PGA Tour and DP World Tour to merge with LIV Golf as bitter rivals call truce

Greg Norman - PGA Tour and DP World Tour to merge with LIV Golf as bitter rivals call truce - Getty Images/Jonathan Ferrey
Greg Norman - PGA Tour and DP World Tour to merge with LIV Golf as bitter rivals call truce - Getty Images/Jonathan Ferrey

The PGA Tour has caved into the threat of LIV Golf – and carried the DP World Tour along with it – by agreeing a shock  “merger” with the breakaway circuit on Tuesday.

Have the Saudis effectively bought professional male golf? Well, as one high-profile player told Telegraph Sport on Tuesday – henceforth recorded one of the most important dates in the history of the professional sport,  “all it took were 15 LIV events until they buckled”.

Another indication of the brewing dissent was the notice identifying a “Player Meeting” at the PGA Tour event in Canada on Tuesday night. Someone had written “LIV” over the top of it. “LIV Player Meeting”. PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, described the meeting as “heated” and “tense”. That is probably an understatement.

There will be billions of dollars, probably in the tens, pumped into golf but the haste in announcing this alliance from the depths of bitterness was utterly extraordinary and the sport reeled in amazement. The new, for-profit entity looks to overhaul male golf at the highest level to unrecognisable degrees.

Nothing has been decided but is likely to involve a team event that will run separately to the schedules of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, which will be entirely funded by Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign fund that bankrolls LIV as well as Newcastle United.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan happens to be the chairman of both. From St James’ Park to St Andrews links he has emerged as the top player. Meanwhile, Greg Norman, the LIV chief executive, looks toast. His vitriol was LIV’s bread and butter in getting airplay, but there is no need for any of that in golf’s newly peaceful and beautifully enhanced golden fairways.

Even the R&A has welcomed the partnership, signalling that all the majors will, as will the world rankings. “We are pleased that an agreement has been reached which will help men’s professional golf move forward in a collaborative, constructive and innovative fashion,” it said.

However, the same crusaders who yelled of “sportswashing” now talk of this being a “a great day for golf” it is a great day for money and power. Nothing more.

Credit to Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the DP World Tour who first brought PIF into golf with the Saudi International in 2018. He always maintained that if they would only learn to exist in the ecosystem then the Saudis might be welcomed to have a slice of this pie. He brought Monahan to the table with Al-Rumayyan, with Norman nowhere in sight. This happened in the last few weeks. It was a turbo-changed revolution of which only but a handful were aware.

Was Rory McIlroy in the loop? Monahan suggested on Tuesday night he was not. As the Canadian Open champion, McIlroy is giving a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday. More than  anyone – even and especially Mohanan – he spoke up against  LIV, exhausting himself in the process. McIlroy was offered $400 million. He turned it down. How will others feel who stayed loyal to the Tours? The plan is to let the rebels rejoin after the season.

Monahan, who will be chief executive in this new entity essentially called for calm. Al-Rumayyan is the chairman. The DP World Tour still waits for their title on the high table.

“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” Monahan said. “This transformational partnership recognises 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 and charitable partners and fans.”

Essentially it all  means that the increasingly acrimonious and complex legal battles in the United States courts immediately stop and that the LIV players will have a route back to the traditional Tours – but only after this season finishes.

PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf merger: the key questions

By Tom Morgan

What does this merger mean for Ryder Cup eligibility among the players?

It’s complicated. Prior to the merger, European LIV rebels who resigned from the DP World Tour in the wake of increased sanctions being imposed for playing without permission are unavailable for selection. However, American players remain eligible via the PGA of America, despite being banned or resigning from the PGA Tour. Brooks Koepka qualified automatically by winning the US PGA Championship.

On the face of it, the shock announcement on Tuesday suggested there could be a route back to the Ryder Cup for the European players. The tours are pledging to establish a “fair and objective process” for players to re-apply for membership, although PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan admits it will be a “complicated endeavour” and it will not be until after the end of this season.

Lee Westwood, Sergio García, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson all resigned their memberships and became ineligible, with Stenson standing down as Europe’s captain. How players qualify and earn points to gain automatic spots and captain’s picks beyond the 2023 Ryder Cup is yet to be determined.

Will the LIV Tour be abandoned?

In a memo to players, Monahan said the 2023 LIV schedule would continue as planned while a “comprehensive evaluation” takes place of how best to integrate team golf into the professional game. Effectively, the two tours have downed their weapons, and attempts to disrupt LIV, in return for promised investment by LIV’s Saudi backers.

In April, the DP World Tour won its legal battle against 12 LIV players who committed “serious breaches” of the Tour’s code of behaviour by playing in LIV Golf events without permission, but an anti-trust suit against the PGA Tour was ongoing.It seems most likely the two Tours will find a way to integrate LIV events into their schedules rather than the other way around. But there is now a “mutually-agreed” end to all pending litigation between the various organisations and protect the current season as it stands.

The merger is a commercial arrangement. They have signed an agreement which combines the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, entity. PIF will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity and have the right of first refusal on any capital to be invested. The PGA Tour will appoint a majority of the board and hold a majority voting interest, with PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan the chairman and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan the CEO.

What will happen to the players involved?

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and the Open champion Cameron Smith were ostracised after signing deals worth tens of millions of pounds with LIV. They have now been given an olive branch by the PGA and DP World Tours. “The three organisations will work cooperatively and in good faith to establish a fair and objective process for any players who desire to reapply for membership with the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour following the completion of the 2023 season and for determining fair criteria and terms of readmission, consistent with each tour’s policies,” the merger says.

However, the defectors may still face resentment from other players who have missed out on big pay days. “I feel betrayed,” said Wesley Bryan, who plays on the PGA’s developmental Korn Ferry Tour, adding he will not be able to “trust anyone within the corporate structure of the PGA Tour for a long time.” Byeong Hun-am, a PGA Tour golfer from South Korea, added: “I’m guessing the LIV teams were struggling to get sponsors and PGA Tour couldn’t turn down the money. Win-win for both tours But it’s a big lose for [those] who defended the tour for last two years.”

What has happened to Greg Norman?

The divisive figurehead as chief executive of LIV Golf was not mentioned or praised during Tuesday’s announcement “This transformational partnership recognises 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 players, partners and fans,” Monahan said in his conciliatory message.

“I applaud Yasir Al-Rumayyan for his vision and collaborative and forward-thinking approach that is not just a solution to the rift in our game, but also a commitment to taking it to new heights. This will engender a new era in global golf, for the better.” It later emerged the notable absentee had not been involved in merger talks and was told only at the last minute.

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