PGA TOUR, LIV Golf Announcement Creates More Questions Than it Answers | Sports Destination Management

PGA TOUR, LIV Golf Announcement Creates More Questions Than it Answers

Jun 06, 2023 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The announcement of the truce/merger/détente/ceasefire (or whatever it is) between the PGA TOUR and LIV Golf may have been a long time coming but at this point, it leaves more questions than answers.

According to PGA TOUR’s website, The PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) would “combine 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 to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players.”

The new entity that will result from the merger has not yet been named. However, we haven’t seen the last of the PGA TOUR brand; the organization’s website notes, “Separately, PGA TOUR Inc. will remain in place as a 501(c)(6) tax exempt organization and retains administrative oversight of events for those assets contributed by the PGA TOUR, including the sanctioning of events, the administration of the competition and rules, as well as all other “inside the ropes” responsibilities, with Jay Monahan as Commissioner and Ed Herlihy as PGA TOUR Policy Board Chairman. PIF’s Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan will join the PGA TOUR Policy Board. The DP World Tour and LIV Golf will retain similar administrative oversight of events on their respective Tours.”

The move also puts an end to the legal warfare being waged; CNBC notes that LIV Golf sued The PGA TOUR alleging anti-competitive practices for banning its players. The tour countersued, claiming LIV was stifling competition. Disputes ensued regarding the discovery process for evidence. Since the announcement of the merger, all lawsuits have been withdrawn, according to the PGA TOUR.

Additionally, the PGA TOUR has noted that LIV golfers will be able to reapply for membership in the Tour in 2024. 

Those are the things we know. Here are the aspects of the deal that have not yet been announced:

First of All, Is This Actually a Merger? Depends on who's doing the talking. While the move has been labeled a merger in the media and by the public, Front Office Sports says "that’s not how the Tour sees it. Monahan has emphasized the importance of remaining a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization while also creating a new for-profit company with the PIF and DP World Tour."

FOS couldn't resist taking a swipe at the clumsy presentation, noting, "Monahan isn’t off to a hot start navigating criticism of Saudi Arabia, especially its involvement in 9/11. He stumbled through a question on the matter during a Golf Channel interview on Wednesday."

And what actually happens next is anyone's guess; a U.S. Senate Committee is officially reviewing the legalities of the alliance between the two entities.

When Will a New Schedule Be Released? LIV had been planning events for 2024 and 2025, and the PGA TOUR, in late May, listed a partial schedule for 2024. Count on the new schedule, taking into consideration the merger, to be one of the most eagerly awaited pieces of information.

Where Will tournaments Be Held Under the New Arrangement? This promises to be a sticky point. In 2021, a few days after the insurrection in Washington, DC, the PGA TOUR pulled its championship from the Donald Trump-owned Bedminster club. Operators of British Open pledged to steer clear of Turnberry in Scotland, another Trump property. But in January 2023, LIV announced they would host events at Trump resorts in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia.

LIV Golf PGA TOUR mergerWill Sponsors Stay? The fact that the LIV organization is backed by Saudi money may give some sponsors pause; however, it is worth noting that many of the PGA TOUR’s sponsorship arrangements are locked in for a decade or more. Sponsorships can and do end, though; in 2016, Cadillac ended its sponsorship of the World Golf Championship, which was then moved from the USA to Mexico City. In fact, Sports Pro Media came up with a list of questions they think sponsors should be asking.

Will Events be Contested on a Team Basis (as LIV has arranged) or Will Athletes Compete as Individuals? According to the Washington Post, that is still being worked out: Monahan sent a letter to tour players, saying officials “will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of LIV Golf and determine how best to integrate team golf into the professional game.”

“This is a complicated endeavor and one that will be guided by established PGA TOUR rules and regulations,” Monahan wrote to the players.

What About College Players? On May 11, Golf Monthly noted that the LIV tour was the “best spot” for college players. The same day, the PGA TOUR announced it had made an amendment to its “PGA Tour U” ranking, a program that allows the top college senior golfers direct access to the Korn Ferry and other tour-related developmental leagues. The change made any player who competed in a professional golf tournament that was not ranked by the Official World Golf Ranking (meaning LIV) ineligible to receive the program's benefits. Détente might reopen these avenues to college players.

What New Economic Impact Can We Expect to See as a Result of the Paradigm Shift in the Sport? It’s almost impossible to know this, since a schedule, sponsors, format and other parameters have not been released.

What Has Been the Reaction to the Merger? The announcement took many in the industry – including players – by surprise (and that is putting it mildly). One person familiar with the deal told reporters at The Washington Post that all talks had taken place in secret and only a small number of people were even aware that the merger was imminent. Several players only learned about the deal from news reports that morning.

“I love finding out morning news on Twitter,” golfer Collin Morikawa tweeted.

Reuters characterized many players as being "blindsided" by the announcement, stating, "Almost exactly a year ago, PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan made an appearance in Canada, "declaring war with LIV Golf, saying players jumping to the breakaway league would be banned from the circuit. Branding defectors like Hall of Fame golfer Phil Mickelson, former world number one Dustin Johnson and reigning PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka as free-riders, Monahan declared golfers remaining loyal would never have to apologize for being a member of the PGA TOUR.

"I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite," Monahan has since said. "Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment... I accept those criticisms. But circumstances do change."

Other players, as well as members of the public and members of various human rights groups who object to the concept of Saudi money funding the tour, were enraged by the announcement and have called on Monaghan to resign.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

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