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Breaking: PGA Tour to Merge with LIV Golf, DP World Tour

Apr 28, 2023

Whether you are a fan of golf or not, you have likely heard about the great divide at the professional level. This divide has been closed as CNBC reported that the top-3 professional tours will be merging in some capacity. Although there aren't many details at this time, we know that the PGA Tour and LIV Golf have agreed to combine their commercial businesses and rights to create a new for-profit company that is yet to be named.

This is great news for golf fans globally as the last two to three years have been filled with division and fracturing of the professional game. Players were forced to make a huge decision; turn their back on the tour that gave them their start and take a chunk of money to join a rival tour, or stay loyal to the tour with a storied history and miss out on life-changing money.

That life-changing money was funded by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund which forced many to pick a side, much like the players. Although many just wanted to watch golf and didn't care what tour it was, Twitter was littered with arguments and debates surrounding professional golf. Very few will admit it, but each side of the proverbial aisle had valid points and neither comes out as a winner or loser after the big news.

I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole as the backstory could be a full article in itself. Retired professional golfer Greg Norman decades ago had the idea of creating a global tour. The PGA Tour occasionally plays outside the US market but focuses on North American events to satisfy sponsors and guarantee future sponsorships.

A global tour may have sounded good in theory but was shot down by the PGA Tour. Many debates have been had as to why the PGA Tour didn't want to come to the table, but the Australian golfing legend was left with very few avenues to make his tour happen.

Fast forward to 2021 and the ingredients needed to start a new begin to fall into place. The financial hurdle had been cleared once the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) committed to backing a new tour. Then came the issue of bringing on players. With all of the top players in the world committed to the PGA Tour, it was going to take something major for the players to jump ship.

Jump forward again to 2022 the major ripple needed to shake up the status quo of the PGA Tour happened. Future golf Hall-of-Famer Phil Mickelson went public with information regarding the top tour in professional golf. He claimed they were withholding hundreds of millions of dollars from the players and purposefully not raising purses of events.

This story led to Mickelson committing to play on the brand new LIV Tour. The switch wasn't done out of the kindness of his heart as he was paid a reported $200 million to join the league, but he was just the tip of the iceberg. LIV's strategy was to pay established names an upfront amount of money to entice them to switch tours. To an extent, it worked as they pulled a lot of veteran European players along with high-end PGA Tour players such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Cam Smith among others.

With the PGA Tour facing its first true threat since being created as we know it in 1968, they were forced to enforce punishments on the players that left for LIV. Those that played in LIV events were no longer considered a part of the PGA Tour and were more or less exiled from the professional framework. Their switch meant they no longer received world ranking points which are necessary to qualify for majors.

It can be discussed all day whether punishing players for leaving was right or not, it was their only way to protect themselves. LIV Golf was making a major push to be a true player in the professional golf landscape and the PGA Tour had to protect its product. I am not here to favor one side or the other, merely stating what was done and why.

The media response to LIV Golf also seemed to be heavily influenced by the PGA Tour. The heat was on and the attacks on LIV, and their players, were coming from multiple angles. The PGA Tour itself stayed relatively quiet but its players and media personalities were leading a charge against LIV Golf. The main angle of attack is the source of their funding.

The attacks and discipline were met with lawsuits and litigation from the LIV players affected. Their argument was the sanctions were unwarranted and the PGA Tour had a monopoly on professional golf. As time went on, more and more names on the lawsuit removed themselves. This led PGA Tour supporters to believe LIV players were surrendering in a sense. There may be truth to that but an even bigger factor may have played into where we are at today. The PGA Tour likely didn't want to open up their books to the public.

As stated at the top of the article, there has been a merging of tours in a sense. This may be read as the tours merging into one but that's not the case. To simplify it, the 3 major professional golf tours will now be working together to provide one collective product. The specifics of how this will happen are a long way out but the PGA Tour will continue to be the pinnacle of professional golf.

PIF has committed to investing in the PGA Tour along with their governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, having a seat at the professional golf table. For a tour that was adamant but taking the moral high ground when it came to its financial backing, this is an odd decision. It very well may have been a necessary move to ensure the future of the PGA Tour, but league commissioner Jay Monahan will have a lot of questions to answer.

