What is the LIV Golf Series and why is it so controversial?

Dustin Johnson is one of the stars taking part in the new series

Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty

The world of professional golf could be about to change forever, with the launch of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.

Some of the biggest names in the sport have signed up to take part in the first tournament in the breakaway tour, which begins at the Centurion Club in St Albans this week.

It represents a seismic moment for the sport, and the biggest change to the international golfing calendar in many years.

But what exactly is it? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the LIV golf series, and why is it controversial?

LIV golf is a new breakaway golf league set up to rival the traditional PGA and DP World Tours. It’s being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, with clear links to the regime in Saudi Arabia.

The league has been talked about since 2019 but came to most people’s attention when former professional Greg Norman became the face of the series last year.

The Saudi Arabian government's record on human rights has long been questioned and criticised by groups such as Amnesty International.

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Players who have signed up to take part in the first event in the series were asked about taking part in the league, with questions about the ethical implications of the tournament put to players.

Graeme McDowell was asked about the specifics of the country by AP reporter Rob Harris.

The former US Open winner said that he sees the tournament taking Saudi Arabia on a ‘journey’ to help “grow the sport and take them to where they want to be.”

Touching on some of the most troubling aspects of life under the Saudi government, McDowell was subsequently asked, “how is that journey helping women who are oppressed in Saudi Arabia, the migrant groups whose rights are violated, the LGBTQ individuals who are criminalised, the families of the 81 men who were executed by the kingdom in March, and those being bombed in Yemen?”

“I wish I had the ability to be able to have that conversation with you,” McDowell replied.

The players involved can expect many more questions like that over the coming weeks and months.

Who is taking part in the LIV series?

Phil Mickelsen is one of the major winners to join LIV Golf Series(Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty

The biggest names involved in the series are Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel and Kevin Na.

It has also been reported that Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are set to join the series.

The LIV series is, as you’d expect, isn’t exactly popular with the pre-existing PGA Tour and DP Tour.

The PGA Tour has threatened players with fines and legal action for signing up to LIV, but that has not stopped some of the biggest names in the sport.

The first event in the planned seven-event series takes place from June 9-11. It has yet to be picked up by a major broadcaster in the UK, but can be streamed on the LIV YouTube channel and Facebook page.

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