Money, money, money, must be funny in a LIV man’s world

Scottie Scheffler, who is world number one, and the hottest player in the sport right now walked away with R69 million while SA’s Dean Burmester (pictured right) pocketed R76.7 for his LIV Golf Miami victory. Picture: Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP

Scottie Scheffler, who is world number one, and the hottest player in the sport right now walked away with R69 million while SA’s Dean Burmester (pictured right) pocketed R76.7 for his LIV Golf Miami victory. Picture: Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP

Published Apr 21, 2024


With the massive investment going into the game of golf, especially in the LIV Golf series, is the future of the South African game not on the European and US PGA tours but the with the Saudi-funded league?

It’s a fairly simple question, but a rather complex answer.

For starters, it’s worth comparing how much Scottie Scheffler earned for winning The Masters at Augusta last week with South Africa’s Dean Burmester’s recent victory on the LIV Golf series. Scheffler, who is world number one, and the hottest player in the sport right now walked away with $3.6 million (R69 million).

Burmester who won the LIV Golf event in Miami on April 8, pocketed $4 million (R76.7 million). The 34-year-old also increased his payout with a further $500 000 (R9.6 million) for finishing third in the concurrent team event with his teammates Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace.

Massive prize funds

Interestingly, both tournaments (Masters and LIV Golf League Miami) featured a total prize fund of $20 million or R383 million.

The Masters, however, as is standard with 72-hole events, featured a cut after 36 holes. That left 60 players who made the cut at Augusta. With LIV events, there is no cut and each player teeing it up will have a guaranteed payout.

There is also the fact that the name of the tour - LIV - is the Roman numerals for 54 which relates to the events being played over 54 holes. That’s just three rounds of 18 holes.

For comparison, Ryan van Velzen clinched the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit on Sunday and his earnings, while impressive, don’t compare to the LIV Golf series. Van Velzen won R5.1 million in total over 28 events, ahead of second-placed Robin Williams who pocketed R4.9 million from 30 tournaments.

Former SA Open champion Daniel van Tonder finished 25th on the Order of Merit with his R1.5 million in earnings from 18 events.

For Van Velzen, his immediate future is bright as his moneylist victory earned the 22-year-old a DP World Tour (formerly European Tour) card, a place in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and major exemptions into The Open and the US PGA Championship.

Van Velzen’s earnings are substantial for a local player, but are not indicative of the sums made by the vast majority of professionals. Only the very best earn a comfortable living on local shores, and if they earn the kind of money that Van Velzen has, they will invariably look to increase their earning potential in either Europe or the USA.

That’s the normal progression - earn your stripes on the Sunshine Tour before graduating to the DPWT and then finally the US PGA Tour.

The spanner in the works is clearly the LIV Golf series. Since its first tournament in mid-2022, it has been trying to find a place in world golf. Though a merger between the US PGA Tour and LIV was first announced last year, little has actually changed.

LIV events still don’t earn world ranking points, and most of the former top players in the world inevitably see their rankings plummet.

No world rankings for LIV

The world rankings issue means the vast majority of LIV golfers won’t qualify for the majors - the undisputed pinnacle of golf. For example, just 13 LIV golfers teed it up in the field of 89 at the start of The Masters last week. That included defending champion Jon Rahm who ‘defected’ to LIV at the end of 2023.

In fact, Rory McIlroy who has been in search of winning his first Masters title since 2015 to complete his career grandslam (winning all four majors) had another poor finish at Augusta. McIlroy finished the Masters in a tie for 22nd on four-over, 15 shots behind winner Scheffler. Following his Masters disappointment, rumours swirled earlier this week that he was offered ($850 million) R16 billion to join LIV.

The 34-year-old McIlroy has been a vocal critic of the LIV Golf tour from the outset, but in the last year seems to have softened his stance on the tour after reports first emerged of a merger with the US PGA Tour last year.

Not a direct competitor

On Tuesday, however, McIlroy poured cold water on the rumours as he said he remained committed to the US PGA Tour.

With all this in mind, it’s apparent that the Sunshine Tour is not a direct competitor to LIV like the DPWT and PGA Tours.

It’s for that reason that the Sunshine Tour allows LIV players to play any of its events. It’s actually a non-issue, since the Sunshine Tour would greatly benefit from having a player like Oosthuizen or Schwartzel tee it up in South Africa. The only time that will realistically happen though, is at co-sanctioned tournaments with the DPWT like the SA Open, Nedbank Challenge or the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Sunshine Tour Commissioner Thomas Abt told IOL Sport: “The negotiations between the PGA Tour, PIF [Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia] and DP World Tour are ongoing in terms of the desire amongst all of the official bodies in professional golf to find a united way forward for the game.

“We are confident that all parties will come to a resolution that is beneficial for our game and for the fans.

“Our longstanding partnership with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour and the strong relationship we have with these Tours means that any decisions made at the highest level of the game will reflect positively for the Sunshine Tour as well and we continue to remain in close contact with our partners on this.

“Our focus therefore remains on our core purpose of creating opportunities for our members and strengthening the already excellent global pathways onto both the DP World Tour and PGA Tour that we already have in place.”

Ultimately, it’s only the very best of SA golfers that will progress beyond the Sunshine Tour to the greener pastures of the DPWT and PGA Tour. Only once they’ve become established on those tours, will they likely become a target for LIV to cherry pick as worthy of being offered a massive life-changing contract.


IOL Sport