LIV and Let Die by Alan Shipnuck (Book Review)

This week, the latest book by Phil author Alan Shipnuck, LIV and Let Die hit bookstores. The sure-fire bestseller provides an inside look at the two-year battle between the upstart LIV golf tour and the PGA Tour.

In my review, I’ll share my thoughts on the much-heralded book and share a few revelations from Shipnuck’s reporting.

What is LIV and Let Die about?

In his provocative new book LIV and Let Die, acclaimed golf journalist Alan Shipnuck provides an unprecedented inside look at the controversial upstart LIV Golf tour that has fractured the world of professional golf.

With his trademark access and insights, Shipnuck chronicles the Saudi-backed LIV Golf’s dramatic origins, key power players, and potential to disrupt the PGA Tour’s status quo. 

In gripping detail, Shipnuck profiles LIV Golf’s architect Greg Norman and his collection of major champions lured by huge money offers to join the breakaway league.

Along the way, Shipnuck questions Saudi motivation and exposes the breathless hypocrisy of golfers who once condemned the regime’s abuses. 

While critical of LIV’s gimmicky format, Shipnuck argues it has forced a reckoning in golf’s power structure.

Well-sourced and thoughtfully written, LIV and Let Die presents a nuanced narrative around the battle for golf’s soul between the PGA Tour establishment and disruptive Saudi-funded LIV Golf. 

Shipnuck’s stellar reporting and insights make this the definitive book on the most pressing issue in golf today.

5 Revelations in LIV and Let Die

1. Golf Saudi Attempted to Work With PGA Tour Before Founding LIV Golf

In light of their possible merger, Shipnuck writes that Golf Saudi, the force behind LIV, attempted to invest in the PGA Tour through a partnership with Jack Nicklaus.

Majed Al-Sorour, the CEO of Golf Saudi, met with Nicklaus, hoping the Golden Bear would act as an intermediary with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

Nicklaus reached out to Monahan after his initial meeting with Al-Sorour and was met with a firm denial by the commissioner on possible interest in a partnership.

Al-Sorour and Saudi Public Investment Fund governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan were insulted at Monahan’s lack of social graces by not taking the meeting.

With the PGA Tour’s denial, Al-Sorour and Al-Rumayyan agreed that the professional golfing world would never partner.

Behind billions of dollars sitting in the PIF accounts, the Saudi duo put together the framework of the LIV Golf tour featuring massive never-before-seen purses and huge up-front signing bonuses for the likes of Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Cam Smith to jump ship from the PGA Tour.

2. Phil Mickelson’s Comments on the Saudis Almost Torpeoed Proposed LIV Tour

For his Phil Mickelson biography, Shipnuck made headlines when the six-time major winner admitted a new Saudi-funded league would be nothing more than “sportswashing” and called the Saudi benefactors “scary” in light of their alleged assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

LIV had been deep into negotiations with Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson for joining their tour, but the Mickelson backlash had caused executives to feel that the tour was DOA.

Al-Rumayyan hosted a call with 30 executives and consultants with ties to LIV and told them to get him “16 golfers,” and they would launch the tour.

3. Tiger Woods Forced R&A to Leave Mickelson Out of Open Winners Dinner

After missing the PGA Championship in Tulsa, Mickelson decided to play in the 150th Open Championship.

The R&A typically hosts a champions dinner for previous winners, but Tiger Woods let the governing body know that if Mickelson attended the dinner, the night would be uncomfortable and take away from the historic event.

The R&A did not invite Mickelson based on Woods’ threat.

4. Brooks Koepka’s LIV Contract Agreement Topped $130 Million

After struggling with injuries and a lack of confidence that the game that won four majors would return, Koepka had a difficult time saying no to LIV’s offer of $130 million to join the Saudi-backed tour.

Koepka’s struggles with all facets of his game, including his putter, were documented on Netflix’s golf documentary Full Swing.

In Shipnuck’s book, he recounts Koepka telling those around him at a LIV party that the PGA golfers who criticized him didn’t know him.

“I just had three surgeries, and I’m supposed to turn down $130 million? I grew up with nothing,” Koepka says in LIV and Let Die in response.

5. Businessman Jimmy Dunne, Close Friend of Rory McIlroy, Brokered the PGA/LIV Partnership

Jimmy Dunne, an influential businessman and insider to the golf world, brokered the LIV/PGA Tour partnership with Al-Rumayyan.

Knowing the PGA Tour was running out of money and couldn’t sustain the financial bleeding, Dunne met with Al-Rumayyan in London.

The two played golf and Al-Rumayyan finally found the partner he was looking for at the beginning of Saudi Golf’s pursuit into professional golf. 

Dunne told Monahan that Al-Rumayyan impressed them and now was the time to make an agreement and end the lawsuits costing well into eight figures for the PGA Tour.

In June 2023, Monahan and Al-Rumayyan went on CNBC and announced that their lawsuits were terminated and they were announcing a new professional golf entity.

Should I read LIV and Let Die?

Yes, I believe this book about the most chaotic two years we’ll ever see in professional golf is well worth your time.

Shipnuck deftly takes the reader through this very complicated story and colors it with stellar, gossipy writing that gets to the heart of the conflict between the PGA Tour and the Norman-led alternative tour.

There’s a sadness that runs through this story if you are a true golf fan. If your hope, like mine, is to turn on the television every weekend and watch the best golfers in the world battle it out, you’ve undoubtedly seen a tale as old as time steal the narrative.

That money, in the end, is all we’re ever chasing.

The LIV/PGA Tour story isn’t over at the conclusion of Shipnuck’s book because there are congressional hearings yet to be held or the very distinct possibility that the agreement between the two leagues will ultimately fall apart in light of the Hamas/Israel conflict and Saudi Arabia’s support of Palestine.

LIV and Let Die: The Inside Story of the War Between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf

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