In an unprecedented move, LIV Golf, the DP World Tour and PGA Tour recently announced that they would be merging to create a collectively-owned and unified entity. To say this news came as a shock is an understatement. For years, these organisations have been cutthroat rivals. Even at the time of the announcement, litigation between all parties was still pending. On the surface, this truce comes as welcome news to fans and players alike. However, more than a few golf pros have raised an eyebrow about what this merger actually means for the future of the sport.
How Have We Got Here?
Despite only launching in 2022, the LIV Golf series has already attracted some big names. In 2022, Phil Mickelson turned his back on the PGA Tour to explore the more lucrative opportunities offered by the Saudis. He wasn’t the only high-profile player to break ranks from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. Over the past 12 months, the likes of Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith have all done the same.
The PGA has had plenty to say about LIV’s underhand tactics. According to some reports, Johnson was offered a joining fee of around $150 million. Mickelson is said to have pocketed an eye-watering $200 million. For many players, the appeal of this breakaway golf tour is obvious. Despite the staggering sums up for grabs, players could look forward to fewer rounds of 18 holes than if they were competing in the PGA Tour or DP World Tour.
For many critics, this LIV Golf venture was just the latest ploy by the Saudis to polish the country’s public image in light of its human rights record. Ethical concerns aside, LIV has also come under fire for disrupting the world of men’s golf. For many in the golfing fraternity, including the likes of Rory McIlroy, the newly-established LIV series has wreaked havoc on the wider golfing schedule.
Merger, Partnership or Something Else?
Although heavily reported as a merger, it’s worth looking at the language used in this announcement. As far as the PGA Tour is concerned, this enterprise is less a merger and the first step in creating an entirely new entity. What’s more, the announcement won’t cause any disruption to the 2023 golfing calendar.
Although no major reshuffles have been announced, news of this partnership does come with plenty of caveats. For one, any pending lawsuits between LIV Golf, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour are now null and void. What’s more, anyone competing in the LIV series who’s been dealt a suspension by the PGA or DP World Tour are now eligible to apply for membership once again.
Unsurprisingly, reaction to the news outside of the UAE has been lukewarm at best. The PGA Tour was roundly criticised when organisers made significant changes to the schedule to bring it more in line with what was being offered by LIV. Questions have also been raised at news of the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. With the largest sovereign wealth fund on the planet at its disposal, Saudi Arabia’s stake in men’s golf is now bigger than it’s ever been.