In an extraordinary announcement, the PGA Tour, Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, and the DP World Tour have signed an agreement to cooperate and “unify the game of golf.”
All litigation is to be dropped, hostilities have been put to one side, and each party is to come together in a new collective commercial entity.
The long war of words between the loyalists in all capacities from the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, and LIV Golf meant the news was incredibly unexpected and it arrived just days before the US Open takes place at Los Angeles Country Club.
It’s ground-breaking, but what does it really mean? What happens to the Ryder Cup, the majors, and tour memberships?
With the merger announcement likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, we delve into the new entity, what it means, what is likely to come, and try to answer some of the key questions that have been posed and those which still remain.
What is the Public Investment Fund’s role?
The PIF will become a premier corporate sponsor of the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour. It will make an investment into the new entity to build a collective commercial business.
The PIF is said to be committed to investing in the good of the game and positively impacting it on a global basis.
Who is part of the new Policy Board in this merger?
Jay Monahan will remain as commissioner of the PGA Tour and will become the CEO of the new Board of Directors. Ed Herlihy will stay on as the PGA Tour’s Policy Board Chairman and will also be a part of the new entity’s Executive Committee.
The PIF’s Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan is the chairman of the new Board of Directors and he has also joined the PGA Tour’s Policy Board. Jimmy Dunne is also a part of the Executive Committee with Al-Rumayyan, Monahan, and Herlihy.
What is Keith Pelley’s role in this merger?
As of yet, Keith Pelley hasn’t been named on the PGA Tour Policy Board, the new Board of Directors, or the new Executive Committee.
How involved is Greg Norman in this new entity?
The Board of Directors of this new entity has been announced, but Greg Norman’s name hasn’t been mentioned on the updated staff list. As far as we know, he is still the active CEO of LIV Golf.
What has happened to the litigation proceedings between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf?
As part of the agreement, all pending litigation has been stopped between all parties.
Will the 2023 season continue as normal on each tour?
Yes. The 2023 seasons on the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, and the LIV Golf schedule will continue and finish as planned.
Will players be allowed back on the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour?
The three organisations will sit down and discuss a pathway for players to re-apply for memberships on the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.
DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley has explained players have never been suspended and there will always be a route back to the tour via reapplication.
Is an entirely new league being created and what is it called?
The new entity doesn’t have a name yet. It is to be determined.
All we know so far is the three organisations will look to promote the team golf element that’s ingrained into LIV Golf’s format.
As players will be welcome to reapply for memberships they’ve resigned or been suspended from, this would suggest one collective league won’t take the place of all three tours.
The new Board of Directors will oversee a schedule of events in order to excite fans, sponsors, and stakeholders.
The aim is “to promote competition of the best in professional golf” and “securing and driving the game’s future”, according to Monahan.
Will LIV Golf still pursue OWGR status for its events?
LIV Golf’s application to receive Official World Golf Ranking points is still under review from the committee that contains both Monahan and Pelley, as well as representatives from all four major championship organisations.
LIV players still don’t have access to OWGR points and continue to tumble down the rankings, but this could change if they were to reapply and be re-accepted for PGA Tour and DP World Tour membership.
With the new schedule of events under the new entity, we aren’t aware of what process would be needed to be granted OWGR status, or how long this process would take.
Does the DP World Tour stand to gain anything?
It has previously been questioned by some golf fans and players that the DP World Tour hasn’t gained as much as the PGA Tour in their strategic alliance, which was extended last year until 2035.
The DP World Tour and LIV Golf will maintain a similar level of oversight on their respective tours as part of this agreement.
It is unclear what this new, combined schedule will look like once it is up and running, and the number of events that could be held in Europe and their prize purses.
As per the announcements, Keith Pelley is currently not named on the PGA Tour Policy Board, the new Board of Directors or the new Executive Committee.
Will Brandel Chamblee continue to host coverage on NBC/Golf Channel?
