This was the last in a series of eight tournaments Estrella Damm had committed itself to as a sponsor! The Real Club Valderrama had switched over to LIV Golf for 2023 and we all thought, that was that then…and then BIG news was announced – so massive, it has changed the landscape of professional golf forever: The PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and PIF (Public Investment Fund, including LIV Golf League) have signed an agreement and are merging to unify golf on a global level. Wow, what?
Yes, it shocked the world, but on a commercial level it does make sense! But how commercial do we want a sport we all love so much to be, without eradicating true competition? Well, the agreement also means that PIF will make a capital investment into the newly created partnership in order to push growth and success of global team golf. Furthermore, it will also put an end to two years of legal wrangling, bad feelings, help a divided golf community heal and ultimately reward players and fans to come together to enjoy the sport they love more at a heightened level.
Anyway, we still had great fun at the last Estrella Damm Andalucia Masters when we set up the camera by the 18th green – a killer hole to play, which demands ultimate concentration, luck as well (many say) and a skilled short game. To watch Adrian Otaegui reach a comfortable lead over these 4 days was a privilege! To see the ‘young’ master at work, apparently not being phased in the slightest by it all, when many a player has ‘lost the tournament’ on the 18th, was simply incredible and, actually, unforgettable too, since he smashed the tournament record by finishing 19 under par! The previous record was set by Sergio Garcia in 2018, but Otaegui smashed that by a mile. His fellow players on the last day, the Swede Lagergren finished an impressive 13 under par, and Angel Hidalgo from Marbella, who actually led the tournament at one stage, finished a very respectable 8 under par.
Anyone, who knows Valderrama and has played or visited the course during the glorious days of either the Volvo Masters, the Ryder Cup in 1997 or the Andalucia Masters that followed, will know just how difficult it is to play the best Spanish golf course even at level par. So, massive congratulations and felicidades to ‘our man from the North’ for this spectacular victory at the last Estrella Damm Andalucia Masters – Seve (Ballesteros) would have been proud of you!
LIV GOLF LEAGUE AT REAL CLUB VALDERRAMA
One of Spain’s most desirable lifestyle destinations will be on fire when the LIV Golf League descends onto Valderrama in sunny Sotogrande! This brand-new format of professional golf as a tour has much to show for, offering fans and golf enthusiasts a three-day-long fun-filled experience at the best golf club in Spain.
There are a variety of options available to the spectator:
- the GROUND PASS allows access to a festival-style village, with great food & drink to fuel up, as well as interactive fun things to do
- the BIRDIE SHACK offers exclusive access to an open-air covered venue by the 17th with a live DJ bringing party vibes and a separate bar service with drink coupons
- the GALLERY CLUB LOGE BOX is where you need to be for your corporate event, wanting to impress clients and guests, providing premium views of the 11th, 14th & 15th tee. Each box provides space for up to 6 people, with a dedicated waitress service and all-inclusive bar
- the CLUB54 experience is second to none, providing an ultra-premium experience, allowing aficionados to watch players warming up, as well as chilling on a special viewing terrace right on the 18th green. A full ground pass in included, of course, but don’t miss out on a chef-created, multi-course menu you can indulge in whilst all the action continues on the course
For Adrian Otaegui to have won the Andalucia Masters presents a double feat, as he actually is the first golfer to win on the DP World Tour, who has also been competing in several LIV Golf events.
A NEW GLOBAL SPORTS SENSATION: LIVE GOLF
Its inaugural season in 2022 drew thousands of spectators to internationally selected golf courses, including London’s Centurion Club, Chicago’s Rich Harvest Farm, Real Club Valderrama and many more world-leading golf venues. The name comes from the Roma numeral 54 – a perfect golf score over 18 holes. Greg Norman, it’s CEO and former world No.1 golfer and Golf Hall of Fame inductee, thinks this new format of a golf event has already captured the attention of fans around the world.
He said, that the organisation has already ‘received a great response from fans throughout the year of beta-testing, with one resounding theme: LIV Golf’s team format, innovations and festival-like events are delivering a one-of-a-kind golf experience.’ The 2023 season consists of 14 events, of which nine are expected to be played in the USA and another five on championship courses around the world. Players will compete for both individual and team points, as well as prize money.
There are 12 teams, made up of world-class golf stars in individual and team competitions. With 48 players all in all, on smaller fields offering more action. Shotgun starts mean immediate action everywhere, right from the start. The Individual Champion will be decided on points accumulated by the end of the season, whilst a Team Championship event will be ending the season.
During the LIV Golf League season, the individual and team players will be sharing a prize pot of a whopping $ 405 million in total. The new agreement ensures, that there will be no conflict with either Majors, other international team events or Heritage tournaments.
SHOCK MERGER: DP WORLD TOUR, PGA TOU & LIV GOLF LEAGUE SIGN AGREEMENT FOR PARTNERHSIP
World-class golfer Phil Mickelson called it ‘awesome’, whilst Keith Pelly, the DP World Tour CEO, called it ‘unbelievable, a momentous day’, when the agreement was signed to merge the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour & the LIV Golf Series. A hefty amount of golf enthusiasts were left with their mouths on the floor in disbelief, as Saudi money effectively bought its way into controlling world-class golf.
After months and months of secret negotiations, following years of tension and legal battles and a firm division amongst the world’s top golfers about whom to support, Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour’s commissioner, who was once fiercely opposed to a merger, said that this new agreement was about ‘coming together to unify the game of golf. And to do so under one umbrella.’
The agreement, and subsequent partnership in this new entity, could possibly mean for those players, who had resigned from the DP World Tour, like Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood, to rejoin the club for the Ryder Cup, taking place at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from 29 Sept – 1 Oct 2023. Only time will tell, if this will be possible in the end, depending on how quickly things can be pushed through.
In 2022, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson & Open Champion Cameron Smith were also poached from the DP World Tour and PGA Tour by LIV Golf for many millions of dollars, causing themselves a ban from the tours they left behind. Saudi sports-washing at its finest, many said at the time, however the new partnership should see an end to the deserters being ostrasized, as the official statement, issued to the press, said: ’The three organisations will work together cooperatively and in good faith to establish a fair and objective process for any players who desire to reapply for membership with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour following the completion of the 2023 season and for determining fair criteria and terms for readmission, consistent with our tour’s policies.’
Meanwhile, we’re sitting on the edges of our seats to see what that could actually look like in real terms and how it could work in the real world!