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PGA TOUR-LIV Merger: Golf’s New Landscape

PGA TOUR-LIV Golf Merger: Golf's New Landscape
(Andrew Paterson/Alamy)

Planning Ahead

The way forward seemed to clear a bit during the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club in June when lawsuits filed by both sides were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be refiled in the future. It was a key piece of the initial agreement, allowing discussions to continue without the weight of having future court cases and their attendant legal fees hanging over both sides.

Nevertheless, a return to what for so long felt normal remains a work in progress.

When the signed agreement that led to the stunning June 6 announcement was leaked in late June, what it lacked in specifics it made up for with intentions. Among the key sentences was this one:

“PIF, the PGA TOUR, and the DP World TOUR will establish a partnership in global golf.”

High-Cost Strategy

It landed as the PGA TOUR was finalizing its 2024 season with another round of $20-million designated events dotting the lineup, putting a hold on releasing the new schedule. As attractive as the designated events are to the top players, they also posed a serious financial challenge to the PGA TOUR, which was running up tens of millions of dollars in legal fees fighting the LIV Golf threat, not to mention finding ways to fund their largesse.

That was part of the reasoning behind Monahan’s willingness to sit down with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, to find a way forward that brings both peace to the professional game as well as redirects the money being spent by each side against the other.

Questions Remain

Whether LIV Golf and its team concept exists in 2024 will be determined largely by Monahan, who in addition to his duties as commissioner of the PGA TOUR will become CEO of NewCo, the for-profit entity created by the TOUR, the PIF, and the DP World TOUR (assuming Monahan returns to his duties after his medical break).

It’s hard to imagine LIV existing in its current form if the agreement is finalized though there is a stated intent to find a way to use the team format on both the PGA and DP World TOURs in the future.

In addition to giving Al-Rumayyan one of 10 seats on the PGA TOUR Policy Board, the agreement also specifies the Saudi fund, or one of its designees, will be the title sponsor of a high-dollar, high-profile event that will likely be co-sanctioned by the PGA and DP World Tours.

Among the most contentious elements of the agreement is establishing a path back to the two tours for players who chose LIV and its multi-million guarantees over the established tours. It is likely to be an expensive and time-consuming process for LIV members to regain their previous TOUR status. There is also the question of finding a way to reward players who turned down LIV’s aggressive offers.

The first and most critical step was agreeing to find a way forward together. Figuring out how the various pieces of that fit together could remain a work in progress for some time.

This was first published in Essential Golf – you can read the complete magazine here.