If the $25million prize fund at the first Saudi rebel event in St Albans in June seems stunning then the average fan might also find the ticket prices equally as unfathomable. At £85 per day and £225 for the week, Centurion Golf Club will charge more than Augusta does to attend The Masters.
Released on the official LIV Golf Invitational website on Wednesday, it is fair to say that the cost of a bog-standard grounds pass will stun the spectators looking to watch a competition boasting 15 of the world’s top 100.
Telegraph Sport was initially informed that free entry was being considered to ensure there is a good crowd for the breakaway circuit’s curtain-raiser, in which the winner will pocket $4million and the player who finishes dead last $120,000.
But now LIV have veered to the other extreme and threaten to alienate yet more of its intended audience. Inevitably LIV’s oft-stated mission “to grow the game” will come under increased focus, if not ridicule
With none of the world’s top 10 on show and perhaps as few as five of the world’s top 50, the strength of the field will almost certainly be weaker than the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in September.
However, the European Tour’s flagship event is less than half the price at £40 per day. Meanwhile, next week’s British Masters at The Belfry is almost two thirds more reasonable at £30. Furthermore, with only a 48-man field and a shotgun start, the Centurion action will take place for only five hours from 1pm-5pm. The galleries at the Belfry will have 10 hours of live sport to watch.
Of course, it is the comparison with Augusta which will raise the most eyebrows. For $375 (£300) the lucky ones who manage to obtain the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, get to see all four rounds and three other days of official practice, a much better deal than Centurion.
Indeed, the 150th Championship at St Andrews in July is only £10 more expensive than the LIV opener.
Granted, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, as well as Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood – have entered, but there is no guarantee they will play. And even if that quartet do turn out, the venture run by Greg Norman appears to have overestimated the appeal, particularly as there has been so much bad press surrounding the Kingdom’s bid to become a major player in gig-time golf.
“Sportswashing” is the main accusation against a regime which even Mickelson declared as having a “horrid human rights record”. “They are scary motherf—–s to deal with” Mickelson told a journalist – and at these prices the weekend hacker might be minded to agree.
The overwhelming majority will likely stay in their armchairs. Norman claimed to Telegraph Sport in a recent interview that the tournament will “at least be screened live on a streaming platform” and since then, a LIV insider has said that “we are trying to get it on a free-to-air channel” .
In February, the Saudi Invitational was broadcast on FreeSports TV. which is available on Freeview HD, Sky HD, Virgin HD, TalkTalk 64, BT Vision and Samsung TV Plus and is also on the FreeSports Player.
However, that coverage was widely panned. LIV maintains it will be infinitely better this time, with 52 cameras for 48 players and “plenty of innovation”. Norman has hired David Hill, a celebrated TV executive having set up Fox Sports in America. The veteran’s brief from Norman is to “create the most exciting golf TV ever”.
If you still prefer being up close and personal then there is even the opportunity to meet Norman and “walk up to 9-holes with players and their caddies, hear the strategic first-hand decisions, celebrate the winning shots, and get closer to the action than ever before.”
And the price? Almost £10,000 for three days and an extra £1,191 for a ticket to the draft party at an undisclosed location prior to the first round.
In fairness, that is official access, with only media, officials and the family normally allowed inside the ropes. Norman promised it would be different and it is certainly that.
“Today is a day that we have been working towards for a long time and we are excited to be going live and offering fans the opportunity to experience LIV Golf,” Norman said in a press release. “We look forward to showcasing unforgettable events and unique opportunities for fans to interact with the brand in new and exciting ways.”