LIV Golf’s second season will highlight team game

LIV Golf photo by Matthew Harris via AP / James Piot of the HyFlyers watches his shot from the 10th tee Thursday during the pro-am ahead of this week's LIV Golf League tournament at El Camaleón in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico — Dustin Johnson was among the most prominent players to sign with LIV Golf for its debut 2022 schedule, and he made it pay off by making $35.6 million in just eight tournaments, including an $18 million bonus for leading the points list and winning the team title.

But the curiosity goes beyond the repeat bid for Johnson and his 4Aces, a team that includes Pat Perez and Patrick Reed and now has Peter Uihlein, who finished third on the points list.

The rival circuit begins its second season Friday with a television partner — the CW Network in a revenue-sharing agreement — and a few new faces.

It now is billed as LIV Golf League, with an emphasis on the 12 four-man teams that will remain the same during a 14-tournament schedule that starts at Mayakoba, the Mexican golf resort that previously hosted a PGA Tour event in the fall.

"I love it because we're here," Perez said, "and the tour is not — end quote."

The prize fund remains $20 million for medal play among 48 players, plus a $5 million purse paid out to the leading three teams.

There was some minor shuffling. Uihlein went from Brooks Koepka's team (Smash) to join Johnson, while Koepka has added Matthew Wolff.

But the series, funded by Saudi Arabia, hasn't really been able to add more highly ranked players during the four months it was away. The biggest addition was Thomas Pieters, who's No. 35 in the Official World Golf Ranking; he joined after Hudson Swafford became sidelined for the year with a hip injury.

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson signed with LIV last year while injured and makes his debut as captain of a team (RangeGoats) that includes Pieters, Talor Gooch and Harold Varner III.

Watson will be among seven players making their LIV debuts Friday when the 54-hole event begins on the course known as El Camaleon.

Five players who competed in all seven individual events last year are no longer on the roster: former NCAA champion Turk Pettit, Laurie Canter, Sadom Kaewkanjana, Shaun Norris and Wade Ormsby.

An LIV official said several players were free agents who did not have contracts, and they were replaced. Several of those players are alternates.

Canter is filling in at Mayakoba for two-time major winner Martin Kaymer. Alternates this week are Ormsby, Pettit and Andy Ogletree.

LIV did not have a television partner for its inaugural season and signed an agreement in January with the CW. The opening round will be available on the network's app, with weekend coverage on linear TV in the United States.

It also has streaming on its website for foreign viewers on an app (Liv Golf Plus) and a website ( LIV added its first corporate partner, EasyPost — an official marketing partner typical of other U.S. golf tours — and some teams have new logos.

For Johnson and Garcia, the apparel will be slightly different. Both players have ended longtime deals with Adidas Golf as it works toward team uniforms.

"For me being the captain of the team, obviously being able to go out and find a clothing sponsor is more beneficial than waiting another year," Johnson said Wednesday. "Hopefully, my clothes get out of customs and I'll have some stuff to wear by this weekend. But if not, I'll be wearing some blank stuff."

LIV Golf's antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour is still in the discovery phase, and a federal judge this week ruled that Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund — which owns 93% of LIV Golf — and the fund's governor can be added as defendants in the PGA Tour's countersuit. Any trial is not expected until next year.

Mayakoba is the host site for the first of three LIV events before the Masters, which tees off on April 6. LIV has 17 players who are eligible for the year's first major at Augusta National.