From dead in the water in February to 16 golfers competing for $34m (£29.3m) in one day, LIV Golf has come a long way in a short space of time.
And after the start-up tour’s inaugural season is over, it’s clear LIV and the rifts it has caused will dominate golf’s headlines in the coming weeks as it looks to add new recruits for its second campaign.
It is in operation despite fierce opposition from the sport’s establishment. LIV now has 110 staff working from offices in London, New York and Florida and is planning a 14-event global season in 2023.
The product is powerful and spontaneous, presenting golf like never before.
Deafening, loud music swept through practice, leaving green moments before the tee on the final day of the final Team Championship here in Miami.
The remaining 16 players in the competition set to battle it out for Saudi Arabia produced spoils that, on that Sunday alone, rivaled the total purses of the last three Masters combined.
LIV is the ‘loadsamoney’ tour. I felt right at home in Donald Trump’s Doral Blue Monster course – overtly gauche and flashy. Finding genuine sporting glory was a more difficult task.
Everything was tailored to which team would walk away with $16m – $4m per player. Broom to fill already overflowing back pockets.
When Dustin Johnson hit the winning trick for his team of 4 Aces on Sunday, the American took his earnings from eight tournaments to $35.6 million, including an $18 million bonus for previously leading the individual rankings.
Teammate Pat Perez, the 49th-ranked individual player out of 68 golfers who have played in LIV tournaments thus far, has played in six of the season’s eight events, earning more than $8 million. The sums involved are impressive and show the extent of the opposition facing the established PGA and DP World Tours.
LIV insists fans love it because they see “the best players in the world”. It is a claim of Trumpian proportions and not entirely based in reality. Hype and tripe can often go hand in hand.
Open champion Cameron Smith is so far the only player who was in the world’s top 10 when he opted to join LIV.
Arguing for world ranking points to be awarded at LIV events, the organisation’s chairman Atul Khosla told BBC Sport: “Are you trying to tell me that DJ ends the year as a non-top five golfer in the world?
“Now that he’s won what he’s won, it would be hard for any golf fan to believe it’s accurate. It’s like saying, here are the best cities in the world, but London and New York can’t join them. ranks.”
Johnson, who pledged allegiance to the PGA Tour last February, prompting the “dead in the water” claim, moved to LIV when he was on a relative slide, 11th in the world.
He had missed the cut at the US PGA Championship, finished 24th at the US Open and tied for sixth at The Open – some decent results but hardly world-beating.
As for his performances on the LIV Tour, where he scored one win and two third places, it is much more difficult to judge. Yes, there are a number of very good golfers on the circuit, but there are a significant number of lesser lights.
The ranking in June, when the tour kicked off at the Centurion Club near Hemel Hempstead, is perhaps the most accurate barometer of the circuit’s current strength. There were 13 current LIV recruits in the top 50 back then.
Also, consider the limited course events played over 54 instead of 72 holes. As pure matches they pale in comparison to full court tournaments over four rounds.
Jordan Smith’s impressive victory at the Portugal Masters and Seamus Power wins in Bermuda On Sunday, both were successful against relatively weak fields, but beating many players who are retiring for their careers, they felt more worthy, if less lucrative.
However, there is a compelling argument to be made for giving LIV the world ranking points it craves.
The stadiums contain top talent, are properly regulated (albeit opaque on the subject of drug testing) and have become part of the professional fixture.
The weighting of points according to the shortest format and shallowest lineups involved should tell us the value of each event. Maybe Khosla is right, is Johnson among the top five players in the world? Let’s find out.
The LIV chairman, now a far more visible spokesman than increasingly regional commissioner Greg Norman, says the Official World Golf Ranking, which includes the PGA and DP World Tours on its board, among others, is “conflicting”.
He said: “They were very clear about their position against LIV.”
This is undoubtedly true. The PGA and DP World Tours have admitted they face an existential threat from the newcomers.
But for all LIV’s indignation, it’s not over yet. YouTube viewing figures were around 75,000 on the final day in Doral, the previous day’s Japan-New Zealand rugby match achieved 585,000 views on top of traditional TV coverage.
LIV has yet to secure TV deals in key US and UK markets and may end up paying for platforms instead of receiving rights fees.
It still faces significant challenges. The momentum is created and financed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
Those riches could ensure new recruits in the coming weeks with reports suggesting top-10 American players such as Olympian Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are being targeted.
If they were to defect, it would be a serious blow to an already stripped US Ryder Cup team.
Meanwhile, arguably more important contests will be tediously but vitally played out in courtrooms around the world. Lawyers on all sides are bracing for extensive and costly litigation that will drag on into 2024.
Men’s professional golf has taken a hit and there’s not the slightest indication of when or how it might be put back together.