What It Is, and Its Impending Merger With PGA Tour Explained


As December 31 approaches, there is an uneasy calm between the PGA Tour-DP World Tour pairing and LIV Golf. The deadline for merging the bodies after much acrimony is unlikely to be met, and till that happens world golf will be in suspense.

Amid the still, and the managements figuring out the way forward, the rumour mills are at it. The latest talk is of World No 3 Jon Rahm weighing a USD 600 million move to the Saudi-backed league. On November 30 2023, LIV Golf also announced the inaugural LIV Golf Promotions tournament, to be held at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from December 8 to 10. This new event will see golfers from around the globe battling for three spots in the 2024 LIV Golf League, which begins in Mexico from February 2 to 4, 2024.

According to LIV Golf, the Promotions tournament will feature “70 rising stars and accomplished pros including a Major Champion, Ryder Cup and Walker Cup standouts, former top-ranked amateurs and NCAA champions, and winners on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.” Players include Irish duo Max Kennedy and Ryan Griffin, 2013 PGA Championship victor Jason Dufner, and China’s highest-ranking amateur golfer Sampson-Yunhe Zheng.

More updates look set to be delivered down the line, and with the future promising to unravel at a rapid pace, we present an explainer on the explosive developments that have changed the course of this serene sport.

What is the LIV Golf Tour?

The LIV Golf Tour is a professional golf tour that was created as an alternative to the PGA Tour. “LIV” is an abbreviation for the Roman numerals 54, which represent the number of holes to be played at LIV events as well as the score if every hole on a par-72 course were birdied. With 48-man fields, no mid-tournament cuts, and massive prize money, the league has attempted to completely reimagine the format of professional golf. There is a team component as well.

The LIV Golf Tour was launched in 2021, funded by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. The new golf circuit has been facing strong criticism since its launch, owing to the Saudi backing. The Premier Golf League was announced in 2019 as the early framework for a new golf tour to rival the PGA Tour.

Aftermath of LIV Golf Tour’s Debut

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan responded by hinting that golfers who chose to play the new league would be barred from PGA Tour events. The LIV Golf League, which operates on a completely new commercial model, provides greater financial gains for players, not just through tournament wins alone.

According to Greg Norman, who was named CEO and commissioner of the LIV Golf League in October 2021, the goal of the LIV Golf Tour was not to compete directly with the PGA but rather to provide an alternative.

The first LIV Golf Invitational Series event took place on June 9, 2022, at the Centurion Club near St Albans in Hertfordshire, UK. In addition to offering LIV Golf players greater flexibility and heftier rewards, the new tour aimed to draw in new followers for the game. Immediately following the tournament’s official start, the PGA Tour declared that all 17 PGA Tour players competing in the LIV Golf event had been suspended and were no longer eligible to compete in PGA Tour tournaments.

When more players defected to LIV, tensions between the two golf entities got intense. After LIV Golf filed an antitrust action against the PGA Tour for anticompetitive conduct, the Department of Justice opened an investigation. In response, the PGA Tour filed a countersuit, arguing that LIV was using players and golf to sportswash and further the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s Vision 2030 initiatives.

LIV attorneys claimed that the PGA Tour was abusing its monopoly status by illegally suspending players and denying them the opportunity to compete in major tournaments in the future.

Subsequently, a startling development transpired when LIV Golf and the PGA Tour declared their intention to merge.

What is the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger?

In a surprise move, the PGA Tour agreed to merge with LIV Golf in June 2023, ending ongoing lawsuits and allowing the competitors to move forward as a larger golf operation. The two parties agreed to merge the commercial operations and rights of LIV Golf and PGA Tour into a new, unnamed, for-profit corporation. The PGA European Tour, also known as the DP World Tour, is included in the deal.

The shocking announcement, which seemed to put an end to the PGA Tour and LIV’s intense rivalry, stunned the sports world. The preliminary framework agreement achieved a few key objectives. It ended any litigation between the parties, ensuring that no correspondence or records would be submitted to court; it indicated the formation of NewCo, an all-new entity that will manage professional golf going forward; and lastly, it was revealed that for any outside investors in NewCo, the PIF held a right of first refusal.

According to a framework deal announced months ago by LIV Golf and PGA Tour, a formal and more comprehensive agreement to unify golf under a single commercial entity will be reached by December 31, 2023.

Reaction of Star Players

The PGA Tour’s top players learnt about the merger with LIV Golf over social media. There were no reports, speculations or whispers regarding the development that completely changed the professional golf scene. Apparently, the players aren’t overly thrilled about it, and many felt manipulated and betrayed.

Tiger Woods

golfer's elbow
Tiger Wood allegedly turned down LIV Golf offers of up to USD 800 million in the past year . (Image: Tiger Woods/ Instagram)

Top golfer Tiger Woods voiced his opposition to LIV Golf and was the most outspoken opponent of Saudi involvement in professional golf. In fact, he allegedly turned down LIV Golf offers of up to USD 800 million in the past year. Woods believes Monahan’s decision to discuss their future in secret was a major betrayal of trust, as he was unaware of anything about the deal until the end, unlike many of his peers.

