LIV Golf's Second Season Begins This Week And They're Doubling Down On The Team Concept With Matching Uniforms
After an electric two-week stretch from the PGA Tour, LIV Golf kicks off its second season Friday at the Mayakoba resort in Mexico. It's the first of 14 events in the LIV League, which will look a bit different than the eight-event inaugural season did.
Firstly, LIV's 48-player roster for all 14 events will not change. The guys you see this week in Mexico are the guys you'll see in Adelaide and Chicago and Jeddah. While they'd certainly make room for a massive star, LIV won't be plucking off players a few at a time the same way they did last year. The 12 four-man teams are set—the whole league is predicated on these teams being tangible, stable entities rather than the rotating casts they were last year. I suppose there could be midseason trades, but it's anyone's guess how that would work. A few players did switch teams in the offseason: Talor Gooch, Peter Uihlein and Matt Wolff.
LIV's goal is to build these teams into individual entities with their own identities, fans and corporate sponsors. It's why the Australians are playing together, and the South Africans, and the Brits. Selling these franchises is a vital part of LIV's business model, and no one's going to pay much to buy a team or sponsor one unless people care about the teams. It's why LIV's pushing the "12 TEAMS, YOU CHOOSE" campaign that produced this talked-about video.
One reason the team concept fell mostly flat last year was optics. They simply didn't look like teams. Having each of the four team members playing in different groups and wearing different clothes, in different colors, made by different companies, with different corporate logos on them, didn't exactly scream brotherhood. While LIV doesn't seem to be making any changes to its tournament format—the individual and team competition will again happen simultaneously, which takes buzz away from the team portion—they are changing up the optics.
On Tuesday, news leaked to ESPN that Adidas was no longer sponsoring Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia. Both of those guys are captains of LIV franchises—DJ with the 4Aces, Garcia with the Fireballs—and LIV's plan was always to have each team wearing the same clothes. As such, an individual apparel deal would serve as a roadblock to a team apparel deal. Both Johnson and Garcia did not have their Adidas deals renewed once they expired and were not renewed, and we're likely to see more LIV players unattached to brands once their existing deals run their course. Bryson DeChambeau, captain of the Crushers, did not renew his deal with Cobra-Puma golf and was seen in Mexico wearing a Crushers hat, Cuater shoes and using Ping irons.
A LIV official told Barstool on Wednesday that the plan is for each team to eventually have its own uniform, but that it's not possible for 2023 due players having existing deals. Cameron Smith, for example, can be seen here with a Titleist staff bag, hat and the Netjets logo under his collar. In his LIV profile, he's pictured with a number of corporate logos. Bryson DeChambeau, on the contrary, has only the Crushers logo on his clothes.
Players knew they were signing onto a different business model when they joined LIV, and this apparel strategy—to sell advertising for teams, not just individual players—will come as no surprise. Competitors in both the Ryder and Presidents Cups wear special team-issued clothes for the week. That's the future of LIV. And, at least for the Majesticks, the present:
“The fans have spoken: There is excitement for team golf and for the league’s innovations that are challenging the norm in the sport," Greg Norman said in a statement earlier this month. "Our diversity in teams that feature elite skillsets and unique personalities will help build new rivalries and fresh ways to watch professional golf as the sport enters a new era.”
For LIV to function as a for-profit business—which it maintains is the goal—the team concept simply has to work. Makes sense, then, that they're doubling down on it.