What is golf’s International Series and how are LIV involved?

Third season of Saudi-backed event kicked off in Muscat on Thursday

Charl Schwartzel is among those competing at the International Series Oman. EPA
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The International Series Oman got underway in Muscat on Thursday with a field including the likes of former major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

It is the first event of the third season of a concept which has the backing of, and the incentive to join, LIV Golf.

What is it?

In many ways, it is to the Asian Tour what the Rolex Series is to the DP World Tour. It is a series of 10 events marked as more prestigious because of elevated prize funds.

Each of the tournaments has a minimum purse of $2 million, an investment backed by LIV.

How does it work?

It also has vague similarities to the Race to Dubai, with the order of merit being decided after a season-ending finale.

On the European version, that climax this season is via tournaments on back-to-back weeks in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

On the International Series, a restricted field of leading players will compete in the PIF Saudi International, which is expected to have a prize fund in the region of $5 million.

What is the prize?

The player who tops the International Series money list gets direct entry to the LIV Golf tour next season. Scott Vincent won the first season of the series, then retained his place with LIV last season.

The next group of 30 players on the list are also entered into a tournament played in Abu Dhabi by which they also play for qualification for LIV.

Three players were promoted from that last season, with the number of qualifying berths for this season as yet unspecified.

Who is playing?

The 144-player field for the opening event in Oman includes 21 LIV Golf players. Most notable among them are the former Open winner Oosthuizen, Masters winner Schwartzel, and Chilean star Joaquin Niemann.

Niemann received a fillip this week when he was one of three players - Ryo Hisatsune and Thorbjorn Olesen were the others - granted a special invitation to play in the Masters in April.

It is a rare opportunity for a LIV player. Entry to the majors is tricky for them seeing as LIV Golf tournaments do not receive world ranking points.

Who benefits?

The Muscat tournament includes players from Saudi and Oman, as well as Joshua Grenville-Wood, an English-born golfer who now represents the UAE.

“Let’s not rule out how important the region is to us,” said Rahul Singh, the head of the International Series.

“It is going to be interesting to see how the young local players do. The International Series is an open, merit-based player pathway into LIV.

“We would love to see one of them do well coming through the series, make some money, get a couple more starts, and just get an opportunity.”

Where does it go?

Seven tournaments are in the diary for the series so far for this season, with three more yet to be announced.

It starts and ends in the Middle East, with Oman and Saudi providing the book ends. It heads to Macau next, with tournaments also confirmed in Morocco, Indonesia, Qatar and Hong Kong.

Organisers are planning an expansion in future seasons, with possible destinations in North America and Latin America.

Where is Greg?

Coincidentally, the stunning Al Mouj course in Muscat was designed by Greg Norman, the former major champion from Australia who has been a controversial figurehead for LIV.

But don’t read too much into that. The Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, which has hosted the finale to the DP World Tour for years, is another of his layouts.

Updated: February 22, 2024, 8:44 AM