LIV Golf Draws Unprecedented Attention/Drama in 2024 Season Opener

LIV Golf started its third season with unprecedented attention absent a PGA Tour event and pro football, with Joaquin Niemann beating Sergio Garcia in an exciting four-hole playoff that ended in complete darkness.

The controversial LIV Golf League has only 14 tournaments in its third season, but the first one of 2024 couldn’t have gone any better for the fledgling circuit.

LIV’s debut in Mexico went head-to-head with the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which underwent a major format change, was elevated to a “signature’’ event for the first time and couldn’t shake its history of challenging weather.

The team of LEGION XIII captained by Jon Rahm, with Tyrell Hatton, Kieran Vincent and Caleb Surratt, was assembled one week before the first event, enjoyed a team victory.

Both events featured great individual rounds.  Joaquin Niemann shot 59 – the second sub-60 round in LIV history — in the first round at Mayakoba,  a former PGA Tour tournament site. Reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark set the Pebble Beach course record with a 60 in the third round in California.  Both won on Sunday, but there the similarity ends.

LIV had all the drama, as Clark didn’t hit another shot. A threatening weather forecast led PGA Tour officials to eliminate Sunday’s final round, so both events were 54-hole tests this time. LIV had Sunday television time all to itself. Most of the national golf media didn’t take much note of it, focusing more on the travails at Pebble Beach, but the ones that did missed out on an extraordinarily captivating wrapup in Mexico.


Niemann, a 25-year old from Chile, had a particularly interesting Sunday.  After arriving at the course he was told by tournament officials that he had been assessed a two-stroke penalty for taking an “improper’’ drop the day before.  Niemann was entitled to a drop when his ball stopped on a cart path, but he took two club lengths of relief and was entitled to only one.

That turned his Saturday 70 to a 72 and tightened up the individual race considerably.  It brought several other players, most notably Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, into contention. Reigning Masters champion Rahm was LIV’s major roster acquisition in the offseason and he didn’t disappoint.

Torque GC Captain Joaquín Niemann wins in a playoff over Fireballs GC Captain Sergio Garcia at LIV Golf Mayakoba. (Photo by Doug DeFelice/LIV Golf)


Rahm made five birdies in his first seven holes on Friday but couldn’t keep up with Niemann. He got close again on Sunday before finishing bogey-bogey but did have some consolation.  His new Legion XIII team, put together less than a week before the tournament, captured the team title. Team victories are celebrated in style at LIV events.

In a format change LIV counts three scores per team in the first two days of a tournament and all four in the final round.  Rahm’s 70 was the highest final round score on his team as Tyrrell Hatton shot 64, Kieran Vincent 69 and Caleb Surratt 67.  Surratt, 19, was a story by  himself.  He was playing in his first professional tournament after leaving his dormitory room at the University of Tennessee just a few days ago.

The PGA and DP World tours don’t have team competition, but Rahm bought into it in his first LIV start.


“It was very nice in a day in which in any normal tournament I would have been upset at my finish to actually have something to celebrate,’’ said Rahm.  “This is one of the reasons why I decided to transition.’’

What was “normal’’ for Rahm is no longer normal on the LIV circuit, and neither was Sunday’s individual battle.

Niemann and Garcia wound up in a playoff for the title, and that created a story worth telling.  Garcia, 43, was Niemann’s boyhood hero. Only 25, Niemann is going to be a prominent player in the game – and not just on the LIV circuit.  Late last year he won the Australian Open, and that earned him a place on the DP World Tour.  Membership on that circuit gave him a place in the Dubai Desert Classic two weeks ago, and he finished fourth there.

Though the now Official World Golf Rankings still haven’t adequately recognized good play by LIV members, Niemann is now eligible for the British Open and will probably get into the PGA Championship as well.

Legion XIII captured the team trophy in an impressive LIV Golf debut. (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf)

Winning $4 million at Mayakoba was nice, but the way he did it will be hard to forget by anyone with even a passing interest in professional golf.  The playoff with Garcia went on until daylight was gone and only the light of the 18th hole scoreboard was available to keep it going.

Niemann and Garcia made pars on the first three playoff holes, all on No. 18.  Faced with the option of returning on Monday, they agreed to play it one more time even in what Niemann called “super darkness.’’  Niemann won it with a birdie putt from the back of the green.

Now the LIV players are headed for their second tournament in Las Vegas and the PGA Tour goes to one of its most fun stops – the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Both will be hard to match the excitement produced at Mayakoba.


Len has been covering golf for over 56 years. He was the golf columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for 41 years and has been in the same role for the Daily Herald and several regional newspapers since 2009... Len is also a regular contributor to the Chicago District Golfer magazine and his travel pieces are regularly published in Pro Golf Weekly, New England.Golf, eSouthernGolf and the Ohio Golf Journal. His works for all publications are available at It is in its 15th year of operation and has been enhanced by the photography provided by his partner Joy Sarver... An inductee into the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004 (for his reporting and youth coaching, not as a player), Len was also inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 2019. He is also on the Advisory Board of the International Network of Golf, is a lifetime member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a member of the Golf Travel Writers of America.

Leave a Reply

Notify of