PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LIV Golf agree to a shocking, secret merger
Midday Tuesday 6th June 2023 – Ceasefire. The year-long golf civil war has come to an end. In a shocking turn of events, the traditional, prestigious PGA and DP World Tours (DP World Tour is the PGA’s European Tour) and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf have announced that they will merge.
This brings to a halt a rivalry which has been growing for the best part of a year. It began with the announcement of ‘LIV Golf,’ a breakaway tour, which ended the PGA Tour’s long-running monopoly on highest-level golf. They promised a much more international tour (in comparison with the PGA’s which is overwhelmingly US and Europebased), faster-paced action, team-based competition, and greater financial incentives for players and caddies. All of which aim to attract a new demographic of spectators and grow the sport internationally.
This new golf tour was headed by Greg “The Shark” Norman (a now-retired professional golfer who, somewhat ironically, made a name for himself winning multiple events on the PGA Tour), with Phil “Lefty” Mickelson (former number two in the world golf rankings and a fan favourite) being a major spokesperson. This new tour made some eye-watering offers to current PGA Tour players to tempt them to ‘defect’. For example, Dustin Johnson, a former world number one, was reportedly offered a $125 million sign-on bonus (which he took, a decision which he can’t really be blamed for). Tiger Woods, largely considered to be the greatest golfer in history, rejected a “high nine digits offer” to join LIV Golf. This new breakaway tour was attracting significant controversy, primarily because all this funding came from the Saudi-Arabian ‘Public Investment Fund’ (PIF). Many golfers who turned down this new opportunity (of note is Rory McIlroy, who became the primary spokesperson for the PGA Tour) were worried about the origins of this money, ‘sports washing,’ and the lack of history and prestige on this new tour. Many claimed that only the golfers who were ‘past their best’ would move to the new tour, which offered greater monetary prizes with less stiff competition. However, with Brooks Koepka’s (one of the defectors) victory at the recent PGA Championship (one of four “Major” tournaments in the season), it was clear that (at least some of) the LIV golfers could still put balls in holes. Disputes between the two tours and their respective members grumbled along, including lawsuits being traded, players being banned from the opposite tour and national teams, and insults spat across the table. It was unclear how this feud would end.
Until yesterday, 6th June 2023, where in a sudden and shocking turn of events, the PGA and DP World Tours and LIV Golf announced that they would merge. This was not only a surprise to viewers, but also to PGA Tour golfers themselves. Collin Morikawa, a successful and well-liked member of the PGA tour, tweeted “I love finding out morning news on Twitter,” implying that he was completely unaware of the merger happening. Other professional golfers’ reaction were less measured and humorous. Mackenzie Hughes tweeted, “Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with,” and Wesley Bryan said that he “feels betrayed,” and that PGA officials “should be ashamed”. The PGA players are having a meeting with PGA commissioner, Jay Monahan, later this week – what I would give to be a fly on the wall in that one. LIV golf spokesperson Phil Mickelson tweeted that this was an “awesome day.” And, as far as golf is concerned, he may be right. More funding (Nike have reportedly offered $2 billion to buy a former LIV golf team, ‘Smash GC’), an expanded circuit including more international events, and a united and stronger field meaning stiffer competition, all must be good for the game of golf. On top of this, LIV’s innovation may prompt the PGA Tour to make some changes, including exploring new formats and embracing technological enhancements. All of this while we maintain the traditions and history of the PGA. However, some are still concerned with the backing from the Saudi Arabian government, and while previously they could choose to not watch/support LIV golf, they can’t abstain in this way anymore. It will be interesting to see if the players from the two tours, who have been quibbling for the past year, are able to move past their differences and play harmoniously on the same tour again. What may not help is that it seems as though the LIV Golf players, who received unbelievable sums of money for giving up being able to play on the PGA tour, are no longer going to have to make that sacrifice, and will be laughing all the way to the bank.
It is unclear what will happen over the next weeks and months, with many questions yet to be answered. What will be the name of this new combined tour? What will the format be? How will LIV golfers, who have been banned from playing on the PGA tour, gain membership to this new amalgamation? How will the team aspect work? Only time will tell. However, as the merger unfolds, we (well, at least I) eagerly anticipate how this ground-breaking collaboration will shape the future of golf, igniting new levels of excitement and popularity for the game we love. But hey, for the meantime, at least mum and dad have stopped fighting.
Image description: Golfer Paul Casey teeing off at a LIV Golf event
Image credit: JazzyJoeyD via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA4.0)