The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf merger is expected to end the rift and multiple lawsuits. Finer points of the deal are yet to be fleshed out, and it will take a while before a unified calendar is out. Image Credit: Pexels

The PGA Tour, DP World Tour (European Tour) and LIV Golf announced on Tuesday they are merging to form a commercial entity to unify golf.

The pact comes as a relief to the golfing fraternity since the PGA Tour, the world’s professional golf league, were at loggerherads with LIV Golf, backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund: Public Investment Fund, with several lawsuits filed besides the suspension of several LIV golfers from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

The deal is expected to end the acrimony and take golf to a new future. Here’s what we know about the agreement.

What’s the golf merger deal?

After the merger, the new entity will have two divisions. The non-profit part will be responsible for tour operations, player retirement plans, and administrative aspects.

A new for-profit entity will be launched to look after the commercial business interests of the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and PIF’s golf-related investments, including LIV Golf. It will be chaired by PIF Governor Yasir Al Rumayyan, and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan will be the chief executive officer.

What does the PGA Tour-LIV Golf deal mean?

■ The Public Investment Fund will make a capital investment into the new entity to facilitate its growth and success,” according to a news release. The fund will be the new entity’s exclusive investor.

■ Al Rumayyan will be part of a new board of directors.

■ All outstanding litigations will end.

■ LIV Golf’s 2023 schedule will continue as planned

■ LIV golfers suspended by the PGA and DP World Tour will be able to re-apply for membership from the end of the 2023 season

■ A “comprehensive evaluation of LIV Golf to determine how best to integrate team golf into the professional game” will occur.

Who brokered the merger deal?

The initial meeting was between Al Rumayyan and PGA Tour board members Jimmy Dunne and Ed Herlihy. Monahan joined the second meeting. Amanda Staveley, Chief Executive of PCP Capital Partners and a shareholder in Newcastle United, and Dunne were said to be the key figures in bringing the PGA Tour and PIF to the negotiating table. The two sides were in talks for the last seven weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Only a handful of people (no players) were involved in the negotiations. “No one had [a] word of this. Our players expect us to operate in the best interests of the tour,” Monahan said on Tuesday and cited guidance from corporate members of the PGA Tour board.

When does the merger deal take effect?

Monahan said there was only a “framework agreement” and not a “definitive agreement,” with many details still to be decided. The agreement needs a vote before it can go forward.

The deal has to be approved by the PGA Tour’s policy board, which includes some people who were not part of the negotiations. The policy board comprises five independent directors and five players: Patrick Cantlay, Charley Hoffman, Peter Malnati, Rory McIlroy and Webb Simpson. Al Rumayyan has also joined the board.

For the rest of 2023, all tours will remain separate, and all tournaments will continue as scheduled.

What’s the PGA Tour?

The PGA Tour is the world’s professional golf league, holding tournaments nearly every weekend with prize money worth millions of dollars. Most events are in the United States, but many other tournaments are held in other parts of North America, Europe and Asia.

It is separate from the organisations that stage the four majors: the Masters Tournament, the PGA Championship, the US Open and the British Open.

Most top male golfers, including Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and many others, are part of the PGA Tour.

The LPGA runs the women’s tour.

What is LIV Golf?

LIV Golf is a breakaway golf tour formed in 2021 with the former PGA Tour player Greg Norman as its commissioner and backed by PIF. The name is the Roman numeral for 54, the number of holes played in each tournament. At each event, 48 players head out in three groups, with every player on the course simultaneously. Every event has a $25 million purse, with an individual winner and a winning team.

Bucking golf tradition, LIV events had blaring music at its events, looser dress codes and team competitions. Tournaments lasted three days instead of four, and there were no cuts after two rounds.

PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, former world No 1 Dustin Johnson, reigning Open champion Cam Smith and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson were among the several stars who crossed over to LIV.

Where happens to LIV Golf after the deal?

LIV Golf is in the middle of its season, ending in November with the Team Championship in Jeddah. So the remainder of the 2023 season will continue with seven events to be played. The next season will likely remain the same until qualification criteria are implemented ahead of the 2025 season.

After that, the top 30 PGA Tour and top 18 DP World Tour players will gain 48 spots in the LIV Golf League and form the 12 teams competing in 12 events. LIV Golf players can play on the PGA and DP World Tours but may have to re-apply for membership.

What was the relationship between golf bodies before the deal?

It was acrimonious. Players who joined LIV were forced to resign from the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour under the threat of suspension and fines. LIV sued the PGA Tour, and the PGA Tour countersued.

LIV supporters said the PGA Tour was a monopoly that used inappropriate strong-arm tactics to protect its position in big-time sports.

Yasir Al Rumayyan, Chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi
PIF Governor Yasir Al Rumayyan has joined the PGA Tour’s policy board. PIF will be the sole investor in the new golf entity after the merger. Image Credit: Supplied

Who is Yasir Al Rumayyan?

Saudi businessman Yasir bin Othman Al Rumayyan has been the Governor of the Public Investment Fund since 2019. For seven years, the 53-year-old was on the board of directors at Uber, overseeing PIF’s stake, before stepping down early this year. He is also chairman of Maaden, Saudi Arabia’s largest mining firm, and Aramco, the oil giant. Al Rumayyan is also chairman of the Newcastle United Football Club.

What will happen to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour?

How the deal will affect the PGA Tour and DP World Tour is unknown. Both tours are preparing to release their schedules for 2024, although they had announced significant changes influenced by LIV Golf. One is called a “Designated Event Model”, involving smaller fields, more prize money, and no cuts.

DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley said the aim for 2024 is fewer events for more prize money.

What have PGA Tour golfers said?

The reactions from PGA Tour golfers have been mixed. Monahan met with the players at the Canadian Open after Tuesday’s announcement. Many top players were not present at the meeting, which Monahan described as “intense, certainly heated,” according to the Associated Press.

Has Tiger Woods commented on the merger?

Woods, a vocal critic of the LIV Golf, hasn’t commented so far.

What does Rory McIlroy say about the merger with LIV Golf?

McIlroy was acting as a spokesman for the PGA Tour. In his press conference at the Canadian Open, he said: “I think ultimately this is going to be good for the game of professional golf. It unifies it and secures its future.”