DORAL, Fla. — One word keeps popping up this week at the LIV Golf Team Championship: Interest.
Ahead of the $50 million finale at Trump National Doral, players like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have hinted at what may be a busy offseason full of player movement, though it should be noted the same things were said last year and just a few players changed teams. On top of that, the highest-profile player that was signed was Thomas Pieters. Not exactly a needle mover.
The teasing of what may come continued Thursday, as a trio of captains dished on the current state of investment in LIV Golf, which owns 75 percent of each of the 12 franchise teams. The other 25 percent is owned by principal players, which would include captains such as Watson, Dustin Johnson and Joaquin Niemann.
“The evaluation, it’s not a small number,” said Watson, who most likely meant to say valuation. “But I think every team is going to be different. Some people want to know more. Some just people want to play golf. Just depends on which team you’re talking about and who it is. I want to know everything. I want to be part of it and move it forward and make the RangeGoats well-known.”
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Watson added that he has “had a few people” show interest in purchasing RangeGoats GC, who sit fourth and have a first-round bye for the Team Championship, and then clarified that “anywhere from 10 to 20 people have asked to buy the RangeGoats” and that he has “met with people this week.”
“There’s quite a bit of interest. Obviously like (Watson) said each team is going to differ. We have some interest,” added Johnson, whose defending champion 4Aces GC would undoubtedly be the most valuable franchise. “We’ll get more into that in the offseason once we are done after this week.”
Both Watson and Johnson discussed the challenge of taking on a new role and how they’re learning on the fly. For the two major winners, their careers have always been just about golf. Now they’re managing their teams and sponsors (though all 12 teams have general managers in some capacity).
“Right now, pretty focused on doing well on golf course,” said Torque GC’s Niemann, the league’s youngest captain by six years at 24 years old. “I think the better we do on the golf course, everything gets a little bit easier. But yeah, lucky to have a great team to support me in every aspect of how to run a business like Torque.”
While the team format still hasn’t fully caught on with golf fans, the players and LIV officials are all in (Brooks Koepka and Matthew Wolff aside). None of the 12 teams have been sold, but a few have inked partnership and sponsor deals over the last year. The timeframe for when franchises may be sold is up in the air, and the lagging framework agreement between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, LIV’s financial supporter, can’t be helping. Why would a company want to pony up money to own a team with an uncertain future?
The spin to the delay is teams have more time to find a proper fit for an owner, which the three captains agreed was more important than simply siding with the highest bidder.
“Yeah, like to have something that fits our team and something that fits our four players, what are our goals, and yeah, I mean, there’s all brands that we like to work with, something that is with our personality,” Niemann said before admitting, “there’s also a number, right.”
“All that’s out the window for the right number,” said a laughing Watson.