With the news today, we also found out the future involvement of LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman may be in question. He was reportedly not a part of the discussion between PIF, the PGA Tour, and the DP World Tour. Players such as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods voiced their displeasure with him and sounded much more open to working with LIV with him out of the picture. It appears as though they may have gotten their wish.

With PIF not wanting their investments to clash or compete, it’ll be interesting to see how the schedules work together and what role each tour takes to create a global, professional tour. We have been able to see how the new board of directors will look for the PGA Tour thanks to the memo sent out to the players this morning from Jay Monahan.

When it's all broken down, the fans are the true winners. Fans are no longer forced to pick sides and will once again be able to watch all of the top players in the world compete together in more events than just the majors. With more resources invested, the product itself should be better as well.

It's tough to tell who won between the PGA Tour and LIV. Sure, the PGA Tour will be getting a huge investment but it's from a group that they spoke extremely poorly about when the money was going to a competitor. They now have to eat their words and embrace a controversial backer. After two years of chastising LIV Golf for taking "blood money", the PGA Tour will now be the ones trying to explain why their tune has now changed.

From a business standpoint, the PGA Tour won. They now have the funding of endless money and weren't exactly short on money, to begin with. They get to keep their not-for-profit status while also being able to create a for-profit entity that encompasses professional golf as a whole. The PGA Tour is now the group that gets to have their cake and eat it too, at least as an organization.

LIV Golf very likely won't be the tour we have seen over the last year plus. With PIF backing the PGA Tour, the goal will now be for each tour to play a part in one giant professional golf eco-system. Some may see that as a loss but they will still play a role in the bigger picture. They will likely supplement the PGA Tour in some capacity to ensure there is quality competition year-round and different formats of competition however that is just speculation at this point.

Another big winner is the players that left for LIV. They were punished for the move because the PGA Tour didn't feel like they should have their cake and eat it too. They got paid millions to commit to a different tour while also wanting to be able to compete on the main tour. Now with the merger being announced, they are likely to back next year after pocketing life-changing money.

On the flip side of that, the players that stayed loyal to the PGA Tour have lost in a big way. Many turned down major offers to stay loyal just to have that tour end up selling out to the investment group that backed the tour you spurned originally. That word salad breaks down to a stab in the back to the PGA Tour players. They put their faith in the tour and Jay Monahan, who convinced them to stay.

What also can't be overlooked is the tour that is run by its players did not consult its players before making this decision. It's another questionable look for a tour that acted as if its back was against the wall. PGA Tour players have taken to Twitter today to voice the fact they were not involved in the decision and are not happy about it.

Today's news creates more questions than answers regarding the future of professional golf. We know financially, everything will be taken care of as PIF is also an investor in soccer's English Premier League. Unfortunately at this time, we don't know exactly what the structure will look like. The good news is the fans will have more golf to watch and the players will be compensated more fairly across the board.

We also won't have to read never-ending debates between PGA Tour and LIV Twitter accounts. At this point, everyone can go back to being golf fans which is a nice and refreshing change of pace. There will still be those that focus on where the money comes from and rightfully so. For the rest of us, we get to enjoy a less fractured professional golf landscape that puts the best players in the world at the forefront and provides great experiences for the fans year around.

The PGA Tour players that remained loyal are now in an awkward position. Many turned down huge sums of money to remain on the tour that guaranteed their standings in the professional golf landscape. They chose history and legacy over money. Now that the risk of losing that opportunity is gone and they have missed out on generational money, what are their options?

The PGA Tour will likely have to compensate these players in some way. The vast majority of top players were reported to have big offers from LIV although none have been officially confirmed. That loyalty will likely need to be rewarded in some way. The problem is, there likely isn't anywhere for these players to go now. If they want to compete at the highest level and make the most money, the PGA Tour is likely the only option.

Before today, they easily could have committed to LIV, pocketed a ton of money, and stuck it to the PGA Tour. Now, that is no longer an option. How do these players respond to this news? Will they just suck it up and realize this is better for all involved? Will they demand that Jay Monahan be removed from his position within the tour? Could players refuse to play until they are fairly compensated? Although I don't see that last question coming into play, there is still a lot to play out here.

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