If the tour wants to grow the game at a global level, then it needs to stage events around the world, perhaps in Africa, Australia, and continental Europe.
It already does so in Scotland, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and Japan, but that is insufficient.
Accordingly, LIV Golf has soared in popularity in different parts of the world because it has brought the game to every corner of the globe. The Saudi-backed circuit recognized a void, especially in Asia and Australia, where fans are starved of top professional golf, and purposefully staged multiple events in those regions.
The move paid off, as LIV Golf’s Adelaide event was a tremendous success, featuring numerous major champions, including Aussie Cameron Smith. No wonder why thousands of excited Australian fans showed up.
Similar sentiments can be said about the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player Country Club, not because of the amazing scenery but because the stars are out.
South African golf fans rarely get to see the best players. Hence, the importance of American Max Homa, currently the eighth-ranked player in the world, holding a share of the lead through 36 holes.
He is at 10-under with Matthieu Pavon of France, as Homa carded a 6-under 66 Friday to climb the leaderboard.
“I’m very pleased, a little surprised, pleasantly surprised. It’s been nice, the body’s feeling better as the week’s gone on,” Homa said.
“I woke up today and felt like a golfer again, so that was nice. It’s a real dream. If you fly 20-odd hours over here, you may as well play some good golf. So it’s nice that I’m doing that.”
The event—known as ‘Africa’s Major’—has drawn numerous top players, including Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, and former Open Champion Francesco Molinari.
But Homa’s presence atop the leaderboard has helped bring eyeballs to the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which will continue to spark excitement in South Africa.
And it’s not like South Africa has a shortage of terrific players, either. Producing top-tier talent helps create loyal fans, and the PGA Tour should look to South Africa as a place to stage a tournament.
Nine-time major champion Gary Player is considered one of the greatest golfers ever. Maybe he could help get this project off the ground. World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els, who won four majors, also hails from South Africa.
So too does Retief Goosen.
Louis Oosthuizen does as well, but the 2010 Champion Golfer of the Year differs from the others because he jumped to LIV Golf in 2022. Perhaps he wanted the larger payday and shorter schedule, or maybe he sees LIV’s vision in trying to play around the world.
Maybe other South Africans see this too, which may explain why 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schawrtzel signed up for LIV. So did Branden Grace, Oliver Bekker, Dean Burmester, and five other South Africans.
Perhaps this group envisions a LIV Golf in South Africa in the future. One has not been staged there yet, so the PGA Tour should instead look into sanctioning one there.
The ongoing negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF)—LIV Golf’s beneficiary—do not seem to be progressing at a productive rate, which may keep the rivalry intact.
Should the ongoing PGA-LIV rivalry continue to foster, the executives in Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida, have to scan the globe and try to grow the game globally, or else LIV Golf could emerge as a dominant global tour, thanks to the seemingly unlimited funds of the PIF.
So if you do tune in to the Nedbank Golf Challenge this weekend, ask yourself if the PGA Tour should stage events such as this. I think they should do so, and they should at the very least sanction others across the world, like the Australian Open.