The golf world was rocked by a surprising turn of events as the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund announced that they will be combining their commercial businesses into a new company in an effort to unify the sport. This announcement comes after more than a year of the PGA Tour fighting against Saudi-backed LIV Golf, a rival league that sought to reinvent professional golf with a new structure and up to $25 million in prize money. The decision to work together means that all lawsuits are being dropped immediately, but it raises new questions about whether top stars like Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka will be able to return to the PGA Tour after taking massive Saudi money to leave for LIV.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Public Investment Fund and a former target of a federal antitrust case brought by the PGA Tour, will now be on the PGA Tour board of directors and the chairman of the new business venture involving the three tours. This has angered some players who feel betrayed, while top players have yet to comment due to the lack of information about the merger.
LIV Golf was funded by the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s initiative called “Vision 2030” to diversify and reduce dependence on oil. However, the move has been criticized as an attempt to use sports investments to gloss over human rights abuses, such as the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. LIV Golf caused a great divide in golf, as the players who defected were not allowed to play on the PGA Tour, and it’s led to accusations of “sportswashing.”
The PGA Tour, which has undergone several changes over the years, including the addition of 13 “elevated events” with $20 million purses, will have a majority stake in the new company. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan refused to meet with the Saudi Golf group for two years, but due to a meeting arranged by PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne, Monahan, along with European Tour CEO Keith Pelley and Al-Rumayyan began working out an agreement. Monahan realized LIV Golf had a lot of funds and decided that it was best for everyone to come together, given the tension between the leagues.
The new commercial company will have Al-Rumayyan as the chairman and Monahan as the CEO. The PGA Tour policy board will add Al-Rumayyan, and then it will either add another player or remove one of the spots that belong to the corporate world. As for fans, it will still be the same logo and the same tour.
Although LIV Golf will finish its second season this year as planned, it is unclear where the LIV Golf defectors, including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, who were suspended by the PGA Tour after joining LIV Golf, will play next year. Monahan says officials will conduct a thorough evaluation of how to integrate team golf into the PGA Tour, but it is unlikely that players can play both sides.