A final day duel between Cameron Smith and Phil Mickelson looked set to be played out on the fairways of Trump National Bedminster. Two of the biggest names in golf facing off on a Sunday, everyone would think it was the PGA Tour. Except it wasn’t, it was golf but louder.
Bedminster hosted LIV’s third tournament last year with new defector Henrik Stenson winning his first event on the breakaway circuit and the future of the breakaway is uncertain. The majority of golf fans thought he wouldn’t survive another year amid his war with the PGA Tour.
But a year later, he returned to Donald Trump’s course in New Jersey for his 11th tournament of his sophomore season, with Smith ultimately winning and Mickelson collapsing behind Bryson DeChambeau’s 58 the previous week, providing the entertaining intrigue the Saudis paid for.
LIV’s future remains unclear with questions surrounding the feasibility of its existence following the shock peace treaty between the PGA Tour and LIV’s backers, Saudi Arabia’s PIF.
But more than a year into its existence, LIV has already proven it’s here to stay and isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he is already planning decades ahead.
LIV Golf proved they’re here to stay as Cameron Smith triumphed at their Bedminster event
A year after his last Bedminster event, Phil Mickelson looked like he was in contention
Last year, LIV Bedminster was derided as just a political publicity stunt for Donald Trump with swarms of his supporters following him on the course, rather than the professionals.
But LIV has proven that the focus is on golf this year.
Crowds had grown from last year, and they weren’t just there for the former president this time, as the masses followed the final day grouping of Smith, Mickelson and Dean Burmester.
The galleries were also full, compared to the dark half-empty stands of last year, when it was difficult to find a vantage point for the 18th green as the champion Smith walked up the fairway on Sunday with customers standing at the ropes around. six rows deep.
However, muted music still blared on the course, the rowdiness of slightly tipsy fans could still be heard, and brightly colored team logos were still splashed throughout, giving LIV a familiar gimmicky feel – something that golf purists will continue to do. turn your nose to.
But LIV admitted he was not trying to woo existing PGA Tour fans. He also claimed he’s not trying to compete with the numbers the PGA Tour can attract. Instead, it’s angling for a new demographic.
LIV is targeting a new group of fans. Those not already familiar with the sport but are drawn to LIV for its more relaxed party atmosphere. Those who saw a golf event being held in their area – an area perhaps overlooked by the PGA Tour – and thought they would attend. Or, younger viewers who are more interested in a day out with friends and a few beers.
With drink carts constantly moving around the course, concession stands and bars dotted around, and the steady beat of the ubiquitous loudspeakers providing more of a festival feel than a golf tournament, LIV has certainly achieved that goal. .
Crowds had increased from last year, and they weren’t just there for Donald Trump
The former president was at his New Jersey class as he waved to the crowd
Some spectators showed up in old-fashioned golf clothes to enjoy the tournament
The galleries were also full, compared to the gloomy half-empty stands of last year
The team concept and LIV’s fulfillment of its promise to deliver golf, but stronger, continues to turn away the majority of existing golf fans rather than win them over. But, LIV’s new target demographic seems to be on board.
There was, of course, a sea of red MAGA caps, but for every hat endorsing Trump, there was one bearing the logo of Dustin Johnson’s 4Aces, Smith’s Ripper GC or Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers.
And, a clearer indication that fans buy into the team aspect, was their willingness to buy into it literally. Spectators are willing to shell out $40 for a cap, $100 for a hoodie, and $110 for a polo shirt.
Alongside the caps, customers could be seen holding merchandise bags filled with 4Aces polo shirts and wearing Brooks Koepka’s Smash GC-endorsing t-shirts, which read, “I’m Smashed.” A pun clearly wasn’t to be wasted on the Bedminster crowd.
Two young girls also followed their dad in black superhero capes with Phil Mickelson’s team HyFlyers logo on the back.
Kids – and even some adults – walked past the face painting tent to have their favorite team’s logo painted on their face, arm, leg or stomach.
A year after its last Bedminster event, LIV seems to have established itself as a destination for golf rather than just a Trump rally, even if it feels more like a circus at times.
And, the breakaway really takes that team concept and works with it.
Fans seem to buy into the team concept – pictured are weekend winners Ripper GC
A young fan sports a Rangegoats GC cap, which costs $40 at the merchandise store
There was a sea of red MAGA caps, which Trump was happy to sign for supporters
LIV has already focused on its 12 teams to grow its franchises in 2023, through fan engagement and sponsorship.
Koepka’s Smash GC invited young golf fans to the driving range ahead of rounds in Bedminster and Washington DC. At the event at another Trump course outside the nation’s capital in May, the youngsters got to meet Koepka, who is coming off his fifth major PGA Championship win, and on Friday teammate Matt Wolff stopped by for a healthy discussion with them.
Smash has also rolled out more apparel in an effort to capitalize on the merchandise market. She named Bald Head Blues, a lifestyle and performance-focused golf brand, as her clothing partner.
Meanwhile, Fireballs GC, led by Sergio Garcia, announced Mexico Infrastructure Partners as its official partnership over the weekend.
Eurocentric team, the Majesticks, consisting of Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and Laurie Canter, secured their first official global sponsor, crypto exchange OKX, in June.
But it’s not going to stop there. LIV has plans for greatness for its franchises, including home bases, golf academies and even home courses, over the next decade.
For example, Texas native DeChambeau could set up his base and academy in Dallas.
The idea of homeschooling for teams will also be introduced, providing home advantage through branding at events dedicated to a particular franchise and building local fanbases. The all-Australian side of Ripper GC, for example, could have their home run in Adelaide.
Bryson DeChambeau claimed it was ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ for the franchise concept
“It’s just the tip of the iceberg from a franchise perspective,” DeChambeau said ahead of the tournament on Wednesday.
“I’m talking about building academies. We are talking about academies, even golf courses, community impacts in certain regions depending on where our home base is, our regions of origin. India is a huge untapped market which I believe could have a massive economic and social impact on the game of golf. It’s untapped potential, and we’re unlocking it here.
Attracting fans for booze and vibes, and still no OWGR points can hardly be said to conquer the world of golf. But LIV clearly doesn’t care, with the Saudis’ endless deep pocket behind her and stars such as big winner Smith on her podium, the circuit is rolling ahead with her attempt to at least gain ground in her battle for recognition – to hell with criticism and mockery.
Whether you like it or not, LIV has proven that he’s here to stay.