIV would generate $1.4 billion in web income by 2028.

The least seemingly situation, in keeping with the Instances, is “a league mired in start-up standing, attracting lower than half of the world’s prime 12 gamers, navigating a scarcity of pleasure from followers and reeling from restricted sponsorship.” That situation would lead to $355 million in losses in 2028.

If the bigger Golf Saudi/Imaginative and prescient 2030 narrative is shifting ahead, it’s exhausting to think about the Saudis batting an eye fixed at $355 million in losses.

LIV Golf

May The Saudis Pull the Plug?

That’s additionally believable.

In a latest Washington Put up story, Gerald Feierstein, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen and a diplomacy knowledgeable on the Center East Institute, mentioned the Saudis have a “behavior of investing enormous quantities of cash in constructing brilliant, shiny objects. And after they don’t fly, they simply stroll away.”

The Jeddah Tower, a 167-floor skyscraper mission, is a major instance. Development on what could be the world’s tallest constructing began in 2013 however was suspended in 2018. At this time it sits idle, solely one-third full. Riyadh’s $10-billion monetary district continues to be beneath building 16 years later. And the King Abdullah Financial Metropolis, the place the Royal Inexperienced Golf and Nation Membership sits, can be struggling. It was presupposed to be a two-million-resident megacity when it was established 20 years in the past. At this time it has 7,000 residents and plenty of empty buildings.

Jeddah Tower

Even the futuristic megacity Neom is method not on time. Solely two buildings have been constructed and a lot of the 10,000-square-mile space stays a naked desert. The Saudis excel at unimaginable idea drawings and bold plans. Their accomplishment scorecard, nevertheless, is hit or miss.

So, sure, the Saudis may actually pull the plug on LIV Golf. Relative profitability, nevertheless, received’t have any bearing. They might both lose curiosity or resolve that LIV isn’t serving to Imaginative and prescient 2030.

The extra seemingly situation could be for LIV to play the lengthy recreation.

Which means sticking round lengthy sufficient to result in détente with the PGA TOUR. The perfect factor for the Saudis could be some kind of an association with the Tour that will enable for peaceable coexistence. LIV isn’t accomplished poaching gamers and, for all his faults and bluster, Norman has accomplished his job in making LIV a actuality. However, once more, these Mark King rumors didn’t simply come out of skinny air.

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