The PGA Tour has agreed to merge with rival circuit LIV Golf in a deal that will end the split in the professional men’s game.
The surprise announcement comes after a year of unprecedented disruption in the men’s game following LIV’s launch. It means pending legal disputes between the tours will now stop and they will move forward as a larger enterprise, although no details about how either will operate or what players will be playing in what events has been given.
An agreement has been signed that will combine the PGA Tour and LIV’s commercial operations and rights into a new, yet-to-be-named for-profit company. The agreement includes the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour.
It will mean that LIV golfers will be able to apply to rejoin the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour should they so wish for next season.
Only last month saw Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson resign their memberships of the DP World Tour, thus giving up any chance of qualifying, captaining, or being picked to play in this year’s Ryder Cup. As things stand, they will still not be able to take part in September’s matches in Rome as the new-look tours will only take shape after this season has been completed, which in the PGA Tour’s case is the end of August, and in the DP World Tour’s case in mid-November. The new deal does mean that all the aforementioned players would be in the running to play and captain future European Ryder Cup teams should they reapply to join the DP World Tour next season.
“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 organisation that will benefit golf’s players, commercial partners and fans. Going forward, fans can be confident that we will, collectively, deliver on the promise we’ve always made – to promote competition of the best in professional golf and that we are committed to securing and driving the game’s future.”
The emergence of the LIV circuit has fractured men’s professional golf over the last year, with several top players lured by huge prize funds and no-cut events, which feature a team format. LIV Golf is backed by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF), an entity controlled by the Saudi crown prince and which has been embroiled in anti-trust lawsuits with the PGA Tour over the last year.
“This is a momentous day – to partner in this new entity is energizing and exciting,” said DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley. “We are delighted to be able to not only reignite our relationship with PIF, but also to have the opportunity to build on our current Strategic Alliance partnership with the PGA TOUR. Together we will be stronger than ever and well positioned to continue to bring the game to all corners of the globe. To partner in this new entity and influence the growth of the game for all our DP World Tour members is energizing and exciting.”
PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan said: “We are committed to unifying, promoting and growing the game of golf around the world and offering the highest-quality product to the many millions of long-time fans globally, while cultivating new fans. There is no question that the LIV model has been positively transformative for golf. We believe there are opportunities for the game to evolve while also maintaining its storied history and tradition. This partnership represents the best opportunity to extend and increase the impact of golf for all. We look forward to collaborating with Jay and Keith to bring the best version of the game to communities around the world.”
Greg Norman, the CEO of LIV Golf, was not mentioned or quoted in any of the official news releases regarding the new deal, and it is unclear a this time what role he will have in the new partnership between the three tours.
Early reaction from tour players, all of whom found out about the merger on Twitter, rather than through official channels, has been understandably mixed. Bernd Wiesberger, who joined LIV Golf last season, wrote: “Common sense has prevailed!”, while Phil Mickelson, one of the first time sign yp to the Saudi circuit simply wrote: “Awesome day today!” alongside a link to the news story. Canadian golfer Mackenzie Hughes, who plays on the PGA TOUR, felt somewhat differently, writing: “Nothing like finding out on Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with.”