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Las Vegas’ Netflix Cup combines F1 with golf: Who’s playing and how it works

LAS VEGAS — “You have two opposite sides of the spectrum of sports, right?” said double major winner Collin Morikawa. “But we’re joining together.”
Netflix decided to be bold with its first live sporting event by merging the slowest sport (golf) with arguably the fastest (Formula One), featuring a crossover with two of its major sports docuseries, ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ and ‘Full Swing.’ On Tuesday, four PGA Tour golfers and four Formula One drivers are teaming up to compete in the Netflix Cup, an eight-hole match (with a few surprises) at Wynn Golf Club at Wynn Las Vegas, ahead of this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.
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It won’t be every athlete for himself, but rather four teams of two: Pierre Gasly and Morikawa; Lando Norris and Ricky Fowler; Carlos Sainz and Justin Thomas; and Alex Albon and Max Homa.
Norris & Fowler
Sainz & Thomas
Gasly & Morikawa
Albon & Homa It’s a match made on the green. ⛳️ Tune in to The Netflix Cup on Tuesday, November 14 LIVE at 3pm PT from the Wynn Las Vegas! pic.twitter.com/IsKrMAkADb — Netflix (@netflix) November 9, 2023
“It’s not going to be your typical slower speed of what golf has to offer,” Morikawa told The Athletic. Here’s what you need to know about the Netflix Cup.
A new approach
The Netflix Cup is effectively an exhibition match. “There’s no points on the PGA Tour schedule,” said Chris Wandell, the vice president of media business development for the PGA Tour “It’s really kind of a fun showcase of some of these guys’ personality and talent, just like ‘Full Swing.’”
It’s become fairly obvious that there’s a strong interest in golf within the F1 paddock, and given F1’s interest in expanding the sport’s footprint, this Netflix opportunity seemed like a no brainer.
“One of the things that ‘Drive to Survive’ has taught us (is that) people are interested in people — people’s stories, who are these people? And in Formula One terms, you have to think about it in the context of the majority of the time in the past at least when you saw them, they’re sat in a car with the sides up to here and they got a helmet on,” said Ian Holmes, F1’s director of media rights. “You might have seen them briefly on the grid, you might have seen the top three on the podium, but you rarely saw them out of the car and interacting with one another.
“What ‘Drive to Survive’ has done is given us and given the fans, especially new fans, a better understanding of who these people are. We see the Netflix Cup is just an extension of that.”
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The players
Gabe Spitzer, Netflix’s vice president of nonfiction sports, said the athlete selection was “a natural evolution.” The golfers — who are participating with PGA Tour permission — didn’t need to be F1 fans; however, the drivers selected needed to not only know how to play the game but also be excited about golf. And as for the PGA Tour players competing, it was an extension of the ‘Full Swing’ personalities.
Morikawa stumbled upon F1 during the COVID-19 pandemic and began watching ‘Drive to Survive.’ The sport intrigued him, but given golf’s long schedule, he could never attend a race — until Las Vegas. “I was never going to miss this race, really for anything,” he said.
Morikawa started as a Lewis Hamilton fan but started rooting for Norris after getting to know McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown. He is paired with Alpine’s Gasly for the Netflix Cup, and is looking forward to getting to know the Frenchman.
“These guys all have something in them that just drives them to be the best. Even if they know maybe their cars are going to perform for the day or for the week as how they want, they do what they can to make it work,” he said. “And I think that just shows to their grit, that shows their adaptation of what they’re given.”
Spitzer acknowledges the time commitment is a big ask of Sainz, Norris, Albon and Gasly. It is Las Vegas GP week, a race with a new temporary circuit, a Saturday 10 p.m. PT start time and colder temperatures. And at the end of the day, it’s about having fun — and the competition.
“I just hope (Gasly) shows up, and he knows that this is probably the biggest match of my year,” Morikawa said. “I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, whoever comes out on top, he’s gonna have a lot of bragging rights.”
The format
“We want to make sure we’re serving a core golf audience, and it’s going to feel like golf,” Spitzer said. “But there’s going to be some really entertaining elements to along the way and some special holes.”
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Not only will the event be played in teams, but there will also be different matches happening. Match 1 will be Norris and Fowler versus Sainz and Thomas, while Gasly and Morikawa take on Albon and Homa in Match 2.
The event will be a scramble, in which both teammates tee off, pick which of their landing spots they prefer, and both play from there, repeating the process until they’ve both put it in the hole. This forgiving format means if one player shanks it and loses their ball, it’s no sweat — as long as their partner doesn’t do the same.
After the first two matches, the winning teams will face off on a playoff hole.
How to watch
Fans may be a tad apprehensive about whether Netflix can pull off a live sporting event, and it is understandable why.
Chris Rock’s live comedy show went on without a technical hitch, but Netflix’s attempt at a ‘Love Is Blind’ live reunion show became a disappointment. Millions of viewers tuned in for the reality TV show, only for the broadcast to be delayed for more than 90 minutes before it was scrapped and became a taped episode. Considering the global fandoms both the PGA Tour and F1 bring to the table, it’s fair to wonder if there are concerns about the Netflix Cup. But none of the three parties are concerned about the possibility of a ‘Love Is Blind’ part II.
“Netflix (has) maintained a fairly consistent position where they’re not interested in buying live sports rights. Who knows? But I think for us, yeah, it’s an interesting toe in the water,” Holmes said. “Everyone at various points have had streaming issues. (The) F1TV product was a bit problematic in its first few years, but (it’s) reassuring to see that Amazon has had issues from time to time.”
F1 is looking at it more from a curiosity standpoint than viewing it as a risk, and the PGA Tour didn’t have any concerns, Wandell said.
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“My guess is that (Netflix has) learned a ton from a technical perspective on what happened with the ‘Love Is Blind’ reunion. They’re a gigantic company with a ton of resources, and our hope and belief is that it’s going to run pretty flawlessly. Getting the product streaming live is one thing but like actually making the event a success and interesting for fans is another so we’re definitely paying attention.”
Time: 3 p.m. PT/ 6 p.m. ET / 11 p.m. in the UK
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 14
Livestream: Fans can watch the event live on Netflix, but if you miss it, never fear. The streaming giant plans to make the broadcast available after the event.
(Lead photo of Lando Norris playing golf: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

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