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In return to Centurion Club where it all began, players reflect on the first year of LIV Golf

There has been no shortage of drama, excitement, storylines and plenty more since LIV Golf made its debut last June at the Centurion Club in London.

Players choosing to stay on the PGA Tour or go to LIV Golf. Some taking jabs at each other, back and forth. Numerous legal battles. Seemingly every day, there was something newsworthy related to LIV Golf and its attempt to push itself into the golf ecosystem.

This week, LIV Golf returned to Centurion Club, where 2023 LIV Golf London begins Friday. It’s the return to the place where LIV Golf began, and it’s the first time LIV has played a course twice.

Last season, it was the first of eight events. This year, it’s the ninth of 14. Although the future of LIV Golf is in the air since the announcement of the agreement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the financial backer of LIV, players and executives are marching forward as if the circuit will continue.

Only time will tell.

There are 23 golfers in the field this week who participated in the first LIV event last year. Some of those players and others reflected on the first year of LIV Golf ahead of kicking off Friday’s event in London. Here’s what they had to say.

Charl Schwartzel (winner of 2022 LIV Golf London)

In case you forgot, the first LIV winner was a Masters champion.

“Last year at this time, there was a lot of uncertainty. We were getting a bit of scrutiny.

“But here we are a year later, and it seems like there’s a lot of positives for the future. Wherever we’ve gone in the last year, it seems like every event has gone really successful, and it looks like there’s a lot more — people are looking for more tournaments, more local tournaments going forward, so it seems like it’s very positive. “

After winning last year: “I didn’t really know how to shake that champagne bottle. I had never really done that so that was new to try to figure that out. It was just new to golf. We’d never seen that. You see that in Formula 1 where they get podium finishes, and all of a sudden this is what LIV Golf has done.

“It’s exciting just to be a part of something new.”

Charl Schwartzel celebrates with the trophy during the podium ceremony at the LIV Golf event at The Centurion Club north of London, on June 11, 2022. (Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP)

Charl Schwartzel celebrates with the trophy during the podium ceremony at the LIV Golf event at The Centurion Club north of London, on June 11, 2022. (Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP)

Bubba Watson

“It’s great. I mean, he asked a question earlier, somebody over here, if I would change the year, I would have signed up earlier, but I had surgery so this tournament last year I got to watch from my bed. I had knee surgery. My son was with me, and that’s what took me over the edge of wanting to join is because of the team atmosphere.

“But when you look back at the hostility, yeah, it’s sad that we were in that — that we had those problems, name calling. Everybody is trying to do a job. If you all change over news stations, nobody yells at you for changing over news. It’s the same news but different station.

“It’s been a fun year. Hopefully, we can get behind it and the game of golf grows and we do some great things. Another $3 billion to charities puts the PGA Tour at $6 billion would be a good thing for the game of golf.

“That’s the whole goal of all these tournaments is to grow the game, and when we say grow the game, get more people to play golf, even if it doesn’t matter what the age is. It’s the whole thing.

“All the name-calling and yelling is just sad. A year later now everybody is friends again.”

2023 LIV Golf Andalucia

Bubba Watson of RangeGoats GC looks after playing his tee shot on the 7th hole during day one of LIV Golf – AndalucÌa at Real Club Valderrama on June 30, 2023 in Cadiz, Spain. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell

“It’s been a pretty crazy 12 months in the world of golf. There was obviously a huge amount of trepidation this time last year when we were standing here at Centurion with a startup company, not knowing where it was going to go.

“Obviously mixed reactions from the golfing world, you could say.

“But I think 12 months in, I think the 48 players that are involved right now, there’s a huge amount of belief in the product. There’s a huge amount of momentum. There’s been so much good stuff happen this year from a tournament point of view. Fans are getting it now. They see the potential of what we have out here.

“The team stuff was probably the biggest thing that kind of took me by surprise last year was how compelling the team environment was, how many guys were into that stuff, and it’s been a lot of fun.

“We’ve got a bunch of great guys out here that are certainly great brotherhood that have been forged together through some tough times the last 12 months, what we’ve all been through.

“But like I say, momentum and LIV and the product and the fan base getting engaged, taking it down to Australia to Cam’s part of the world and the kind of reception we got there was pretty epic. It really showed what was possible, what the potential is if we go to markets that really want to see us.

“Excited to see the crowd here in London this week and see how much that’s changed from last year as people really get into the product and really see where it fits into the world of golf.”

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Cameron Smith

“I really can’t see LIV Golf going away. I think team golf is here to stay, and if you asked every one of us out here, all the 48 guys, I think everyone has such a good time and everyone enjoys what they’re doing out here, they love the competition, and like Graeme said, that team element really brings three or four guys really close that perhaps weren’t before.

