THE GOG BLOG SPEAKS OUT-4 DAYS OF LIV GOLF-WHAT WE KNOW

CAM SMITH WITH THE TROPHY beat out Peter Uihlein (L) and Dustin Johnson (R) to win the 2022 Chicago LIV Invitational. (R) Fans line up to watch the players warm up.

THE GOG BLOG by RORY SPEARS, Director of Content and Creation for Golfers on Golf. Follow Rory on Twitter @GogBlogGuy or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

LIV GOLF CEO Greg Norman with Rory Spears on the path at Rich Harvest Farms during the LIV Golf Chicago Invitational.

FOUR DAYS OF-LIV GOLF

WHAT WE KNOW and WHAT WE DON’T.

LIV GOLF brought many of the stars of professional golf back to the Chicago area. Something that is clearly lacking in the Chicago market.

Say what you want about Chicago or Illinois these days, but one thing is really clear about professional golf, both men’s and women’s is clearly lacking in this major market (more on this later).

BUT AS FOR LIV-it was a good show of golf-NOT an exhibition by some of the best players in the world. Because if your going to call LIV Golf an exhibition, you can all golf tournaments an exhibition. In some ways aren’t all sporting events an exhibition, if you answered yes, you would be correct.

Sunday night as fans were streaming towards the exits, their were two guys walking in front of me, one said, so this is what the future of professional golf looks like. Then both agreed it wasn’t to bad after all. In fact I didn’t hear all the negative comments I expected to hear over the four days. But nobody seemed to have a bad word to say, about anything. Very rare in these days and times.

AFTER SUNDAYS PLAY had ended, and the pictures had all been taken, I started to head back to the media tent and found LIV Golf CEO Greg “The Shark” Norman leaving as well. So I chased him down to get a few words about the week at Rich Harvest Farms, and the Chicago golf market. A few was all I got as he raced off for the private jet parked down the street.

ME: Greg your thoughts on how the week turned out and the venue ?

NORMAN: The venue is fantastic, really fantastic.

ME: Any chance LIV would come back here next year ?

NORMAN: YES !

ME: Greg your thoughts on the turnout-it seemed like the attendance was way up for a LIV Golf tournament.

NORMAN: It was an unbelievable venue. Unbelievable crowds, Chicago stood up and LIV is alive. We love it here.

With that the Shark headed off to Washington DC. and some meetings with politicians. But according to a few published reports the week in DC. might not have gone as well as it did at Rich Harvest Farms.

HOWEVER it does appear LIV Golf will return to Rich Harvest Farms come 2023. Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich tells me LIV Golf is welcome back IF they wish to return. According to Norman it sounds like they will. LIV Golf officials who could not be quoted tell Golfers on Golf they pretty much expect to be back in Chicago and RHF come 2023.

BUT WHEN! While nothing is official, the LIV GOLF CHICAGO 2023 Tournament is expected to move up on the calendar. Because media reports from the Northeast suggest Boston is not back on the LIV calendar in 2023. But could that change, yes it could.

IF BOSTON doesn’t return, Chicago could move to Labor Day weekend, OR maybe into August is the thought. BUT with the BMW Championship back at Olympia Fields in August, would LIV go in front of, or behind the BMW on the calendar. BUT, what about the same week as BMW. Again nothing is official, but any week in August is currently on the table. Because golf organizations seem to like scheduling on top of one another, it wouldn’t surprise me to see both events go head-to-head. But I believe that’s unlikely to happen. The week before BMW is the odd’s on favorite in my book.

THINGS WILL BE OFFICIAL when the 2023 LIV Golf schedule comes out, which will see about 6 more tournaments upping the schedule to 14 events. The schedule will be released early to mid-November, after the LIV Tour Championship at the Doral Resort in late October. It will be nice to see a big golf event at Doral again on the Blue Monster. I’ve played the course twice and I’ll call it a fun-but challenging golf course. It sure beats playing your tournament in Mexico.

But the bigger announcement is which players will be the next to jump from the PGA Tour to the LIV series of golf. Some suspect right after the Presidents Cup, I think nobody will make the move right now. Later this fall or come winter, maybe a few more players will jump.

A fan or do you call them patrons, asked me what’s up with a TV deal. Well it depends on who you speak with. David Feherty didn’t leave NBC and The Golf Channel to do internet broadcasting.

Golfers on Golf has learned there are two television partners in the fold, with four year deals starting in 2023. But Norman is suggesting there could be more. What’s funny is all the know-it-all’s on places like Twitter, saying this network or that network said no already.

But how many said no, before LIV signed all the players they did. Are they now reconsidering that stance. Yes that could be the case. At this time it’s fair to say that CBS and NBC won’t be TV partners with LIV. But anyone else is fair game. So if your looking for LIV Golf on television in 2023, you will likely find it.

ATTENDANCE AT RHF, was tracked by LIV officials when you checked in at the gates. What I do know is that 1,500ish were on-hand for Thursday’s pro-am. Friday’s Round 1, saw about 8,000 to 8,500. Saturday’s numbers were over 18,000. The final round on Sunday was just north of 20,000.