At this juncture, Woods’ appointment as the sixth player director on the influential PGA Tour policy board marked a dramatic shift in the power dynamics inside the game. Woods expressed his gratitude to be able to represent PGA Tour players after being elected to the policy board. He went on to say that the players would make every effort to ensure that any modifications made to Tour operations serve the interests of all parties involved, including sponsors, players, and fans, since this is a crucial time for the PGA Tour.

Recently, when discussing the Golf League, Woods drew a sharp distinction between the format of LIV and TGL, a made-for-TV golf league run by Woods and Rory McIlroy’s TMRW Sports company. He stated that some of the things he sees in LIV baffle him and that things are simpler with TGL.

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson. (Image: @PhilMickelson/X)

The six-time Major winner, who was among the first to join LIV Golf after leaving the PGA Tour last year, stated recently that more players on the PGA Tour would join LIV Golf, notwithstanding a framework agreement for a merger deal expiring by the end of 2023. He added that players are content with LIV Golf and like the team element, unity, playing golf all around the world, and the perks that come with being on this circuit.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy with his third World Golf Championship trophy. (Image: @rorymcilroy/Instagram)

Rory McIlroy, a four-time Major champion who recently resigned from the PGA Tour policy board, agreed that there were still a number of issues to be resolved but believes that progress is being made. The Northern Irishman went on to say that a deal with the Saudis is in the best interest of the game and that the PGA Tour should unite with the PIF to “bring golf back together.” All this was however before his resignation from the board.

Sticking Points in Negotiations

The PGA Tour players’ resistance to playing team golf in the LIV style and how to pay those players who remained faithful despite receiving huge salary offers from LIV are some of the major issues of contention in the negotiations. The original framework agreement was established when the board was mostly composed of representatives from its commercial operations. Following an overhaul in August, players, including Tiger Woods, now have voting rights over the PGA Tour policy board.

Later, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson resigned from the board, and after months of searching, Joe Gorder, Valero’s executive chairman, replaced Stephenson. However, a change occurred right as the board was settling. Rory McIlroy announced his resignation, citing personal reasons. Given how strongly McIlroy had established himself as the PGA Tour players’ de facto speaker, the decision was surprising to many. Three-time Major winner Jordan Spieth was chosen to take McIlroy’s seat as a player director on the PGA Tour Policy Board.

The panel shifts, as well as professional circuits in North America, Europe, and the United States, are nearly complete for the year; and the following few weeks will certainly be filled with a lot of speculation about the PGA-LIV merger deadline.

Possible Implications If The Deal Falls Through

Everything suggests that LIV Golf will go on if there is no agreement. LIV Golf will lure more big names away from the PGA Tour with big cheques. It will eventually hurt the game since many star players will be denied admission to key golf events. And the already tumultuous golf season will get worse next year. Conversely, the PGA Tour would continue operating without the backing of the PIF and make use of the private investment that is presently being discussed with a number of potential investors.

If The Deal Gets Postponed

The deal seems headed towards postponement with a couple of weeks left to deadline and a ton of issues that need to be resolved. The longer it goes on, the more challenging it becomes to have anything in place other than the PGA Tour and LIV Golf going on their own.

If The Deal Goes Through

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour will be able to use their newly-formed for-profit entity and PIF funding to further develop golf. This will involve increasing the monetary rewards offered to golfers in addition to funding neighborhood and grassroots initiatives and growing the Tournament Players Club (TPC) and real estate holdings of the PGA Tour.

(Main image: Cliff Hawkins/ Getty Images; Featured image: LIV Golf/ Facebook)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– How to watch the LIV Golf Tour?

LIV Golf is available on the CW Network in all of its markets as a result of a multi-year exclusive broadcast deal. The CW’s LIV Golf live stream is accessible for free on Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Vizio Smart TV, LG TV, iOS, Android, and the web. No login is required.

– What is the deal between LIV and PGA Tour?

On June 6 2023, the PGA Tour and LIV announced the formation of a new corporation that will unite their assets with those of the DP World Tour, fundamentally transforming golf’s governance.

– What is the controversy between LIV Golf and PGA Tour?

The PGA Tour and LIV Golf brought several antitrust lawsuits against one another. Due to the PGA Tour’s player ban, LIV Golf filed a lawsuit, claiming anti-competitive behaviour. In a countersuit, the Tour claimed that the contentious Saudi-funded startup had engaged in unlawful interference by pressuring players to disregard the terms of their existing contracts with the Tour.

– What is the PGA Tour’s statement on LIV Golf?

The two organisations were fierce rivals that resulted in an antitrust lawsuit and allegations of unfair practices. However, the PGA Tour announced that it would combine with the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan claimed in the statement, “This is a historic day for the game we all know and love, after two years of disruption and distraction.”

– What is LIV Golf all about?

LIV Golf is a professional golf tour. “LIV” is an abbreviation for the Roman numerals 54, which represent the number of holes to be played at LIV events as well as the score if every hole on a par-72 course were birdied. With 48-man fields, no mid-tournament cuts, and massive prize money, the league has attempted to completely reimagine the format of professional golf. There is a team component as well.

Post source: Prestige Online

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