Top level men’s professional golf has been hard to find in the Chicago area in recent years. That won’t be the case this season.
The upstart LIV Golf League finally announced its schedule on Tuesday and it included a return to Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove. That means the top men’s players will be visiting twice in 2023.
The PGA Tour hasn’t had a tournament in the area since Medinah hosted the BMW Championship in 2019, though the sport’s premier circuit has had the annual John Deere Classic as a fixture in downstate Silvis.
This year, though, the PGA Tour will come back to the Chicago area with the BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event, scheduled at Olympia Fields. Then that circuit won’t be back for any event until 2026 when Medinah hosts the President’s Cup team event.
LIV’s return to Rich Harvest wasn’t a surprise. It hosted one of the controversial Saudi-backed circuit’s most successful events in its inaugural 2022 campaign with Australian Cameron Smith winning the title. LIV held eight tournaments last year and will have 14, spread across the world, this year.
Tuesday’s announcement was delayed until a television contract was finalized, and that was accomplished when The CW Network agreed to terms last week.
There was also a question on Greg Norman’s status as LIV’s chief executive officer and commissioner. PGA Tour leadership, notably Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, wanted Norman out but his role has been expanded instead after former managing director Majed Al-Sorour was dropped down to a member of the board of directors.
The Olympia Fields and Rich Harvest events will be a month apart, setting up a big fall climax to the Chicago season. The BMW is Aug. 14-20 and the LIV stop in Sugar Grove is taking a new date, Sept. 22-24.
Both are well clear of golf’s four major championships, the British Open being the last to wrap up on July 23. The Rich Harvest event will be played opposite the PGA’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.
One interesting scheduling issue surfaced with LIV’s announcement. LIV has a new event, at Orange County National in Orlando, FL., on tap a week before the first major, April’s Masters. There will be LIV players competing in the Masters against PGA Tour stars. Orange County National has been the regular host of the Demo Day at the PGA Merchandise Show and was in that position when the show teed off on Tuesday.
LIV again has three of its events scheduled at courses owned by Donald Trump, but that third – a climax to the 2022 season – has been scaled down to a regular event instead of the team championship, which will now be played Nov. 3-5 in Saudia Arabia.
Obviously LIV isn’t going away any time soon and its court battle with the PGA Tour figures to become an increasingly heated one.
The first LIV event of the year will be Feb. 24-26 at Mexico’s Mayakoba Resort. The stars that bolted the PGA Tour for the big money offered by LIV – notably Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia – return to the LIV roster and more stars need to be added since the team competition has been expanded for the second season.