If you want a history of what has led to the current battleground in professional men’s golf, multiple best-selling author Alan Shipnuck has authored a book that explains it in great detail.
Titled LIV AND LET DIE, The Inside Story Of The War Between The PGA Tour and LIV Golf, this is a followup to his book about Phil Mickelson (Callaway Chrome Soft X) entitled PHIL, The Rip-Roaring Unauthorized Biography Of Golf’s Most Colourful Superstar.
Shipnuck went into great detail in his biography of Mickelson, what led to him becoming one of the premier players in the world and subsequently its most controversial.
In that book, Mickelson made some incendiary remarks to Shipnuck about the politics of Saudi Arabia, accusing them of a “horrible record of human rights.”
That became a lightning rod because at the time LIV Golf, which is financed by the Saudi-backed Public Investment Fund, was in full swing for its debut. The book was months away from being officially launched, but the publisher decided to give it a big push with Mickelson’s remarks. Mickelson was heavily involved behind the scenes recruiting players. In his comments, Mickelson said he was working with the Saudis because it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates,” while also accusing it of “obnoxious greed.”
The PGA promptly suspended Mickelson for a year, while his longtime sponsors quickly cut ties with him. Mickelson offered a public apology, but the damage was already done. Mickelson was set to cash in on a deal with LIV Golf for a guaranteed deal reportedly worth $200 million. In LIV And Let Die, Shipnuck said LIV showed Mickelson mercy by not pulling its offer. However, he quoted an unnamed LIV executive who said the startup golf tour gave Mickelson “a haircut” for his remarks and he received “substantially less” than the $200 million. Exactly how much is not revealed, but it had to hurt Mickelson, whom Shipnuck says has always been “obsessed” with money. His remarks set off a storm that was felt throughout the golf world and Mickelson became, according to Shipnuck, toxic.
Shipnuck likens Mickelson to Greg Norman, who similarly had money as one of his main motivations when he played on the PGA Tour. Like Mickelson, he became a rebel who quickly became an outsider. In 1989 he proposed a World Tour that would become a direct competitor to the PGA Tour. It had a five-year, $125 million TV deal from media magnate Rupert Murdoch, a fellow Aussie. The tournaments would be based in various parts of the world and would have gigantic purses and fields limited to 40 players. In many ways, it was the forerunner of LIV, but he could not get buy-in from the players because they would need releases from the PGA Tour. Any player who dared to join the renegade tour would be suspended. Shipnuck said Norman tried to put forth the idea that he was trying to forge a compromise with the PGA Tour, but at some point players might have to choose sides. No one did.
LIV hired Norman as its CEO/Commissioner. Shipnuck said that ever since Norman’s World Tour fell apart and he became mocked by his peers, he had been “waiting lurking, hoping for one last chance to stick it to the Tour.” Furthermore, Shipnuck says Mickelson approved of Norman’s hiring because even though they have never been close, they have always recognized each other as kindred spirits.
“We respect each other’s point of view,” Norman told Shipnuck. “We understand market value and that the (PGA) Tour works for us, we don’t work for the Tour.”
Mickelson’s remarks, according to Shipnuck, left LIV Golf reeling, but he says it was already going after some of the biggest stars of the PGA besides Mickelson. Dustin Johnson (TaylorMade TP5x) was presented with a $150 million guaranteed offer and subsequently signed. Other players followed suit, notably Bryson DeChambeau (Titleist Pro V1x) and Sergio Garcia (TaylorMade TP5X).
Most recently reigning Masters winner Jon Rahm (Callaway Chrome Soft X) made the jump.
It’s expected more stars will follow, although Viktor Hovland (TaylorMade TP5x), who won the 2023 Tour Championship, recently said he is sticking with the PGA Tour, though he was critical of it. He said it in a Norwegian podcast and the comments were translated to English.
“The management has not done a good job. They almost see the players as labor, and not as part of the members. After all, we are the PGA Tour. Without the players, there is nothing.”
He basically echoed some of the things Mickelson had been saying, but with more diplomacy. Will he get fined or suspended? If the PGA Tour does that, Hovland will promptly reverse course and join LIV.
Though some players such as Rahm pledged their loyalty to the PGA Tour, ultimately money talks. To quote onetime pro wrestler Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man, everybody’s got a price.
Shipnuck is to be commended for both books because of his dogged determination, in particular interviewing countless sources to portray all the leading protagonists in this uncivil golf war. He is a true journalist in every sense of the word.
But he also has a great command of words and turns of phrases. Consider this one: “In April 2022, the air was alive with talk of the LIV Golf. It was as palpable as pollen.” And he described Gary Davidson, who is part of LIV’s player relations team, as “short and wiry with a Scottish accent thicker than Turnberry fescue.”
After pouring through Shipnuck’s book about Mickelson, I couldn’t wait to read the LIV book. As far as I’m concerned, he comes up aces with both.