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“A new era”: What does the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger mean for the sport?

After the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf shocked the sporting world by agreeing to join forces, attention turns to the details of the announcement and what happens next.

7 June 2023 PA

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The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf have agreed a shock merger to provide a “new era in global golf,” according to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

The stunning announcement came after a year of unprecedented disruption in the men’s professional game following the launch of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what has been announced and what will happen next.

What has been announced?

The US-based PGA Tour, Europe’s DP World Tour and LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), have signed an agreement which combines PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity.

PIF will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity and has the right of first refusal on any capital to be invested. The PGA Tour will appoint a majority of the board and hold a majority voting interest, with PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan (pictured above, right) the chairman and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan the chief executive.

What does this mean going forward?

The deal will lead to a ‘mutually-agreed’ end to all pending litigation between the various organisations. In April, the DP World Tour won its legal battle against 12 LIV players who committed ‘serious breaches’ of the tour’s code of behaviour by playing in LIV Golf events without permission, but an anti-trust suit against the PGA Tour was ongoing.

In a memo to players, Monahan said the 2023 LIV schedule would continue as planned while a ‘comprehensive evaluation’ of how best to integrate team golf into the professional game takes place. 

What about the players?

The increased fines and suspensions that the DP World Tour was able to impose after the arbitration verdict prompted Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson to resign their memberships and become ineligible for the Ryder Cup, Stenson standing down as Europe’s captain.

Those players could now return to the fold, with the tours pledging to establish a ‘fair and objective process’ for players to re-apply for membership, although Monahan admits it will be a “complicated endeavour” and it will not be until after the end of this season.

Asked if the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy would be compensated for turning down lucrative offers to remain with the PGA Tour, or whether those who took payouts to join LIV Golf would have to pay that money back, Monahan said: “I think those are all the serious conversations that we’re going to have.

“Ultimately everything needs to be considered. Ultimately what you’re talking about is an equalisation over time and I think that’s a fair and reasonable concept.”

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have been two of the biggest supporters of the PGA Tour but were kept in the dark about Tuesday’s announcement

What else has the PGA Tour said?

PGA Tour commissioner Monahan accepted that he will be labelled a hypocrite and admitted players who turned down millions to join LIV Golf could be compensated following the shock declaration of peace in golf’s civil war.

Monahan faced calls to resign at a players’ meeting which he described as “intense and certainly heated”, with his previous comments that anyone who took LIV money would never play on the PGA Tour again cited and greeted with applause, according to Tour Advisory Council member Johnson Wagner.

“I recognise that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” Monahan said.

“Any time I’ve said anything I’ve said it with the information I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that’s trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players.

“I accept those criticisms but circumstances do change and I think looking at the big picture got us to this point.

“It probably didn’t seem this way to them but as I looked to those players that have been loyal to the PGA Tour, I’m confident they made the right decision.

“They have helped re-architect the future of the PGA Tour, they have moved us to a more competitive model. We have significantly invested in our business in 2023, we’re going to do so in ’24.”

What has the reaction been?

Unsurprisingly Phil Mickelson, who took a break from the game in the wake of his explosive comments about the Saudis and their “horrible record on human rights” before LIV Golf was launched, was in celebratory mood, writing on Twitter: “Awesome day today”. However the news went down less well with some of his fellow professionals, who appeared blindsided by the announcement.

Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa wrote on social media: ‘I love finding out morning news on Twitter.’

Former BMW PGA Championship winner Ben An wrote on Twitter: ‘I’m guessing the LIV teams were struggling to get sponsors and PGA Tour couldn’t turn down the money. Win-win for both tours but it’s a big lose for who defended the tour for last two years.’

One American player, Wesley Bryan, replied to the PGA Tour tweet confirming the merger by writing: ‘Love finding out info on Twitter. This is amazing. Y’all should be ashamed and have a lot of questions to answer.

‘I feel betrayed, and will not not be able to trust anyone within the corporate structure of the PGA Tour for a very long time.’

McIlroy, who alongside Woods has been one of the biggest supporters of the PGA Tour in its battle with LIV Golf, is set to address the media on 7th June for the first time since the announcement.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, expressed concern at what it saw as a further attempt by Saudi Arabia to launder its human rights record through the vehicle of sport.

“While this may have taken some golf fans and commentators by surprise, it’s really just more evidence of the onward march of Saudi sportswashing,” Amnesty UK’s Felix Jakens said.

“It’s been clear for some time that Saudi Arabia was prepared to use vast amounts of money to muscle its way into top-tier golf – just part of a wider effort to become a major sporting power and to try to distract attention from the country’s atrocious human rights record.”

And the 9/11 Families United group said it was ‘shocked and deeply offended’ by the merger.

‘Saudi operatives played a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and now it is bankrolling all of professional golf,’ the group said in a statement.

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