“It’s good to see. It’s unique. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”

2023 LIV Golf Andalucia

Cameron Smith of Ripper GC plays his second shot on the 7th hole during day two of LIV Golf – Andalucia at Real Club Valderrama on July 1, 2023 in Cadiz, Spain. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Ian Poulter

“I guess 12 months in, 15 events, the golf landscape has changed a lot in that period of time. I think we as team Majesticks feel pretty happy what we’ve been able to achieve in that short space of time.

“I think what LIV has been able to achieve in that window has been very impressive. So huge kudos to everybody that’s worked as hard as they’ve worked collectively to have this product out there for the fans, which I think is groundbreaking in a way.

“I think we offer something a little different, different being good, and I’m pretty excited about where it’s going.

“I’m not here to talk about the political side of things. I’m here to go out there and play some good golf and deliver a great LIV product, deliver a good Majesticks product and give something out there to the fans.”

2023 LIV Golf Andalucia

Ian Poulter of Majesticks GC looks after playing his tee shot on the 8th hole during day two of LIV Golf – Andalucia at Real Club Valderrama on July 1, 2023 in Cadiz, Spain. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Louis Oosthuizen

“Going into this last year, we were excited but we were also very nervous, excited about being part of something different, being part of a team, having friends on your team. But it was a fairy-tale start, like Branden (Grace) said, with us winning and then every week just got better and better, and here we are a year later.

“I think it’s even going to grow from here. We’re going to get more events and play great courses going forward. It’s so much fun to be part of all of this.

“It was sort of a decision each of us had to make. I was at ease with — I played a lot of major golf in my career, and I was very hopeful that I would still be able to play the Open, and what I’ve heard from people high up saying they’re pretty sure I ‘ll be able to play an Open still going forward, so I was at ease with my decision and going forward.

“I’m just glad to see that it’s finally sort of coming to just go back to golf again and that the fighting can stop and that everyone just does their thing.

“To be part of something new, and I’ve had a good career in golf, and I was sort of on my final stages there on the PGA Tour, was thinking about maybe even stopping after 2021, and then this opportunity came that was completely dint than what I’m used to, being part of a team aspect, and knowing that I’m going to have these two that’s good friends of mine in the team was an opportunity I didn’t want to let go, and I thought, why not.

“But yeah, I think all of us standing here are very happy with what we’ve decided, and we’re just excited for the future.”

LIV Golf Tucson

Louis Oosthuizen walks up to the 18th green during the second round of LIV Golf Tucson at The Gallery Golf Club. (Photo: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports)

Lee Westwood

“I think it’s good that everyone is sitting down now and trying to work together. I see LIV getting stronger and stronger from what I’ve been told from people who actually know rather than speculate and from people who don’t have all the facts.

“With regards to Greg (Norman), he’s the commissioner of this tour. I’ve always had a great relationship with Greg. I always take people as I find them, and he’s always been great to me. He’s stuck by his word with regard to LIV and where it’s going and never kept us in the dark, always informed us of anything that’s going to happen.

“I’m delighted with the way Greg has handled all this and the way he’s conveyed everything to me. I can’t speak for the other guys, but no complaints.”

Lee Westwood of team Majestics smiles after throwing a ball into the crowd on the twelfth hole during the first round of LIV Golf Adelaide golf tournament at Grange Golf Club.  Mandatory Credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Lee Westwood of team Majestics smiles after throwing a ball into the crowd on the twelfth hole during the first round of LIV Golf Adelaide golf tournament at Grange Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Henrik Stenson

“Yeah, I was in Sweden at the time playing an event there, and yeah, of course it was the first event at LIV and I was following and seeing how the guys were getting on. Yeah, I do recall 18 being a bit turbulent and difficult at times. Now I’m here. It’s the first time for me to see the golf course today. I’m going to go out and play nine today and we’ve got nine in the pro-am tomorrow, so I’ve got some catching up to do in learning the golf course and trying to figure that part out.

“I did watch from a distance, and now we’re here getting ready.”

2023 LIV Golf Singapore

Co-Captain Henrik Stenson of Majesticks GC hits his shot from the 11th tee during the practice round ahead of LIV Golf Singapore at the Sentosa Golf Club on Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2023 in Sentosa, Singapore. (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf)

Brandon Grace

“Last year this time was a little nerve-racking. We didn’t know what was going on, what to expect, and look at where we are now. Everything has gotten bigger and better as the weeks progressed.

“Obviously the way we started last year was like a fairy-tale start, getting one-two-three on the podium and the team win, as well. It’s just amazing how things have progressed, how happy we are, how we’re enjoying golf, how we’re enjoying the environment, and it’s great to be here.”

LIV Golf Portland

LIV Golf Portland

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek