In 2022, LIV Golf officially kicked off its quest to take on the PGA Tour by successfully convincing a number of high-profile names like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka to defect and play for the new venture.
LIV’s rise injected the sport with a virtually unprecedented amount of drama as fans and players alike drew their line in the sand over the fairly controversial league.
While many of the golfers who defected attempted to argue they did so for somewhat noble reasons, it was very hard to ignore the role the massive contracts they were offered played in their decisions (an issue amplified by the fact that LIV was primarily funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, a country with a very rocky track record on human right’s).
The rumored details of those contracts left plenty of people wondering if players who’d been offered a ton of guaranteed money to play in LIV Golf events had any real incentive to compete, which was inextricably linked to one of the major questions that emerged when the organization kicked off its inaugural season: Would anyone really care?
Based on what’s transpired since then, it seems like the answer (at least so far) is a resounding “No.”
LIV has been embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit with the PGA Tour that’s spawned a number of surprising revelations, including the fact that the former shelled out $784 million to get off the ground but claimed it generated “virtually zero” revenue in its first year of existence.
It seemed like the fact that LIV Golf initially failed to find a television broadcast partner may have played a role in the apathy the vast majority of fans greeted its arrival with, but based on the wildly underwhelming television ratings it’s generated since inking a deal with The CW, it’s hard to argue it’s on the right trajectory.
As a result, it’s become increasingly hard to ignore what has become an increasingly pressing question: What would happen if LIV Golf ends up admitting defeat?
There’s no way to know for sure, but here’s a glimpse at what that hypothetical future may look like.
What could happen if LIV Golf goes out of business?
The golfers who’ve left the PGA Tour for LIV have not only been subjected to a fair amount of backlash from fans of the sport but have had to grapple with some slightly more tangible consequences.
Team Europe stripped Henrik Stenson of his Ryder Cup captaincy and Cam Smith lost the parking spot that had been reserved for him at TPC Sawgrass following his victory at The Players Championship, although those punishments are relatively minor compared to the indefinite suspensions the PGA Tour has handed out to everyone who’s made the leap to LIV.
The biggest issue with predicting what could happen if LIV Golf waves the white flag is the fact that its Saudi backers have a virtually unlimited amount of money to shell out on the borderline vanity project, which makes it very hard to determine what factors would be taken into consideration before it’s considered a lost cause or even attempt to predict how long that could take.
With that said, LIV Golf’s theoretical failure would have the potential to spawn some interesting scenarios.
While the PGA Tour would be well within its right to turn away golfers who’d likely attempt to return to golf’s premier organization, it’s very hard to imagine it would reject their attempts to be reinstated out of spite—at least when it comes to the ones the organization feels still have value on a marketing front.
However, things get a bit more interesting when you take a look at guys like Pat Perez, Ian Poulter, and Sergio Garcia, who had some extra incentive to join LIV because it gave them the opportunity to get a solid check despite being past their prime.
If we assume LIV Golf is going to hang around for at least a couple of years, the vast majority of its golfers would no longer possess the coveted card that allows them to play in PGA Tour events in the first place.
While those players could theoretically earn a five-year exemption by winning one of the major tournaments they’re still permitted to participate in, most of the golfers who’d attempt to make a comeback following the speculative collapse of LIV would no longer have their golden ticket to compete on the PGA Tour even if they had their suspension rescinded.
This would most likely result in the PGA handing out exemptions to players it views as marketable, but it’s not a stretch to think those who fail to receive one would be forced to qualify for a new card on the Korn Ferry Tour, resign themselves to playing on smaller international circuits, or simply accept their days of playing professional golf have come to an end.
Again, there’s no telling what the future holds—but it could be a very interesting one if LIV Golf reaches a point where it can no longer stay afloat.