BROKEN ARROW — This is what I’ve noticed about the LIV Tulsa detractors with whom I’ve corresponded over the last few days: they didn’t actually attend any of the LIV Tulsa rounds at Cedar Ridge Country Club.
They didn’t feel and hear the energy of an event that in a general sense was a lot better than I expected.
To be honest, I expected to leave the course each day with this thought: “It’s OK to be different, but some of this feels really forced. They’re trying too hard.”
No one loves music more than I, but I felt like the almost constant LIV music would be distracting. Scattered across the Cedar Ridge property were 160 high-quality speakers.
I was so wrong. Nothing about LIV Tulsa was cringe-worthy. I loved the 54-hole format, the shotgun start during the noon hour, the 12 four-man teams and the Club 54, Birdie Shack and Gallery Club hospitality venues.
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The on-course music never was annoying. On Friday, the large patch of grass near the Cedar Ridge entrance was anchored by a concert stage and transformed into a perfectly sized theater for the Lainey Wilson performance.
At least 5,000 spectators stayed for the show, which began 15 minutes after golf concluded.
When I refer to LIV detractors, I’m not specifying those who object to the new league because of its relationship with Saudi Arabian financial supporters. I respect any and all positions on that layer of the LIV Golf story.
I’m referring to the detractors who dislike LIV because of its radically different format and because it recruited stars like Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka away from the PGA Tour.
I don’t disagree with anyone who has a problem with LIV’s connection to the Saudis, and I didn’t disagree with Cedar Ridge’s decision to host a 54-hole LIV tournament that concluded in the best possible way: with a Johnson playoff birdie, giving him the individual victory over Smith and Branden Grace.
On Sunday, several thousand spectators were jammed around the 18th green for the playoff. As a backdrop, there was the filled-to-capacity Club 54.
What a visual. It was a big-league moment for Cedar Ridge and the Tulsa sports market.
The number of young patrons was astonishing, and by young I mean ages 15 through 30. Many young couples brought toddlers who found their own brand of entertainment in the LIV Fan Village.
I’m guessing that a significant percentage of the LIV Tulsa patrons had never before attended a professional golf event, and yet I witnessed very few glaring violations of traditional tournament etiquette.
The bottom-line facts and figures were impressive. Tournament officials told the Tulsa World that LIV Tulsa “officially” was the best-attended of the eight LIV events to have been conducted in the U.S. It is estimated that LIV Tulsa’s three-day attendance total was slightly beyond 40,000.
Vision Sights, a sports-and-entertainment research firm, crunched this statistic on Sunday night: that LIV’s economic impact on the Tulsa market amounted to $29.9 million.
More stats: 59% of the ticket-buyers were no older than 45, 20% of the tickets were sold to women, and 18% of the ticket-buyers hail from Texas.
Golf stats: The Cedar Ridge tournament scoring record of 61 was matched by Grace on Friday and by Harold Varner III and Smith on Sunday.
Exhausted but happy tournament director Frank Billings: “The golf was great and we’re very pleased with the attendance. We were pretty lucky with the weather. It was a very good weekend for Cedar Ridge.”
In a statement released by LIV Golf, CEO Greg Norman was quoted as having said, “It’s clear that LIV’s commitment to relationships with local partners like Tulsa has built a strong foundation for the future.”
The most frequently asked questions on Sunday: Will LIV return to Broken Arrow? Do Cedar Ridge members want a LIV return to Broken Arrow?
It’ll be several weeks before that is determined, but by Sunday night it was clear that the LIV and Cedar Ridge were on the same level of satisfaction.
Whether there’s a Cedar Ridge-hosted LIV Tulsa 2024 depends in part on the result of an upcoming survey of the club’s members. They’ll be asked to vote yes or no on whether to build a new clubhouse. If the answer is yes, Cedar Ridge would not have the ability to host in 2024.
If Cedar Ridge can’t host next year, then perhaps LIV Golf would attempt to play elsewhere in Tulsa County or in the Oklahoma City area.
Billings presented two hypotheticals on Monday: Instead of Cedar Ridge having an every-year relationship with LIV, what if there were a two- or three-city rotation? For instance: Tulsa, Kansas City and Omaha.
Also: What if Cedar Ridge were to host LIV again, but two weeks later into the May calendar or in early June?
“Our course would be in better condition,” Billings explained. “Even from last Monday through the end of the tournament, you could see the difference in the appearance of the golf course.”
The Cedar Ridge course reopens to member play this week. The complete tear-down of the LIV production will take several weeks. After the 2022 PGA Championship, Southern Hills needed several months for the full restoration of normalcy.
My “LIV Tulsa was better than expected” position isn’t unique. A lot of people seem to feel that way, and keep in mind that LIV isn’t finished with its attempts to take big-name players away from the PGA Tour. The 2024 LIV roster could be more star-studded than the 2023 roster.
At the end of the long and memorable week in Broken Arrow, my primary takeaway was this: I’m hoping to cover more majors at Southern Hills, and I’m hoping to cover more LIV tournaments at Cedar Ridge.