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Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf begins second season in Mexico

The Saudi sovereign wealth fund-backed league's 2023 season will include three events at Trump golf courses as the legal battle with the rival PGA Tour heats up.
A general view of the 18th hole during the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok.

The Saudi-funded LIV Golf league began its second season on Friday. 

The first tournament is being held at the El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Course on Mexico’s Gulf coast. LIV, which is 93% owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, will hold 14 tournaments this year — compared to eight last year — culminating in November at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

Three of this year’s tournaments will be held at golf courses owned by former US President Donald Trump. His courses in Washington, New Jersey and Miami will each host one LIV event. Trump-owned properties hosted two LIV events in 2022. 

LIV Golf continues to be controversial. The league still has plenty of critics related to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and the lawsuit with the rival PGA Tour is heating up. Here are some recent notable developments surrounding LIV Golf heading into the 2023 season:

Player eligibility: Unlike last year, golfers on the LIV tour will be eligible to play in all four “major” golf tournaments this year. On Wednesday, the PGA said that any player who qualifies for its Championship in May can play, meaning LIV golfers will not be excluded. The list of LIV golfers who are eligible includes Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka by way of their past wins at the PGA Championship, according to Golf Digest. 

The British Open also indicated Tuesday it will not exclude LIV athletes from playing in July. LIV’s Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau qualified by winning majors in the last five years, as did defending champion Cameron Smith, among others, according to Sports Illustrated. 

The US Open announced its 2023 eligibility criteria earlier this month, and it will likewise allow LIV golfers to play in June. 

In December of last year, the Masters announced that any player who qualified for its April tournament under the previous criteria would be allowed to play this year. This will allow 16 players on the LIV Golf tour to play, according to ESPN. 

The British Open and the US Open allowed LIV golfers to play last year. The PGA Championship and the Masters took place before LIV Golf’s launch. 

LIV Golf events still do not count toward the world golf rankings, despite the league's efforts. 

Legal battles: LIV’s 2023 season is kicking off amid its legal battle with the PGA. The PGA Tour suspended golfers who joined LIV last year, leading to a lawsuit by some LIV players and a countersuit by the PGA. 

On Tuesday, a US federal judge ruled that the PGA can name the Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, as defendants in the countersuit. Last week, a judge declared that the sovereign wealth fund and Rumayyan must give testimony and produce documents related to the suit, The Associated Press reported. 

TV deal: LIV Golf aired for free on YouTube and the LIV website last year in the absence of a TV deal. In January, LIV secured a TV deal with the US channel CW to broadcast LIV tournaments. This was a significant milestone for LIV and will allow the league the chance to gain advertising revenue. 

Drama: The emergence of LIV Golf has led to tensions between the world’s top golfers. On Thursday, LIV’s Sergio Garcia accused Rory McIlroy of ending their friendship over LIV. “For him to throw that away just because I decided to go to a different tour, well, it doesn’t seem very mature,” Garcia told The Telegraph. McIlroy is one of the biggest critics of LIV. 

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