Martin Dempster: After LIV Golf launch with Spitfires, black cabs and shot-gun start expect normal service to resume

Something big was clearly happening. Golf got a mention on BBC Breakfast and, as a regular viewer, I can testify that is rarely the case.

“The face of men’s golf will be changed forever,” declared Mike Bushell, the programme’s sports reporter, as he teed up the launch of LIV Golf at Centurion Club, near St Albans.

Around three hours later, I turned on Radio Five Live to discover that Greg Norman’s new Saudi Arabia-backed series was also the topic of conversation on Nicky Campbell’s programme.

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By the time that was finished, I have to admit that I was irked about the picture that had been painted about the sport I love and have the pleasure to cover in my job.

Before something had even started, what was Bushell basing his bold prediction on? And why did so many people speaking on Campbell’s programme seem intent on sticking the boot into golf in its current form?

I’m not denying that certain things in the game could be improved, but let’s not be fooled into thinking that Norman is trying to shake it up because it’s a poor product.

A few weeks ago, I watched thousands of fans enjoying traditional 72-hole stroke-play for the Betfred British Masters at The Belfry.

It will be the same at the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in a few weeks’ time and I certainly can’t ever recall turning on the TV to watch a PGA Tour event and thinking it lacked atmosphere.

Guests arrive during day one of the LIV Golf Invitational at The Centurion Club on June 09, 2022 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

There’s a danger of people being fooled into thinking LIV Golf is the best thing that has ever happened in the sport. Only time will tell if that is the case and I, for one, have my doubts.

Like many others, I was fascinated and tuned in to livgolf.com to see the inaugural $25m event tee off. As a product, it looked good and the sight of some old RAF planes, including Spitfires, in the skies above the Hertfordshire venue was pretty special. As was ferrying players to their respective tees for a shotgun start in a fleet of black cabs, LIV Golf-branded of course.

Once the action got underway, you didn’t have to wait long to hear commentators led by Arlo White talking it up. “Build it and they will come,” he said of a decent-sized crowd, though it remained to be seen how many actually stumped up close to the advertised cost of £68.

“I’ve never seen as many smiles on the faces of elite sportsman” was another line, making no reference, of course, about the wad of money they are getting probably having a lot to do with that.

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell prepares to take his black cab to the third tee to begin his round on the first day of the LIV Golf Invitational Series event at The Centurion Club in St Albans, north of London, on June 9, 2022. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

A big thing is being made of the team element and the logos are prominent on the ever-present leaderboard on the coverage, though it remains to be seen if that can indeed create excitement come the final few holes on Saturday.

Like anything, LIV Golf shouldn’t be judged until it has had a chance to bed in, but take away all that money and, moreover where it’s coming from and it would barely have got a mention this week.

And, yes, I’m expecting normal service to be resumed when it comes to our great game on BBC Breakfast beyond the next few days.

A sign in the fan village during day one of the LIV Golf Invitational at The Centurion Club on June 09, 2022 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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