2023 Masters: LIV golf brings its brand to Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The 87th Masters Tournament is most certainly not a LIV Golf event, and there is even more certainly no team element involved with it, but you wouldn’t know it by the fashion choices of the members of the upstart tour who are still granted access here.

They are wearing their “team” logos, per a contractual obligation with LIV. Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and others were rocking them during Monday’s practice round here at venerable Augusta National.

Long time fans of the “4Aces”, “Ripper GC” and the “Crushers” were no doubt ecstatic.

Wearing a team jersey to an event where the team isn’t competing while hyping a league that isn’t staging the event has a certain element of cringe to it … and that’s even considering the often regrettable standards of golf fashion.

Then again, these guys are showering in Saudi cash — reportedly $150 million guaranteed to Johnson. So if the contract says wear the jersey, then you wear the jersey.

“Yeah, basically,” said Smith, captain of the aforementioned Rippers. Not that Smith wasn’t a bit sheepish about it. Fearing that Augusta National might swoop in and ban the logos — no indication they will — Smith packed a second set of clothes without the Ripper patch on them, just in case.

Confused? That’s unexpected. The LIV vs. PGA Tour feud has upset a bit of everything — and not all of it bad. That includes Masters fashion, apparently.

Start with this: as part of its attempt to dethrone the PGA Tour, LIV is trying some new concepts out for this ancient sport. It includes 54-hole events, no cuts, guaranteed salaries and … an element of team play.

“The most popular sports in the world are team sports,” LIV Golf explains, “and our league format has already begun to build connections with new audiences around the globe.”

Based on the television ratings, it hasn’t been much of a build, but hey, this is only LIV’s second year. The team system works as such: there are a dozen teams led by a captain who then drafts three other players. The two best scores from the first two rounds and the three best from the final round determine a weekly winner and lead toward two separate in-season championships of some sort.

Golf - The Masters - Augusta National Golf Club - Augusta, Georgia, U.S. - April 3, 2023  Dustin Johnson of the U.S. wearing a 4Aces GC team logo for his LIV Golf team on the 10th hole during a practice round REUTERS/Brian SnyderGolf - The Masters - Augusta National Golf Club - Augusta, Georgia, U.S. - April 3, 2023  Dustin Johnson of the U.S. wearing a 4Aces GC team logo for his LIV Golf team on the 10th hole during a practice round REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Dustin Johnson wears a 4Aces GC team logo for his LIV Golf team on the 10th hole during a practice round at the Masters. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

It’s possible no one actually knows what is going on, including the players. They care because there are financial elements to it — both in prize money and long-term equity in the teams for the captains.

The more Cleeks and RangeGoats fans out there, the better.

But should that extend here, the first major championship of the year? The Masters is run by Augusta National Golf Club, not the PGA Tour itself. However, it is on the PGA Tour schedule and the prize money counts on both the PGA and European Tour and in determining FedEx Cup points, making it a sort-of sanctioned event. It has nothing to do with LIV.

So that’s what makes it slightly controversial that Johnson was proudly rocking a shirt with the LIV team logo of the “4Aces” — kind of a knock-off of the Los Angeles Angels — that he captains.

“I’m just going to wear the Aces,” Johnson said.

DeChambeau, meanwhile, wore a white half-zip with a Crushers GC logo on it. Sergio Garcia had a dark Fireballs GC sweater. Is it possible all 18 LIV golfers who qualified to be here due to previous championships will sport their LIV team gear? Perhaps.

“We haven’t really heard much from Augusta National about the logos …” Smith said. “Unless it’s a problem for these guys [ANGC], I’m going to wear it.”

Smith has been unapologetic in saying he will be rooting for a LIV player to win the tournament. He sees it as important marketing for the tour — both as a reminder of how great some of the talent is and a chance to market the operation and hopefully draw over more top players.

“There’s a lot of chatter about these guys don’t play real golf, these guys don’t play real golf courses,” Smith said. “I’ll be the first one to say, the fields aren’t as strong … but we’ve still got a lot of guys up there that can play some really serious golf.”

Golfers have never been afraid to play the part of corporate-billboard. Is there anything different between donning a team jersey as a Nike swoosh or a TaylorMade hat?

Perhaps only because there are still hard feelings among at least some PGA Tour loyalists about the entire LIV operation. The threat of LIV has made the PGA modernize its events and increase payouts — a win for all pro golfers — but that doesn’t mean it’s still not a threat.

“I have no problem with any of them,” said PGA veteran Fred Couples. “Just please do not bash a Tour that I have 43 years invested in. It bothers the hell out of me. They don’t bother me. They really don’t … but they’re on another tour.”

In this case, they are using the incredible exposure of the Masters to promote LIV. The PGA doesn’t have such branding here.

Whether that is innovative or bush league is open to debate.

Either way, it’s here — LIV team logos and LIV team jerseys all at a non-team, non-LIV event.

That’s what the Saudi contract says. And that’s what the Saudi contract is going to get.

Originally published April 3, 2023, 6:43 PM

2023 Masters: LIV golf brings its brand to Augusta

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