PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger: Timeline of the road to golf's shock collaboration

New partnership brings an end to tensions and divisions in professional golf

Phil Mickelson joined LIV Golf shortly after a bombshell interview in which he criticised the PGA Tour. Getty
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On Tuesday, golf’s two major circuits, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, announced a surprise merger with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) – and in effect the Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

Here’s a timeline of events for how it got to this point, almost one year to the day from when LIV's inaugural tournament teed off.

January 2020: The Premier Golf League, which took root as the World Golf Series in 2014, solidifies its format: 48 players in 12 four-man franchises, competing in 54-hole events with shotgun starts and no cuts. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan informs its players that they will not be allowed to compete on both circuits.

November 2020: DP World Tour and PGA Tour announce strategic alliance designed to bring together a global golf schedule with increased purses.

October 2021: Greg Norman confirms he will be CEO of LIV Golf Investments, with PIF its majority stakeholder. The fund commits to underwriting 10 events on Asian Tour. Norman, who some 30 years previously attempted to set up a world tour, will be commissioner of Saudi-backed golf league, LIV Golf.

November 2021: Monahan sends PGA Tour members memo outlining huge increases in purses – an obvious attempt to convince players to stay. The tour’s total purse for the year, for 2022, will increase from $367 million to $427m.

February 2022: In an interview with Golf Digest while contesting the Saudi International, Phil Mickelson rails against the distribution of wealth on the PGA Tour and says it paves a path to other tours. Later that month, inflammatory remarks made by the then six-time major champion to golf author Alan Shipnuck are made public. Mickelson had said signing on with LIV would represent a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates”. Players lash back at Mickelson and major sponsors drop him, prompting the American to apologise and announce an indefinite leave from the game.

March 2022: LIV Golf announces schedule for inaugural season, with the June 9 tournament at Centurion, just outside London, launching an eight-event campaign. The prize money will total $255m. The individual competition – to feature 54 holes, no cuts, shotgun starts – will run alongside a team format. Monahan says the PGA Tour is "moving on" and that "we always will be focused on legacy, not leverage." Norman later says 19 of world’s top 100 players have signed up for LIV’s opening event. Under PGA Tour rules, players will need approved releases to compete. Norman calls the PGA Tour an “illegal monopoly”. LIV then announces first field, with Dustin Johnson headlining despite previously pledging loyalty to PGA Tour.

June 9, 2022: Mickelson signs on at LIV Golf days before first event begins at Centurion. Less than one hour before the first tee shot is struck, the PGA Tour tells its 17 members participating that they will be suspended from their circuit if competing in LIV. LIV Golf labels it “vindictive”. Later that month, Monahan gives press conference signalling major changes to PGA Tour schedule, including an autumn series offering $20m purses.

July 2022: DP World Tour issues $125,000 fines to members competing on LIV without approved releases. It also bans players from participating in three co-sanctioned events with PGA Tour, but Ian Poulter, Justin Harding, Brendan Grace and Adrian Otaegui are later permitted to contest Scottish Open after awarded a temporary reprieve through UK court. Later that month, LIV announces 14-event schedule for 2024.

August 2022: Eleven LIV players file antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, claiming unlawful monopoly and restraint of trade. However, LIV lands a heavy blow in the stand-off after reports emerge Cam Smith, the previous month's Open winner and current world No 2, will move to the breakaway tour, earning $100m. Monahan later announces seismic overhaul of tour's schedule, after considerable input from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. The revised programme will include 12 “elevated” events – soon to be called designated events – with most purses rising to $20 million. It ensures the top players compete at the same time at least 17 times each year. Monahan reiterates that LIV members would not be free to return to the PGA Tour.

September 2022: PGA Tour files counterclaim lawsuit against PIF and LIV Golf.

November 2022: At the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, McIlroy calls for Norman to end the "stalemate" in professional golf. In the US, Woods says the Australian "has to go" so the tours can move forward.

December 2022: Augusta National announces LIV golfers can play in the 2023 Masters, making it the first major to rule on their eligibility. The other three majors – US PGA Championship, US Open, Open Championship – soon follow suit.

January 2023: PGA Tour files a motion to add PIF to its countersuit against LIV Golf - for allegedly interfering with contracts with players who joined LIV.

March 2023: Monahan announces plans to go ahead with designated-events schedule. Eight tournaments become limited fields, with no cut. Top 50 players in previous season’s FedEx Cup rankings gain entry. News is met with mixed reaction from tour pros, especially the rank-and-file who express concerns with earning ability.

April 2023: DP World Tour wins arbitration case against LIV Golf. Fines and suspensions, issued for playing in last year’s LIV London event, upheld. LIV golfers had until now been playing in DP World Tour tournaments, but many resign their DP World Tour memberships and are therefore ineligible for this year’s Ryder Cup. However, Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed excel at Masters – tied-2nd, T2, T4, respectively – to prove emphatically that competing on the less competitive LIV Golf would not hamper members’ chances of winning the game’s biggest events.

May 2023: Koepka wins 2023 PGA Championship, the first LIV golfer to capture a major championship (and PGA Tour event). Now a five-time major winner, his latest victory arrives less than a year after he signed with LIV. Kopeka, though, plays down the win as a triumph for the Saudi-backed league.

June 6, 2023: Much to seemingly everyone’s surprise bar a very select few, the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF announce a merger to create a new, for-profit entity. Details are scant, but suggestions are that LIV players could reapply for membership to the two main tours after 2023 season. All litigation is ended. For the new entity, PIF governor Yasir Al Rumayyan installed as chairman, with Monahan the CEO. PGA Tour players are apparently not aware of merger until news broke, which leads to some calling for Monahan to resign at a later meeting in Canada, which is described as "tense". Monahan later says: "I recognise that people are going to call me a hypocrite”.

Updated: June 07, 2023, 11:46 AM