Oct 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; A general view of the pin flag on the 16th green during the second round of the season finale of the LIV Golf series at Trump National Doral. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Envisioned as a competitor to the established order of the PGA, LIV Golf has largely failed, inviting controversy with its ties to Saudi Arabia while struggling to gain an audience, with so few viewers on the CW that ratings reports were discontinued months ago. Complicit in an obvious “sports-washing” scheme aimed at deflecting from Saudi Arabia’s sordid history of human rights atrocities, the backlash to LIV was inevitable, positioning PGA defectors as “villains,” selfish traitors without a moral compass.

There’s no going back now, but would there have been a different narrative if LIV, rather than tying itself to Saudi investors, had instead partnered with Endeavor, a Hollywood talent agency that, according to CEO Ari Emanuel, considered a $1 billion investment in the startup tour?

Endeavor, which now owns Professional Bull Riders, WWE, and UFC, was apparently approached by LIV golfers Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, who pitched Emanuel on replacing Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund as the tour’s primary investor. And while the prospect of adding LIV to Endeavor’s investment portfolio did pique Emanuel’s interest, at least initially, he couldn’t go through with it, citing his relationship with PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan.

“[The PGA] said, ‘Please don’t do it.’ So we stopped. I’m friends with Jay. We have a lot of business with Jay. I don’t want to hurt Jay,” Emanuel told Freakonomics in an interview transcribed by Eric Fisher of Front Office Sports. “I said to Jay, ‘We’re pulling out. But you have got to figure out an economic solution here because … it’s going to force you.’ And he did.”

Would LIV be more palatable to fans if Endeavor had taken the wheel from Saudi Arabia, using its resources to legitimatize a tour in desperate need of rebranding? Perhaps, though it doesn’t much matter now, with Endeavor already pivoting to a new investment opportunity, recently announcing a bombshell acquisition merging the WWE and UFC brands at a $21-billion valuation. Of course, those entities are only marginally less problematic than LIV, with WWE lifer Vince McMahon facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct, not to mention, among other missteps, an embarrassing altercation between UFC President Dana White and his wife this past New Year’s.

[Front Office Sports]

About Jesse Pantuosco

Jesse Pantuosco joined Awful Announcing as a contributing writer in May 2023. He’s also written for Audacy and NBC Sports. A graduate of Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s degree in creative writing from Fairfield University, Pantuosco has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and never misses a Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots game.