PGA-LIV merger explained: Everything to know about the Golf deal
The golfing world has peace…sort of. There will not be competing tours in 2024, but until then all bets are off. Here is everything you need to know about the LIV-PGA Tour deal.
Before all eyes turn to Los Angeles for the U.S. Open, the eyes of the golfing world have been focused on Saudi Arabia, Toronto (where the Canadian Open was being contested), and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where the PGA Tour is headquartered.
That headquarters is where PGA Tour chief Jay Monahan had been doing the deal some thought would never get done, reaching a merger agreement with the LIV Tour, run by Greg Norman and the Saudi Public Investment Fund, and the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Golf Tour.
Details are still emerging, but these three entities are going to be unified by the time next year’s golf season rolls around, whether everyone is happy about it or not. And the golfers who pledged loyalty to the PGA Tour and turned down the guaranteed millions that so many of their former colleagues took are among those who are most upset, especially because most of them learned of the news on television or via Twitter.
Why is LIV Golf merging with PGA Tour?
Basically, this merger is happening because a majority of the world’s best golfers had left the PGA to join the LIV Tour, but the LIV tour wasn’t drawing flies in terms of TV ratings, while the PGA Tour was missing so many of the big names that feed its popularity and help induce the big television networks to pony up big bucks for broadcasting rights.
Golf is a gentleman’s game, but there was nothing gentlemanly about the back-and-forth that had been taking place for two years, with the Saudis being accused of sportswashing and the LIV Tour struggling to draw coverage. It eventually reached a deal with the CW network that drew the type of low ratings that only CNN can empathize with. It was a big mess, to put it mildly, and making peace made more sense than perpetuating what had been taking place. Doing it in almost complete silence stunned the entire sporting world, but that is how deals get done among the folks who roll in the golfing world.
Ever been to a posh country club? A look inside will tell you that those folks operate on a different level than the rest of us hoi polloi.
PGA vs LIV Golf controversy
We covered this in significant depth here on the Betway blog prior to the Masters when we correctly picked Jon Rahm to win the season’s first major, so go ahead and click through for more of the details.
In a nutshell, most of the world’s top golfers were recruited to play on the LIV Tour that Norman was running, and a significant number of them did. They joined a tour that held 54-hole competitions with no cut, meaning everyone who entered got paid, even the guy who finished last.
The PGA Tour does not work that way. It has 36-hole cuts in its 72-hole tournaments, so the enticement of a guaranteed payday each and every week was a successful inducement to join the LIV Tour. But toiling in virtual anonymity with very little television or print coverage was hurting the LIV Tour, and the reduction in recognizable names was doing damage to the PGA.
In a way, it was just bad all around, which necessitated the merger and the so-called peace treaty.
What are some of the details of the deal?
The PGA Tour will still be called the PGA Tour, but now Commissioner Jay Monahan also oversees LIV Golf, and the PGA Tour remains a partner of the DP World Golf Tour. Monahan has told PIF (Public Investment Fund) Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan that they will evaluate LIV at the end of the year. If Monahan wants to disband LIV, he can. If LIV golfers want to play on the PGA Tour, Monahan and the current PGA Tour leaders have to approve the terms. It is presumed that penalties to return to the Tour will be significant. PIF is not actually contributing anything directly to the PGA Tour or its players. PIF will instead get “right of first refusal” to be the Tour’s investment partner, through a new company the Tour is creating. PIF has not promised a single dollar in investments, and the Tour has not promised the Saudis anything other than that right of first refusal: no guarantee of tournament sites or sponsorships or anything else. It is presumed, however, that the Saudis will want to be as involved financially as they can be.
How did this deal come about?
According to USA Today, PGA Tour policy board member Jimmy Dunne “reached out” to Al-Rumayyan in April via WhatsApp. Dunne said he “thought it made sense to understand who he was and what he was trying to do, and what his view was for the game of golf.” And then Dunne “went to meet him.” On Thursday, Dunne said that he was “cognizant of how the deal would be perceived, including by PGA Tour players,” but his primary focus was "trying to do something that would benefit the game of golf." The fact that Dunne “made the initial reachout to the PIF” came as a “surprise to many,” given the personal tragedy he experienced on Sept. 11, 2001. Dunne’s firm, Piper Sandler, was based in offices of the World Trade Center's south tower, and 66 of his coworkers died in the terrorist attack that day. When asked about what he would say to people who are “having trouble squaring his involvement in the deal and his experience on 9/11,” Dunne said that he believes golf is "a force for good."
What will the PGA Tour calendar look like in 2024?
Great question. Not a lot of clear answers just yet, including the relational details of the new company, how the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour will all interact, how much money the PIF will be investing in the new business, and who fills out the seats on the new board. Not to mention questions such as: “Will the PIF require multiple Tour events be played in Saudi Arabia? Who gets to decide whether that happens?” As more information emerges, nobody has answers for any of these questions.” What that likely means is that “everything is still taking shape behind the scenes.”
Any hard feelings among the golfers?
Um, yeah. And those will probably not go away very easily. Rory McIlroy’s “declaration that there had to be ‘consequences’” for those LIV Golf players who return to the PGA Tour touches on one of the “great unknowns” of the deal. Whether “fines, suspensions or community service, whitewashing fences and reputations is the answer,” McIlroy’s words showed the “level of simmering anger in some quarters.” Even if the merger “gets past boards and the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust arm,” PGA Tour member Justin Rose thinks that it will be “difficult to re-assimilate LIV players.” Following his opening round at the RBC Canadian Open, Rose said: “The headline seems like it’s just going to be this very smooth transition and ‘come on back, boys, it’s all done now’, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’d probably be more concerned if I was on LIV right now than the PGA Tour.” Rose added that he did not think LIV players would be “outcasts forever” but said that “a harmonious world of golf” was not “going to happen overnight.”
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