The PGA Tour and LIV Golf Are Merging, But Golf’s Existential Crisis Isn’t Close to Over

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Golf is known as an insular game—so often cloistered away in private clubs, played with expensive equipment, obsessed with money and status and tribe—so one might expect that the inner workings of the pro game might be secretive. But nobody (besides, it seems, the Daily Mail) saw Tuesday’s news coming.

The topline is: the schism that opened in the world of men’s pro golf last year when blue-chip players including Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Cam Smith accepted nine-figure checks to defect to LIV Golf is now patched over…sort of. Early Tuesday, CNBC reported that the PGA Tour and the golf interests of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF), which mostly consist of the upstart LIV Golf tour, would combine their commercial operations. A new, for-profit entity will be created to oversee both organizations as well as the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour). Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF, will be the chairman of the new, unnamed entity. Jay Monahan, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, will be its CEO. The defectors, seemingly, will be back on the PGA Tour in 2024.

It’s hard to overstate how significant and widespread the surprise was. The media was shocked. The TV partners were shocked. The players were shocked. Rory McIlroy, who spent the past year acting as the face of the PGA Tour and insisting that LIV, for reasons moral or otherwise, was not good for the game at large, was shocked. Greg Norman, the not-yet-former commissioner of LIV Golf, learned the news just before the rest of us. I can’t say for sure, but I’d guess he was shocked.

What, precisely, this deal will mean for the future of professional golf is not very clear at the moment. Details are sparse. Until early evening on Tuesday, not even PGA Tour members had gotten a chance to ask Monahan about what, exactly, this is all going to mean. But here’s what is clear: after years of jockeying, Saudi Arabia has gotten a big, comfy seat at the golf table—and taken a big step in its goal to shape the entirety of professional sports.

In a surreal TV spot that Monahan did beside Al-Rumayyan, when asked by CNBC’s David Faber how, exactly, LIV players would rejoin the PGA Tour, he, at length, did not answer the question. One thing he did say, though, is that as far as LIV and the PGA Tour were concerned, “the tension is gone.” I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

One big reason: the players are furious. At the Tuesday meeting with Monahan, there was reportedly a “standing ovation” when the idea of new (non-Monahan) Tour leadership was floated. For a year, Monahan had done few interviews and instead leaned on his stars to tout the history and competitive superiority of PGA Tour events. Some of the players who decided to stay with the PGA Tour were rumored to have turned down amounts nearing half a billion dollars. (Tiger Woods is rumored to have turned down a check in the high nine figures.) McIlroy, especially

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The PGA Tour and LIV Golf Are Merging, But Golf’s Existential Crisis Isn’t Close to Over

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