NBC and Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee has been one of LIV Golf and the PIF’s most outspoken critics since LIV’s inception in June 2022.
So far, there have been no solid details as to what broadcast station the events under the new entity will be shown on or whether Chamblee could be required to work as part of the on-screen analytic team.
Has the PGA Tour submitted in this new merger?
Monahan has previously admitted the US circuit cannot financially compete with the rebel tour.
The $25 million of prize money dished out at each LIV event forced the PGA Tour to launch a cash injection of their own into the 2023 schedule.
With prize money being such a large tool in nailing down the top players to their respective circuits, perhaps the PGA Tour saw a better financial opportunity to collaborate with the PIF.
Monahan has also always been clear there was no pathway back for LIV Golf players to the PGA Tour – so today’s news that will allow players to return could be seen as a U-turn.
With the promising performances of Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Patrick Reed in the first two majors of the year, could this have brought forward the merger to combine these players once again in the same fields on a more regular basis again?
Does this agreement suit LIV Golf and its representatives?
If you had to choose one party this announcement suited the most, you could argue a strong case for LIV Golf.
After receiving criticism for its links to Saudi Arabia and its allegations of ‘sportswashing’, LIV Golf is now merged with the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.
Despite also recruiting some of these tours’ most talented and recognisable players, LIV and the Public Investment Fund now find itself in an alliance with those once considered enemies, while still retaining these players for the rest of the 2023 schedule.
What does this merger say about the concept of ‘sportswashing’?
Saudi Arabia and its sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, have often fielded strong accusations of ‘sportswashing’ and using golf, and other sports, as a means of deflecting from their human rights record.
During the first LIV Golf event at Centurion in June 2022, players like Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood were directly asked about Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues, which caused some awkward scenes in the press room.
In this way, LIV Golf was seen by some as a morally questionable scheme funded by the PIF and vocally opposed by a handful of PGA Tour players and commissioner Jay Monahan himself.
This has made the PGA Tour’s merger with PIF all the more surprising.
Could the Ryder Cup return to its normal state with this merger?
On the European side, if LIV Golf players are reinstated as DP World Tour members – which will be allowed to happen – they will be eligible to compete for Team Europe.
On the American side, players must be members of the PGA of America to be eligible. This is why players such as Brooks Koepka are still allowed to ascend the rankings and make their bid to be in this year’s US side.
But how players qualify and earn points to gain automatic spots and captain’s picks beyond the 2023 Ryder Cup is yet to be determined.
LIV Golf players currently can’t earn OWGR points, but there is potential for their access to increase under this new cooperative umbrella in future years.
Have vocal PGA Tour supporters such as Rory McIlroy been let down by their superiors?
Was the decision to merge the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, and LIV Golf taken at an executive level without the involvement of players?
Monahan is set to host a meeting at this week’s RBC Canadian Open, which will no doubt require him to address a number of questions and concerns from various players.
Players such as Rory McIlroy have publicly defended the PGA Tour and worked tirelessly to improve it, as we see with the schedule of designated events in 2023 and the new schedule planned for 2024.
You’d like a penny for McIlroy’s thoughts.
Could protest groups express opposition to these new co-sanctioned events as they did with certain LIV Golf events in 2022?
Last year, 9/11 Families United sent a letter to the American players who’d joined LIV golf, condemning their involvement in the breakaway league.
Terry Strada, whose husband died in the 9/11 attacks in 2001, has now described Monahan in a statement as a “Saudi shill” and the group is “shocked and deeply offended.”
“Mr. Monahan talked last summer about knowing people who lost loved ones on 9/11, then wondered aloud on national television whether LIV Golfers ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour,” the statement read.
“They do now – as does he,” said Strada, whose husband, Tom, died at the World Trade Center.
“PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed. Our entire 9/11 community has been betrayed by Commissioner Monahan and the PGA as it appears their concern for our loved ones was merely window-dressing in their quest for money – it was never to honor the great game of golf.”
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