The golf world, which has been clearly structured for decades, has started to falter. The controversial new tour, the LIV Golf Invitational Series, aims to provide fierce competition for established tours in North America and Europe. The tour, financed by Saudi Arabia, starts this Thursday in London and is causing a headache for those responsible for the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour (formerly European Tour). It’s about power, prestige, loyalty and a lot of money.

The new Golf series has been criticized because of the millions invested from the state on the Persian Gulf. The background is that the country, which has been criticized for human rights violations, is trying to improve its reputation with lucrative sporting events. The money comes from the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is chaired by Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Among other things, the PIF holds a majority stake of 80 percent in the English Premier League club Newcastle United. The lucrative Formula 1 is already doing its rounds in the desert state. And now golf is supposed to help polish Saudi Arabia’s image.

According to rumours, stars from the USA and Europe have been made to participate in the new tour with up to three-digit million amounts. Many of the top players such as superstar Tiger Woods or Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy immediately rejected the lucrative offer and clearly identified themselves with their old employers. “Woods turned down a deal that was incredibly high. We’re talking about a high nine-figure amount here,” LIV Managing Director Greg Norman told the Washington Post. Australian Norman – nicknamed “Jaws” – was one of the best golfers in the world in the 80s and 90s.

Others, however, became weak with Norman’s offers: including former world number one Dustin Johnson from the USA. The son-in-law of Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is the figurehead of the LIV tour. Johnson announced that he has resigned from the PGA Tour. The 37-year-old can no longer compete in the Ryder Cup, the traditional continental comparison between the best golfers from America and Europe.

Some older, well-deserving Ryder Cup heroes from Europe are also teeing off in the first LIV event at the Centurion Club in north London: England’s Lee Westwood (49) and Ian Poulter (46), Sergio Garcia (42) from Spain and Germany Top golfer Martin Kaymer (37). “It’s a great way to play a different kind of golf tournament. The new format is exciting,” said the two-time major winner in an interview with the Sky TV channel. Kaymer currently only has full eligibility to play on the DP World Tour. “I’d be lying if I said money wasn’t a motivation. That’s very human.”

At the beginning of the week, Phil Mickelson, another prominent US golfer, confirmed his commitment to the 48-strong field in London. The PGA and the DP World Tour had previously threatened to sanction participants in the LIV series. How these penalties could turn out is still open. The organizer of the US Open, which will take place next week, announced on Tuesday that the participants of the LIV tour can also tee off at the major tournament in Brookline/US state of Massachusetts.

The LIV Tour also wants to score points with the players and fans with a different format. Seven of the eight tournaments will be played over three days instead of four. There is no cut and all players start almost at the same time to make the rounds shorter and more attractive for spectators. The final event at the end of October in Miami, on a golf course owned by former US President Donald Trump, is then a pure team tournament that lasts four days.

In the first seven events there will be a team rating in addition to the individual rating. The individual competition in London is endowed with 20 million dollars – the winner gets four million dollars, the last still 120,000 dollars. For comparison: Scottie Scheffler received a prize money of 2.7 million dollars for his triumph at the legendary Masters in April.