Lilia Vu surges to victory at LPGA’s The Annika, back to No. 1 in world

Lilia Vu surges to victory at LPGA’s The Annika, back to No. 1 in world
Lilia Vu surges to victory at LPGA’s The Annika, back to No. 1 in world

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW YORK: Tiger Woods couldn’t be more involved with prime-time TGL unless he had built the arena. He helped develop the tech-infused golf league. He’s playing in it. And now he’s a team owner.

Woods and his TGR Ventures and David Blitzer, the investor who has ownership in all four major US sports leagues, were announced Tuesday as owners of Jupiter Links GC, the sixth and final team for the first-of-its-kind golf league that starts in January.

Woods, Rory McIlroy and former Golf Channel president Mike McCarley are founding partners in TMRW Sports, the sports and entertainment company behind TGL.

“Having the opportunity to not only compete, but also own a team to represent Jupiter is an exciting next chapter for me,” Woods said Tuesday.

Woods referred to TGL as a “modern twist of traditional golf” that ultimately will make it more accessible by leaning the glitz of technology. Key to the modernization is playing in SoFi Center in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, an arena that holds some 1,600 spectators.

Teams will go head-to-head for nine holes of alternate shot and six holes of singles, starting off by hitting shots from real turf into a screen 20 times larger than a standard simulator, and then shifting to actual shots from 50 yards or closer to a green complex that can turn 360 degrees to create different angles. They putt on a synthetic surface in which contours can change.

Play starts Jan. 9. The two-hour matches — two teams at a time — will be televised on ESPN on Mondays and/or Tuesday, ending before the Masters. The prize fund is $21 million, with $9 million going to the winning team and players eventually getting equity in the league.

Technology is one thing. Woods also said the two-hour window is key to attracting fans.

“Generally, golf takes about five or six hours to play. In today’s world, with all of our smartphones, it is hard for anybody to go five to six hours without looking at their phones. So the shorter the time, the better it is.”

Three players from the four-man teams compete in each match. Woods hasn’t competed since the Masters because of lingering leg injuries from a February 2021 car crash outside of Los Angeles. But he expects to be front and center for TGL.

“It’s exciting that this group of guys is coming together for a two-hour window and we’re just going to basically hit balls, talk a lot of (trash) and people are going to be gambling on absolutely everything, each and every shot. Every shot there’s going to be a wager.”

McCarley, the CEO of TMRW Sports and TGL, said a gaming partner and international media rights are being negotiated ahead of the January debut. Also to be completed is other team names and branding, along with filling out team rosters.

McIlroy is part of Boston Common, led by Fenway Sports Group, and is joined by New England native Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and Tyrrell Hatton.

The other teams are Atlanta Drive, led by Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons; Los Angeles Golf Club, led by a group fronted by Alexis Ohanian, Serena and Venus Williams and limited partners that include Alex Morgan and Michelle Wie West; New York, led by Steven Cohen of the New York Mets; and San Francisco, led by Avenue Sports Fund with private equity executive Marc Lasry and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

Blitzer adds to the roster of high-end investors for the six teams.

He is the first person to hold equity in five North American sports teams — co-managing partner of the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) and New Jersey Devils (NHL), along with owning a 25 percent stake in the Cleveland Guardians (MLB) and a minority stake in the Washington Commanders (NFL). He also is a stakeholder in Real Salt Lake (MLS), along with being general partner in Crystal Palace FC in the Premier League.

Blitzer is a self-described sports fanatic, though he once was quoted as saying he would “never make an investment just for the fun side of the equation.”

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to believe there’s a return, that the investment makes a lot of sense. The fun comes along with it,” Blitzer said Tuesday.

“The idea of really creating the next evolution of professional golf rang really clearly to me,” he said. “And when I think about what’s happening today in technology, and the innovations they’re bringing here ... I was sold very quickly.”

The concept of team play — outside of the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup — was introduced last year by Saudi-funded LIV Golf and its 12 teams. Woods believes TGL will be easier to follow in part because there is only a team competition, and because some players will have a connection to the city, such as Collin Morikawa with Los Angeles and Bradley in Boston.

“Some of the stuff I’ve seen in LIV ... I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on,” Woods said. “Here it’s very simple.”

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