Last fall at Whistling Straits, Greg Norman competed in the Ryder Cup for the first time. He said it opened his eyes to the power of team golf.
Norman was mesmerized and energized by what he saw – the passion and crazy fan conversation of players from both the American and European sides.
He saw it as “a game-changer,” watching fans and players “engage” in a way he had never seen in all his years of playing tournament golf.
Norman recalled being at the first tee and watching Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger chugging beer and setting the crowd on fire, “There it is. That’s exactly what the fans are looking for.”
He said the whole scene “made him laugh.”
Fast-forward to Wednesday at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, where Norman’s Saudi-backed LIV golf venture officially announced a 12-team, 14-event format for 2023, featuring 48 players, K’s third LIV golf event. The season, which held its second round on Saturday.
Norman and LIV Golf have grand plans to transform these teams into rival franchises like the Yankees-Red Sox, Giants-Cowboys and Rangers-Islanders with a passion to be part of the fabric of our mainstream sport. ,
Team merchandise has visions of being as hot as a commodity as an Aaron Judge or Pete Alonso jersey.
The question is whether this will ever be possible, is this team golf plan nothing more than a pipe dream. Because, right now the LIV golf team element, while an interesting idea, sounds like a gimmick, a lot like the shotgun launch of the Tour and the 54-hole format.
It’s hard to imagine a time when golf fans are going to be standing in line to buy gear for their favorite LIV team—be it Nibix, Majestics, Klix or Fireball.
If you ask even the most ardent golf fans, they’d be hard-pressed to even come up with a name or two from one of the current LIV golf teams, although in fairness it’s pretty new.
Simply understanding how the team concept works as 48 players compete for themselves in medal play tournaments and for one team is not very clear. The fact that each team’s four players have the lowest cumulative score for their final score isn’t something that is likely to generate the kind of passion that a proper match-play team format can have.
“Listen, we’re still learning, how it’s all going to work out,” Charles Howell III, one of three players making his debut at LIV golf this week, said Wednesday.
The reality is that much of the success of LIV Golf will be based on whether the team concept works. It is in a way a link to the LIV business model.
“Our franchise model will bring new energy and excitement to fans from all corners of the world, setting up a league of teams to connect and grow,” Norman said. “I don’t know if we can produce what you saw at the Ryder Cup, but I can say this: I’d be surprised if it didn’t work out.”
Norman pointed Carlos Ortiz to a putt on the final hole of the second event of the season outside Portland, Ore., to take third place with a shot for his team, the Fireballs. His teammates Sergio García, Abe Anser and Eugenio Chakrara won each of the $125,000 celebrations.
Norman said that when he saw that scene, he thought, “Wow, well, we’re trying to make this up.”
Jason Kokrak, playing at his first LIV event this week, described the team concept as “a new and exciting way to make the game fresh and exciting.”
“I think it’s going to bring a different kind of draw to the new audience and the team aspect,” Kokerak said. “You see how big the Ryder Cup and team events get, and I think a lot of the players are going to enjoy seeing the team as well as the fans and everyone else.”
Paul Casey, who is also playing in his first LIV event this week, has featured in five Ryder Cup teams for Europe, and he wondered aloud what could happen to the LIV golf team concept.
“Look, I think we’ll find out, right?” Casey said. “I think sports fans understand teams, so it just adds another layer. I hope that once we move forward these teams move on. It would be great if teams went beyond the players and Let it be an element. It does it in the Ryder Cup. It’s Team USA-Team Europe. Players come and go.
“The truth is I don’t know. We’re going to find out.”