The war that has tried and shaken the peaceful world of golf between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf circuits is finally resolved.
Almost a year to the day after the controversial debut of the Saudi circuit, the parties involved have come to an agreement. Now they will be one.
The news fell on Tuesday morning. The PGA Tour players had arrived in Toronto at Oakdale Golf Club ahead of the Canadian Open which kicks off on Thursday. It was a cloudy, mild morning. At the stroke of 10:20 a.m., the phones of everyone on the property began to vibrate. Suddenly, the face of golf, and that of the players, had just changed.
The PGA Tour has announced its merger with the DP World Tour (the European Tour) and the LIV Tour, through the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF). Thus, the PIF will be the exclusive investor in this new entity, the name of which will be revealed shortly. It will become the cash cow of the new product. It is therefore the end of the rivalry between the circuits.
The idea of the Saudi government’s financial arm becoming the circuit’s sole economic catalyst will “facilitate its growth and success”, as stated in the official statement, in addition to “ending the constant litigation between the parties involved”.
Nevertheless, even though the funding will be secured entirely by the PIF, the PGA Tour will hold a majority of seats on the board of directors. He will therefore obtain more votes during votes or decision-making.
On paper, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, director of the PIF, will be the chairman of the new trade group. For his part, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA, will act as president and chief operating officer. So to speak, the PIF will only serve as financial leverage, while the PGA Tour monks will be responsible for the management, operations and sporting aspect of the new entity.
However, only the most naive will believe that despite the billions of dollars invested by the Saudi fund, it will remain simple in the decision-making process. Moreover, the president and commissioner of LIV, Greg Norman, was completely excluded from the process and from the new entity. He learned the news Tuesday morning at the same time as everyone else.
The next step for the PGA Tour will be to agree with LIV on the terms and conditions for the readmission of players who have deserted the original circuit in recent months.
To do this, the new entity will work on “an egalitarian and objective process so that all players wishing to reapply to become a member of the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour [can do so] at the end of the year 2023 and determine readmission criteria,” the statement explained.
The discussions would have begun seven weeks ago, in London, between MM. Monahan and Al-Rumayyan. However, several questions remain unanswered: when will LIV players be able to join those on the PGA Tour? What will the schedule look like? Will the huge contracts of players on the Saudi circuit be torn up? What will happen to the LPGA? Will the European circuit finally be recognized for its true worth?
For now, players who have resisted the Saudi stamp will be forced to submit to it, because all of their salaries and scholarships will come from the money of the PIF, whose rights the government flouts, among other things, day after day. human rights, women’s rights and freedom of expression, according to Amnesty International.
“I really didn’t expect this,” laughs Massimo Roch, Founder and President of the DP World Tour affiliate East Coast Pro Tour. “It changes everything, it’s crazy! »
Everyone in Toronto was in shock when the news broke. Most of the players there learned the news via Twitter. Given that the PGA Tour is an association of players, the idea that the main architects of the circuit were informed at the same time as the average person raises questions and dissatisfaction.
“In the case of my friend Mark Hubbard [player of the PGA Tour], it was his brother who sent him the tweet”, explains Yohann Benson, golf professional, caddy and analyst, live from the Canadian Open site. .
“It’s a bit weird to have made the decision without them [the players]”, believes Massimo Roch. Besides feeling “mega bad for [Will] Zalatoris or [Hideki] Matsyuama who said no to offers of over $100 million from LIV to stay with the PGA Tour.”
Yohann Benson feels strongly that with this new deal, the PGA Tour is letting down the “marginal” players who have been on the tour for years and are fighting for a playing card, week after week.
“I think of guys like Mark [Hubbard] who is 69th in the FedEx Cup standings. It’s the top 70 who make the end-of-season playoffs [where the purses are the highest]. If all the guys from LIV come back, he’s going to lose his ranking,” said Benson, who was on the practice green when the bomb fell.
“Like everyone else, I was surprised. Golf Channel and social media have been on since this morning to try to give me a face,” said Jean-Sébastien Légaré, golf professional and analyst. He admits to being “somewhere between surprise and disappointment”.
Like the watchers on the specialty channel, his tone was rather resigned. “You feel that everyone who has defended the PGA Tour feels like they’ve been cheated. »
Is this a defeat for the PGA Tour? “I’m not so sure,” replies Yohann Benson.
Casually, the emergence of the LIV series forced the PGA Tour to change its way of doing things, mainly in terms of financing. Purses at the majority of tournaments have increased, as have amounts offered through the Player Impact Program (PIP), rewarding players who have generated the most commercial, publicity and media interest in the PGA.
Especially since the so-called war between the two camps “never really existed among the players”, notes Yohann Benson. Aside from isolated incidents involving Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Sergio García, players on both circuits have continued to respect each other. The images at the last PGA Championship involving in particular Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka were quite eloquent.
According to Jean-Sébastien Légaré, “we risk reliving what we experienced at the PGA Championship when the guys rubbed shoulders. They have continued to play together where they reside on Jupiter Island.”
“I don’t think it’s the PGA Tour that’s giving up,” added Yohann Benson. He just saw the light at the end of the tunnel and he may have gotten an offer he couldn’t refuse. »
In the long run, “it’s probably going to be a good deal.” “I don’t see how it could go wrong,” Massimo Roch thinks. At the same time, he points out, “What organization wouldn’t want to rely on billions of dollars and have a global footprint?” Ultimately, “money rules the world,” recalls Jean-Sébastien Légaré.
At least, concludes Massimo Roch, “now everyone will be able to walk in the same direction”.