Merger of the PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and the DP World Tour: ‘The arrangement delivers peace today, but trouble lurks ahead’
The idea of the major golf tours amicably collaborating with the breakaway LIV circuit was so far-fetched that reading the email felt like reading an April Fools’ Day parody.
Following extraordinary squabbles, mudslinging, lawsuits, and shattered friendships, the PGA and DP World Tours agreed that they would be better off working with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF).
It’s a remarkable 180-degree turn, but there are billions of reasons behind it. Many observers believe the Kingdom has now purchased men’s professional golf.
Critics of its human rights record see the agreement as yet another sleazy extension of sportswashing.
This is a commercial agreement that brings the tours under the same umbrella as LIV, which shook up the men’s game like never before a year ago. They will work together to maximize revenues.
The tours will carry on as planned in 2023, but the new commercial reality implies that subsequent schedules will be drastically altered. While warring factions have reached an agreement, there will still be plenty of volatility ahead.
Many players are enraged after refusing rich offers to join LIV while remaining loyal to the established circuits. What Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy think of this, as the faces of the PGA Tour’s battle with LIV Golf’s boss Greg Norman and co, will be fascinating.
Another remarkable aspect of this remarkable event is that neither figure was aware of the transaction being negotiated.
It took seven weeks, according to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, and just a small group of officials were involved. “There were four in-person meetings, as well as a number of video calls and phone conversations,” Monahan explained.
“When you get into these conversations, and given the complexity of what we were dealing with, it’s not uncommon that the circle of information is very tight.”
PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan will chair the new company, with Monahan as CEO and an executive committee that includes PGA Tour policy board chairman Ed Herlihy and board member Jimmy Dunne.
Herlihy and Dunne, according to Monahan, were involved in the first efforts to arrange the purchase. Monahan was sharing a television studio sofa with his new business partner Al-Rumayyan less than two months later.
Given his criticism of the Saudi dictatorship when LIV was considered as a hostile “existential threat” to the US circuit, the PGA Tour commissioner’s shift is surprising.
“I recognize everything I’ve said in previous roles,” Monahan said. “I recognize that many will call me a hypocrite. “Everything I said was based on the information I had at the time.”
He must now persuade his players and plan a future that includes the DP World Tour, which must postpone its plans to unveil a redesigned 2024 schedule.
Nobody knows how it will play out across the golfing world right now. The competing interests of the three circuits involved must be addressed in some way, and the European tour would be wise not to feel further marginalized.
It has no board participation in the new corporation, though CEO Keith Pelley is sure that will change.
Monahan recognized the potential of team golf, which is central to the LIV idea. It hopes that its lineups will attract billionaire investment in the same way that cricket’s Indian Premier League has.
With peace declared, potential interchangeability between circuits, and larger media deals, the LIV team concept might become much more appealing.
It is also beneficial to all parties that legal procedures against each other have ended. The discovery procedure was not appealing to LIV, and the expense ramifications for the PGA Tour were enormous.
The agreement may help relieve pressure on the Ryder Cup. It will very certainly be simpler to fit last month’s US PGA Championship victor Brooks Koepka and other LIV stars in the US team.
Frameworks for reintegrating those who defected are being developed. They will almost certainly include financial penalties, and in Europe’s case, the sanctions deemed fair and reasonable by an independent arbitration panel in April will stand.
However, the fact that the two sides are no longer at odds should make it simpler for players like Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and Graeme McDowell to rejoin the tour and reclaim their Ryder Cup spots.
LIV singer Norman, who is a major actor in these golf conflicts, was not present for the unveiling. According to reports in the United States, he is unlikely to be involved in the new alliance.
“A great day in global golf for players and fans alike,” the former world number one from Australia tweeted. “The journey continues.”
But it’s unclear whether Norman will be on board. Both Woods and McIlroy, who is scheduled to speak at approximately 15:00 BST on Wednesday before defending his Canadian Open title on the PGA Tour this week, stated that they could only do business with LIV if its commissioner stepped aside.
“Circumstances change,” as Monahan indicated, and it appears that they will continue to change at a rapid pace in the next days and weeks. His next hurdle will be to win over his players, who are tour regulars whose devotion to him is being tested.