PGA CEO doesn’t see LIV as ‘survivable business model’

Jamie Germano/Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

Seth Waugh has a distinguished background in the business world, and the PGA CEO doesn’t see how LIV Golf has a sustainable model no matter how much money its Saudi Arabian backers pump into the upstart rival.

The former Deutsche Bank Americas CEO said that the disruption LIV Golf created has led to some positive changes, but he’s not a believer in the league’s team-based format.

“We don’t think division is in the best interest of the game,” Waugh said during the PGA’s annual state of the association press conference ahead of this week’s PGA Championship. “As a former businessman who looks at things, I think disruption is a good thing. I think good things have happened from that. Certainly, the players are better off in a lot of ways from what it was.

“I think having more the fans deal with – get to see more of the great players together more often is a good thing. I think there’s more interest in the game frankly as a result of all this disruption.

“But when asked, I struggle and I have since the beginning, even before the beginning, with understanding how it’s a sustainable business model.”

There are 18 LIV players in this week’s field – the same number that competed at the Masters last month. However, those numbers figure to dwindle if the league’s effort to be included in the Official World Golf Ranking system is unsuccessful.

There is a 12-month timeline for the review process, and Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson have been among the LIV players to be openly critical of the rankings system and the lengthy process. Waugh, who is on the rankings board, bristled at the notion that the OWGR is slow-playing the application.

“That’s a total mischaracterization,” Waugh said. “It’s a natural process. There is no magic to 12 months. All of these (applications), I think – certainly since I’ve been around – have taken more time than I think was assumed early on.

“This is not an us versus them. If you take a step back, the whole point is to create a level playing field, a yardstick by which to measure the game. Our job is to measure tours. Not players but tours, and how they perform on those tours to come up with that yardstick. That’s what we’re all attempting to try to do.”

Waugh made several attempts to diffuse the notion of an acrimonious relationship with LIV players or representatives.

“Everybody who’s here this week is our invited guest, and we’re happy to have them and we’re going to treat them all the same,” he said. “A lot of these folks are people that I’ve known for a long time that are friends that I still talk to, so none of it is about that.

“It’s about being, as I said before, having the true north of what’s in the best interest of the game.”

–Field Level Media

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