The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational
Golf - The inaugural LIV Golf Invitational - Centurion Club, Hemel Hempstead, St Albans, Britain - June 10, 2022 South Africa's Charl Schwartzel of the Stinger team in action during the second round went on to win. REUTERS/Paul Childs

South African golfer Charl Schwartzel has scooped the biggest pay cheque in golf history, winning the $4-million top prize at the new LIV Golf Series, as well as $750,000 for being part of the winning team at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, near London.

Charl scooped the trophy and big money prize with a one-stroke victory at the inaugural three-day event which finished yesterday. The 37-year-old former Masters Champion, who won at Augusta in 2011, basically won as much this weekend as he has earned in the past four years on the PGA Tour, according to the BBC.

After being presented with the trophy, Charl said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we could play for that much money in golf. As you could see I was taking a bit of heat down the stretch and there was a lot of money involved.” Fellow South African Hennie Du Plessis was chasing him all the way, and finished in second position.

The new series is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and triggered a « week of verbal sparring and threats between the PGA Tour and the controversial Saudi-backed LIV series », in the words of Reuters. A “dramatic week” is how the BBC described it, in which the PGA Tour reacted in “draconian fashion” by suspending 17 players indefinitely for taking part in the LIV Golf event.

The Saudi investment in the new LIV circuit is reportedly at least $250-million. LIV is the Roman Numeral equivalent of 54. With the total purse for the first tournament being $25-million, each participant walked away with some cash, from Charl’s record-breaking victory prize to the golfer who placed last receiving $120,000.

The BBC describes the new series as having a “seismic impact” on golf. Former world number one, Greg Norman, who is LIV Golf’s Chief Executive, said at the presentation ceremony: “All I can say is that the evolution of golf has arrived. For 27 years there have been a lot of obstacles put in our path, a lot of dreams have tried to be squashed but they couldn’t squash us.” (In the mid-90s Greg had tried to set up a world tour.)

The LIV Golf events are being touted as the « richest tournaments in golf history ». Some players have been paid appearance fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts, according to The New York Times.

While experts have pointed out a difference in the quality of play between the PGA (three of the world’s top 10 golfers are currently competing in the Canadian Open) and LIV, Reuters admitted: “Organisers will point to decent-sized crowds, plenty of glitz and the presence of big names, including six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia.”

The BBC agreed, calling it a “first class” event with no expense spared in allowing for streaming with no advertisement breaks. At least 100,000 viewers were watching on YouTube as Charl bogeyed the last hole.

LIV’s mission is to “modernize and supercharge the game of professional golf through expanded opportunities for both players and fans alike”.

“The promotional nature of the commentary may have irritated golf’s die-hard viewers but was understandable given the way that LIV want to shake up the professional game,” said the BBC, adding “and there is no doubt that is exactly what they have done.”

The eight event series takes place from June – October 2022 across North America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. “It is an opportunity to reinvigorate golf through a structure that adds value to the entire sport while helping to bring new audiences to the game through a cutting-edge entertainment product,” says LIV.

The next LIV tournament starts on 30 June in Oregon, USA.

Visit LIV’s website here.