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PGA vs. LIV: Audiences pick who wins the battle between a sports mogul and a fierce newcomer

The emergence of the Saudi-backed enterprise, or 'start-up' as LIV executives like to put it, has been going toe-to-toe with the well-established PGA Tour. LIV has been shown to cause substantial schisms in the world of professional golf, draining talent from the pool of PGA and DP World Tours alike.

Justin Butterman Senior Research Analyst 11/11/2022
The scrutiny has carried over to the fans as well, with nearly one third of Golf fans having a lower perception or opinion of golfers who left the PGA to join LIV.

What remains true:

Ultimately, the majority of golf fans and golfers remain watching the PGA Tours. 8 in 10 golfers and golf fans watch PGA events on TV, and 1 in 4 claims to have attended a PGA of America or PGA Tour event. Stronger ties and love for the tournament hold across the golfing community, with a preference for PGA remaining the majority. Despite the PGA’s popularity, LIV is catching up fast, with 28% of Americans preferring LIV, compared to 33% for PGA.

Viewership potential:

Being once a civilized realm reserved for the sport has turned into an opportunity for politics and human rights issues to be at the centerfold of conversation, primarily as a cause of LIV’s Saudi ties. However, overall, there’s a lack of knowledge amongst audiences that LIV is affiliated with Saudi. Only 50% of Americans are even aware of LIV’s connection to Saudi, leaving space for PGA to come after a conversation centered around ethics and morals. After learning about LIV Golf’s background, only a few individuals believe it is not sportswashing, with 41% of total sports fans thinking that it is and 39% unsure how to classify it.

Player controversy:

As tournaments began to roll out across the year, scrutiny centers around players’ participation in the LIV events, with many facing legal suspensions and lawsuits. The scrutiny has carried over to the fans as well, with nearly one third of Golf fans having a lower perception or opinion of golfers who left the PGA to join LIV. Although the first wave of signed players for LIV are predominantly deemed injury-prone players, those past 40 years of age, and stigmatized personas, many are still to come considering a new future of golf and the shareholders at play.

When asked, in a hypothetical situation, if you were in the shoes of golfers on the PGA Tour and were offered more money to join LIV Golf, Americans appear split on the subject. 34% say they would take the LIV money, 32% say they would not, and 34% say they would wait for the controversy to blow over and re-evaluate at a later point.

Notable shifts and golf’s future

For sports fans and, more intimately, golf fans familiar with LIV Golf, the division remains between those who watch the games in any capacity. With only four tournaments in the US, the percentage of individuals having seen a LIV Tournament live is notable. 1 in 10 golf and sports fans aware of LIV claimed to have attended an event this year.

Despite all its controversy, people see the benefit of broadening the reach of golf across a multitude of tours, giving space for other players to come in with perhaps less baggage than the LIV enterprise. With LIV’s vision being a desire to elevate the sport in a way that’s never been done before, comparing their gameplay to the likes of F1, and sharing actual departure in streaming opportunities and major brand partnerships, people see potential. Despite questions surrounding LIV Golf and the player’s intentions, around half of Americans agree a new league is suitable for growing the game of golf.

Additionally, the impact of betting across the sports landscape and golf in particular, affords LIV an avenue for even more attention and traction to build when thinking about viewership. As LIV erupts on the scene, betting has been minimal surrounding their tournament and players. Few states allow sportsbook operators to offer LIV golf betting odds, despite golf’s betting environment for players and viewers alike. More than half (58%) of golf viewers bet in some capacity when they watch golf, and 65% of golfers gamble in some capacity when they play golf.

Regardless, things are getting stirred up, and the suggestion that LIV is just getting started means that people should tune in for a dramatic overhaul.

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