SO FOR THE WEEK, I’ll say 48,000, not bad for mid-September. 2022 BMW Championship numbers, not even close to LIV from what I saw in Wilmington Delaware. Friday and Saturday’s rounds 2 & 3 in Wilmington were sold out before the day even started at 35,000. The Sunday numbers at Wilmington were almost at 35,000 again. The attendance for the BMW at Medinah was nearly 130,000, Caves Valley in 2021 was around 110,000 with it closer to 125,000 plus in Wilmington.

LIV GOLF has a long way to go to catch those figures. But Chicago did set records for LIV Golf, that’s early in it’s first year of play. The best previous day for LIV Golf was 12,000+ in Boston. Rich Harvest Farms broke that record by 10 AM on Saturday morning.

I was asked what the atmosphere was like. Simple, when you look around and Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson, and Peter Uihlein are on one hole. You turn around and Phil Mickelson is on the next hole, then having Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood on another hole. It doesn’t seem like a PGA Tour event, it seems more like the Ryder Cup or a major championship.

IT WAS INTERESTING hearing gallery talk with people saying the PGA Tour could be finished or out of business by the end of 2023. Well that won’t happen. Because if the tour hangs on to Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Matt Fitzpatrick and Scottie Scheffler it will be fine. There are no indications that any of those players are leaving either.

I’M not used to the shotgun start yet, with players riding out on carts with AC/DC’s Thunderstruck cranking in the background. This while the parachute guys are landing around the golf course. The large gallery behind all 48 players at the range as they warm-up at the same time is kind of neat. The fan village behind the 18th hole, with contests and more, are not new. But the set-up that was in place at RHF was enjoyable for the fans, who were not out walking the golf course.

From a media standpoint having every player finish at the same time, isn’t an easy to get your work done. Parking was the best since the Western Golf Association (WGA) ran media parking at Cog Hill, no shuttle required. The food was very good everywhere, but BMW gets a slight nod in that race. Both on the course and in the hospitality/media tent area’s.

AGE WISE-the galleries were younger than a PGA Tour event, which I expected. AS Richard Dawson would say on Family Feud-Survey Says- or in this case surveys show, the average age of a PGA Tour event fan is in their 60’s. LIV GOLF fans tend to be in their mid to upper 30’s.

GREG NORMAN may not be everyone’s favorite person these days, but when Norman was out an about in public area’s, he was chased by fans seeking an autograph or a picture. Nobody had a bad word to say-chant’s of “Shark” rang out in area’s on the Rich Harvest grounds. Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich was shaking the hands of fans, thanking him for bringing LIV Golf to the Chicago area.

FORMER BLACKHAWKS ANNOUNCER PAT FOLEY had a saying that went “for those of you who keep track of such things”. A reference to stat keepers, or media types who needed updates on scoring or penalty changes. So one stat I started keeping track-of, was a logo count. So in tipping the cap or golf visor to Foley, here are the winning clubs who logo’s were most visible at Rich Harvest Farms. #1 Olympia Fields, #2 Medinah, #3 Butterfield #4 Rich Harvest Farms, #5 Butler National. Honorable Mentions to Cantigny Golf, Chicago Golf Club and White Eagle Golf Club.

FORMER BEARS HEAD COACH MIKE DITKA once referred to some fair-weathered Bears fans as “cowards and losers”. Based on the some comments not only myself, but several other local and national media members received in email or social media form for doing our jobs at Rich Harvest Farms. It appears there are still some of “those people” out there.

TO THE POSTER on Twitter who asked-LIV GOLF or THE PGA TOUR, the answer is both. Because there is no reason to take sides. So enjoy both tours and enjoy the golf wherever it takes us. But the general feeling by many of those both in the media and the industry, is that a merger will someday take place. Time well tell.

The feeling of many fans walking around Rich Harvest Farms was that with the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions, LPGA Tour, Epson Tour, the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association (USGA) skipping Chicago, or having nothing scheduled here for years to come. LIV GOLF was a welcome site.

THE WGA is bringing the Korn Ferry Tour to town on a yearly basis, and provides the Chicago market with some of the best amateur golf almost every year, golf fans will find anywhere. But there is still something to seeing the best professional players in the world here in town. Because whether it’s a PGA Tour event, a Ryder Cup or a major championship, those championships are special.

BUT IN THE END-LIV GOLF is NOT the PGA TOUR. BUT it’s not trying to be. Because both tours have a different style, which doesn’t mean one or the other is bad. For now, I’m just hoping LIV GOLF Chicago 2023 and the 2023 BMW Championship don’t end up the same week next August. Here’s hoping that’s not too much to ask. RS

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About Rory Spears

Rory spent over 8 years growing up working at Rob Roy Golf Club in Prospect Hts.IL, then two years at Chevy Chase in Wheeling. He has covered golf in Chicago since 1986. Rory was one of the initial members of WSCR all-sports radio Chicago and covered golf there for 5 seasons, before moving on to work for ESPN/Sportsticker and ESPN Radio. In addition to hosting Golfers on Golf Radio on WCPT AM820 Chicago, he writes for both the Chicago District (CDGA) Magazine, and formerly Chicagoland Golf. Rory has played over 525 courses in 39 states, and rates golf courses. He does golf course management and communications consulting, within the golf industry.