PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger explained: What does it all mean for professional golf?

After Tuesday's major announcement, here is what we know so far about the new partnership

The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf have agreed to merge commercial operations under common ownership, the PGA Tour has announced. PA
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On one of the most significant days in professional golf, the PGA Tour, European Tour and LIV Golf announced on Tuesday a landmark partnership to form a commercial entity to unify golf.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Yasir Al Rumayyan, governor of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) which finances LIV Golf, appeared together on CNBC to discuss details of the merger, where Monahan said "the game of golf is better for what we've done here today".

But what does this merger actually mean? Will the LIV Series continue as a tour? What has been the reaction in the golf world? Here is what we know so far.

What has been announced?

In a joint statement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and PIF released on Tuesday, it was announced that the three parties had "signed an agreement that combines PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players".

Essentially, the PGA Tour will become two entities. It will continue it's non-profit entity which will be responsible for areas such as tour operations, player retirement plans, and administrative aspects. At the same time, a for-profit entity will be launched, which will include all of the commercial business interests of the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and PIF's golf-related investments, including LIV Golf.

Those commercial business interests will include things like television rights deals, sponsorships, and any other profit-driven revenue that relates to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. PIF will "make a capital investment into the new entity to facilitate its growth and success", the statement said, adding PIF will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity.

The new for-profit entity will be chaired by Al Rumayyan, with Monahan in the role of chief executive officer. Al Rumayyan has also joined the PGA Tour Policy Board.

What's important to know is that the PGA Tour will retain the majority of the voting rights, and will therefore control many of the decisions made within the new entity.

What will the new partnership aim to achieve?

The PGA Tour is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organisation, meaning it is a non-profit and has therefore – in the words of Monahan – been "handicapped" in its ability to take on new investment, which in turn has potentially stifled its ambitions to expand.

By creating a for-profit entity, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour will be able to use those profits – and the investment from PIF – to invest in growing the game of golf.

In addition to providing greater financial incentives to the players, this will also include investment into grassroots and community projects, as well as expanding the PGA Tour's real estate portfolio and Tournament Players Club (TPC) business.

How much money will PIF invest into the new entity?

On CNBC, Al Rumayyan and Monahan revealed that the partnership was not yet signed, so the new entity had yet to be officially formed, although they expect to make great strides forward in the coming weeks.

As part of that process, they explained, full assessments and analyses will be undertaken for all facets of the commercial operations of the three businesses (PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and LIV Golf) to determine that valuation of the new entity and its potential for growth.

From there, a figure will be agreed for PIF's initial capital investment. However, when asked by CNBC's David Faber if PIF would be potentially investing billions of dollars into the new entity, Al Rumayyan replied: "Correct."

Several big-name players including PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka joined LIV Golf. A process will be established which could welcome the players back to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. AFP

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

There are few details on how the deal will affect the PGA Tour and DP World Tour – in terms of how an average season might look – but the general expectation is, very little.

Both tours are preparing to release their schedules for 2024 which will look similar to recent years, perhaps with a few changes, but nothing that has been influenced by this new partnership.

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour had previously announced major changes, influenced no doubt by the presence of LIV Golf. Some of those changes from the PGA Tour looked to even be inspired by LIV Golf, with what it called a "Designated Event Model" involving smaller fields, bigger prize money, and no cuts.

Meanwhile, DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley said the aim for 2024 is less events for bigger prize money.

Will the LIV Golf series continue?

The biggest change to professional golf following this partnership could be to LIV Golf. The breakaway tour, backed and financed by PIF, has caused a major stir even before its first tournament in June last year.

It successfully recruited several of the biggest names in golf with enormous welcome bonuses, and the promise of limited schedules and team events. Brooks Koepka, winner of the PGA Championship last month, former world No 1 Dustin Johnson, reigning Open champion Cam Smith, and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson were among several stars to make the jump to LIV.

However, its future is now uncertain. The joint statement said a "a fair and objective process" would be established "for any players who desire to re-apply for membership with the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour following the completion of the 2023 season".

Does that mean the LIV tour will be no more after this season? Or have the PGA Tour and DP World Tour simply offered pathways back to their tours for those who wish to return? Time will tell.

What has been the reaction?

Shock, surprise, and plenty of head scratching have been the general reactions so far from players and figures within the golf world.

Monahan had been a vocal critic of LIV Golf, previously saying the PGA Tour and its players preferred to focus on legacy over money. Many players on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour also criticised their fellow professionals for joining LIV, although that stance had softened in recent months.

More than just verbal jousting, the tensions between the two tours reached the courtrooms. After the PGA Tour suspended 17 players for joining LIV, 11 of those players filed a lawsuit against the tour. That suit has now been dropped since the news of this partnership.

Given all that had come before, Tuesday's announcement has left many baffled.

However, much of the criticism is being directed at Monahan, who has been branded a "hypocrite". The PGA Tour chief attended a tense meeting with players at the Canadian Open in Toronto on Tuesday, with some calling for his resignation.

Monahan has also been heavily criticised for failing to inform any leading players, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, of the partnership.

Updated: June 07, 2023, 11:44 AM