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LIV golf tour has ‘so much money involved’: Sports reporter

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Yahoo Sports reporter Jay Busbee joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss what's driving the new LIV golf tour, why the PGA is pushing back, and what the tour means for up-and-coming golfers.

Video Transcript

- The rivalry between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour is heating up. The Saudi-backed golf league tees off for its second round today as the PGA plans suspensions for golfers defecting to the start-up league. Yahoo Sports's Jay Busbee joins us now with the latest on this new tour. And Jay, particularly, just-- let's start at the top here. Why do players want to jump over to the LIV, which we discovered in the break actually stands for 54, the number of holes that they're going to be playing as opposed to the 72 holes per tournament in the PGA Tour.

JAY BUSBEE: Right. We could end this segment right now with one word-- money. I mean, that's why they want to do it. There's so much money involved in these tournaments. Just a quick example-- this tournament this weekend, three-day tournament. It ends tomorrow. The winner gets $4 million. $4 million. That compares to the $2.7 million that the winner of the Masters got back in April.

It's a huge jump forward. Every player who competes makes money, makes a lot of money. That's a huge difference from the PGA Tour where you have to make the cut to make the weekend to make a check. So yeah, first, last, and in between, it's about money.

- Jay, isn't the other problem here-- it's not necessarily the relics like Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, and I really liked how you put this in your story on Yahoo Sports, it's about the future players. How might the PGA Tour be impacted?

JAY BUSBEE: Yeah, that's a huge problem for the PGA Tour. They're losing a couple of big names right now in Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, but the big issue for the PGA Tour is the players that are right now in college, the players that are right now in high school, the players that are right now playing pitch and putt games at 8 years old.

These talented players very much are the ones that the LIV Tour is focusing on-- to bring them aboard, to keep them in the fold, and keep them off the PGA Tour, because they can promise much more guaranteed money much faster. And if the Tour loses those players, it loses a significant share of its competitive advantage and a significant share of the competition that takes place week in and week out of tournaments.

- Hey, Jay, it's Julie here. Those poor players, only getting $2.7 million instead of $4 million. I mean, this always happens with [INAUDIBLE].

JAY BUSBEE: Scraping by.

- It's like, normal people are like, just, what? Anyway--

JAY BUSBEE: Right.

- --let's talk about the political aspect of this as well because part of the criticism that has been leveled at folks who are participating in this new league are that it is Saudi-backed, right, and that there are some political implications of that. But the players don't seem to care, right?

JAY BUSBEE: The players don't. I mean, honestly, they have been given talking points to say it's about golf and it's about new changes, a new season in golf, a new world for golf. And that's a whole lot of making excuses for the fact that they are taking money directly from the Saudi government, which is responsible for documented human rights atrocities. This is not any kind of moralistic equivalency, this is directly from the Saudi government, which is bankrolling this entire endeavor here.

So obviously different people have different levels of moral equivalency as to what they're willing to take and not take. And these players, the ones that have made the jump, have decided that they're OK with it. Other players, who have made plenty of money, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy among them, have decided they don't want to take this money. They're focused on the historical aspect of golf. But the politics, for golf players, that doesn't really enter into the equation for them.

- Well, historically, it hasn't. And I say this as a person who is a fan of the game and both loves to play the game-- it's not like this sport, which has historically been extremely elitist, exclusionary, and not even accessible for so many people in the population, that they have actively showed that they are thinking about some of those other things that impact what we are also talking about on a daily basis as well. So all of that considered, is this golf league going to be able to get sponsors? Is it going to get viewership? Is it going to get the same attention that the PGA Tour's got?

JAY BUSBEE: Here's what's interesting-- it doesn't matter because they have money. The endeavor here with Saudi Arabia is not to necessarily turn a profit on the LIV Golf Tour. They are trying to, basically, improve their image through golf in the same way that China tried to do it through the Olympics. Russia tried to do it through the Olympics, the World Cup. They're trying to preserve and protect Saudi Arabia's image. And basically, the term is called sports-washing, where they use sports to make you feel good about a country.

Say, hey, how bad could they be if they're putting on this golf tournament? So they've invested $2 billion over the next couple of years to get this LIV Tour up off the ground and to keep it going. They don't really need to turn a profit because they've got literally hundreds of billions dollars in reserve that they could put towards these kinds of efforts. It's not the same thing as the PGA Tour or any other league that has to look at the bottom line. This is all about image. And so that's what makes it so dangerous for the PGA Tour.

- And Jay, these players that have defected, they don't seem to care because they are so major tournament-focused. Is there a chance that they are also banned from the majors?

JAY BUSBEE: There's a very good chance. Yes, there's a very good chance that they could be banned from the majors. And it's incredibly complicated to go through all the nuances of golf, but basically, the PGA Tour does not control the four majors-- the Masters, the US Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. And the four majors are what golfers value the most.

So their thinking is, hey, if I can play the majors and I can cash this monster check from LIV Golf, what's the problem? The problem might come in where the majors decide, you know what, we're not going to let you go play on this new tour and then come and play in our tournaments. And if that route gets shut off, then all of a sudden LIV becomes a lot less viable for players who want to play for history and not just money.

- OK, so the only way that this is monetizable for me, Jay, is I need to know how the lines and the betting has moved as a result. Has any of that equation changed? From anything from the majors coming up, to who's going to win the FedEx Cup at this point, given that you have some of those major players like a Bryson-- who was injured anyway-- but mostly a Dustin Johnson, that could have had a shot at winning the FedEx Cup should they have stormed ahead of Scottie Scheffler and others in the field.

JAY BUSBEE: Yeah. I don't know that it's going to be significant yet. We're still talking about players that are good players, but not among the greats. You know, your Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth. These are the players that have stayed with the PGA Tour, and so they're going to be the betting favorites.

But the question is, what if the next hypothetical Scottie Scheffler decides to go with the LIV Tour? And you might not know this until this player starts to really break out and decides that, you know what, the Masters is nice, but a $10 million check is even nicer. So at the moment it's not having a real impact on the lines, but it will before too much longer if it progresses at this trajectory.

- Jay, has Phil Mickelson ruined his legacy?

JAY BUSBEE: Yeah. I mean, I think it's impossible to separate what he has done over the last six months with what he had done the previous 50-some years of his life. I mean, it's difficult to see how he recovers from this in any way that doesn't make him look like he's doubling back yet again. He's said and done some things that have really upset a significant portion of the golf-watching public.

There's a bunch of people, certainly, who will watch him no matter what he does, and I think it's going to be interesting when the LIV Tour comes to American shores next month to see what the response is to Phil. But yeah, there's a whole lot of people who, even though he's in the Hall of Fame, has said, you know what? I'm done with Phil.

- For what it's worth, he needs to shave that beard because it's pretty embarrassing. Yahoo Sports writer Jay Busbee. Have a great week. I really enjoy your coverage. We'll talk to you soon.

JAY BUSBEE: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.