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PGA Tour, LIV Golf Announce Controversial Merger

Frisco-based PGA of America will remain unaffected
Photo: L.E.MORMILE | Shutterstock

On June 6, 2023, it was announced that an agreement was signed that merges Saudi based-public investment fund’s golf-related businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with those of the PGA TOUR and European-based DP World Tour. 

LIV Golf, Saudi Arabia's breakaway league and major PGA competitor, is a similar concept to PGA with slight differnaces in course size and shorter tournaments. 

The PGA Tour lodged allegations against LIV Golf for engaging in tortious interference with the tour's contracts involving golfers who switched to the new competitor. In a 72-page document, the PGA refuted the antitrust violations claim made by LIV golfers and further asserted its own countercharges through a countersuit.

As part of the newly arranged agreement, all parties involved decided to immediately withdraw all lawsuits related to LIV Golf. According to the announcement, the organizations will work “cooperatively and in good faith” for any players who re-apply for membership with the PGA TOUR or the DP World Tour following the 2023 season. 

But North Texans don’t have to worry about the new PGA Frisco headquarters as the PGA of America will not be affected by the newly announced merger. Despite their similar names, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour (headquartered in Florida) have been separate entities since 1969 when they experienced a split due to a disagreement between the players and golf's governing body regarding the distribution of revenue.

"We were pleased, relieved and like others, surprised to learn this morning that the division within the men’s elite professional game appears to be on a pathway to resolution,” a spokesperson for the PGA of America told Local Profile. “While we look forward to learning further details in time, our actions will, as always, remain focused on delivering on our mission to serve PGA Professionals and grow the game. During this time of abundant opportunity in golf, we look forward to collaborating with other golf industry leaders to continue to advance our sport with our members at the forefront of those efforts."

Last month, Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, was frank about his opinion on LIV Golf. “[The PIF] can fund it for as long as they want to,” Waugh told The Times of London. “But no matter how much money you have, at some point burning it doesn’t feel very good. I don’t see they are accomplishing much.”

The governor of Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, will join the PGA Tour board of directors and assume the role of chairman in the new business venture. However, the PGA Tour will hold the majority stake in the venture.

“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “This transformational partnership recognizes the immeasurable strength of the PGA TOUR’s history, legacy and pro-competitive model and combines with it the DP World Tour and LIV – including the team golf concept – to create an organization that will benefit golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners and fans.”

But many are not pleased with the news of the merger, including players. According to WFAA, a news outlet leaked the announcement before Monahan could officially inform the players through a memo. Consequently, many players first became aware of the development through social media. “I love finding out about morning news on Twitter,” two-time champion Collin Morikawa tweeted about the merger.

But the secrecy went beyond athletes. According to the New York Times, most of the PGA Tour’s policy board — which is made up of five independent directors and five golfers —  did not know about the tour’s negotiations with LIV over the last seven weeks when Monahan first met with Al-Rumayyan. Monahan told reporters his meeting with players about the agreement was “intense” and “certainly heated.” 

In the coming months, all parties involved will collaborate to finalize the terms of the agreement. The PGA Tour explained that further details will be announced in the future.