A lot has been said about LIV Golf and the stars that ultimately left the PGA Tour for a big payday and a roster spot on the newest pro golf tour. But I’m not here to talk about the morality of where the money is coming from, how bad the team names are, or why the format has done nothing to create more excitement. I’d like to discuss how evidence is starting to build that if you pre-pay golfers, they stop caring as much about their game, because why wouldn’t they? I’d also like to look at some of the LIV winners and the LIV leaderboards and see where the stars have finished.
Looking At LIV Winners & Leaderboards
For the sake of not having to go too far back, let’s focus on the 2023 LIV Tour winners and Leaderboards. Let’s keep in mind that these events are all 48-man fields as opposed to 132, 144, or 156-player fields on the PGA Tour.
LIV MAYAKOBA – Feb 24 – 26
This event was won by Charles Howell III. Howell was a winner of 3-events on the PGA Tour in 609 events. That’s a winning percentage of 0.049%. LIV Mayakoba was Howell’s first career LIV Golf start, and he won it. He was batting 1.000 before finishing fifth last week at LIV Tucson. Howell has officially won half of the LIV events he’s entered.
The Leaderboard at LIV Mayokaba was, well, not terrible. Peter Uihlein finished second and Branden Grace finished third. Cam Smith did finish 6th, out of 48 golfers, narrowly missing his 3rd career top 5 LIV Golf finish. He was surprisingly 10 shots back of the winner Charles Howell. Howell is a solid pro and a name people have come to know, but he isn’t one of the LIV stars and he beat their top star by 10 shots. Bryson Dechambeau finished 24th at Even for the tournament. Phil Mickelson finished 27th out of 44 at +1 over. Brooks Koepka was also +1 over for the tournament. and Dustin Johnson finished +4 for 37th out of 48 golfers. A few notables that finished behind Dustin Johnson were Patrick Reed +5, Bubba Watson +6, Louis Oosthieuzen +8, and Brooks Koepka’s little brother Chase Koepka who finished +15.
LIV TUCSON – Mar 17 – 19
After taking a hard-earned three weeks off following the grueling 3-day event in Mayakoba, the LIV Tour teed it back up in Tucson, Arizona. Danny Lee broke a three-way tie with Carlos Ortiz and Brendan Steele to win the playoff and capture the tournament crown. Danny Lee won one time on the PGA Tour in 303 starts. This was Danny Lee’s second start on the LIV Tour. But a win is a win. Dustin Johnson played a bit better finishing -5 and in 13th place. Patrick Reed finished -4 under and in 18th place. Bubba Watson finished -3 under in 23rd place. Cam Smith finished -2 and in 26th out of 48. Bryson Dechambeau finished +7, good enough for 44th out of 48.
So Are LIV Golf Stars Earning Their Money?
My main question was always, what’s the motivation? They’ve already been paid. There are no names in the record books, so they’re not really playing for legacy or putting their name next to a Tiger or Jack. So are they really concerned about where their golf game is? Or are they making their appearances and enjoying their rounds and especially their life? Which is fine. They have every right to do that. But that certainly hurts the people making the argument that the PGA Tour is watered down due to the absence of a few of these guys. Let’s take a look at some of these stars, track how well they’re playing, and if they’ve earned their signing bonus at LIV. And before anyone says they got paid to bring legitimacy to the tour, I get that. But you can’t tell me LIV Golf is fired up when Danny Lee or Charles Schwartzel are raising trophies in 2023.
These are reportedly the five highest-paid LIV Golfers, their reported earnings, and how they’ve been playing since their last PGA Tour start.
Cam Smith – Paid $100 million
Let’s get this out of the way right now, and it actually pains me to say, Cam is 100%, unequivocally not in the discussion for best player in the world anymore. It’s just a fact based on his golf performances and nothing more. Now Cam started hot, after winning the British Open, he won his second-ever LIV Golf event in Chicago. Something LIV Golf must have loved. Since that win, Cam has played in four LIV events where he has just one top 20, out of just 48 golfers.
Brooks Keopka – Paid $100 million
Now we all saw Brooks on the Full Swing documentary on Netflix and it was, well, interesting. It was well documented that Brooks’s game was slipping prior to leaving for the LIV Tour. And things haven’t improved. Now keep in mind these are 48-man fields. Brooks has finished 9th, 22nd, 27th, 11th, 20th, 29th and 31st. That’s one top 10 in 48-man fields.
Bryson Dechambeau – Paid $125 million
Bryson has been bad. There is no other way to put it. He can drive the golf ball a long way. But he’s not been great at scoring low. He’s tied for 10th twice in 8 LIV Events and that’s as good as hit has been for him. This year he has finished 24th and a shocking 44th where he was over par in all three rounds. So far in 2023, he has played one round under par.
Dustin Johnson – Paid $150 Million
DJ has certainly been the best of the stars and seemingly has the best chance to compete at a major in 2023. Dustin finished in the top 10 in 7 of 8 LIV events he played in 2022 and won the season-long individual championship. He didn’t have a great start to 2023 finishing 37th out of 48 where he shot a shocking final-round 78. But he bounced back to finish a respectable 13th at Tucson.
Phil Mickelson – Paid $200 Million
Oh boy. He’s a big name, there is no doubt. But he has fallen a long way since his incredible PGA Championship win in 2021. Phil has one finish in LIV that is better than T-17 in nine LIV starts. This year Phil has finished 27th and 32nd. Phil has finished 30th or worse in six of his 9 LIV starts. Out of 48 golfers. He’s finished over par in 5 of his 9 LIV starts. It just hasn’t been good.