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Sunday, June 16, 2024

One Year After ‘Merger,’ the PGA Tour and LIV Golf Still Remain Far Apart

  • Thursday marks one year since a bombshell announcement.
  • Negotiations with LIV’s financial backers are still ongoing.
The Columbus Dispatch

This weekend, 125 of the world’s top golfers will be competing for $45 million in prize money. The problem is they won’t all be playing against one another. 

The PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament in Ohio and LIV Golf’s Houston event will perfectly showcase the ongoing divide in the men’s professional game—one that was supposed to be headed toward a solution 12 months ago. Thursday marks one year since the PGA Tour and LIV’s financial backer, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, announced a bombshell framework agreement to unify golf.

Merger? What Merger?

Confusion was rampant in the days and weeks following that announcement. Players were stunned by the deal, which no one knew how to properly address. As PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan broke the news on CNBC, a graphic read “LIV Golf to merge with PGA TOUR.” But in the aftermath, the PGA Tour continuously pushed back on any notion of a merger, pointing instead to the complex nature of the framework agreement.

Bumpy Road

In the wake of the PIF deal, following the PGA Tour has been a roller-coaster ride, to say the least. Tour executives were questioned by members of the U.S. Senate. Rory McIlroy quit the Tour policy board (before later trying, unsuccessfully, to rejoin it). Jon Rahm led a wave of more defections to LIV. The PGA Tour and PIF missed a Dec. 31 deadline to reach a definitive agreement. A consortium of sports team owners invested an initial $1.5 billion in the Tour’s operations, with players receiving equity grants in the new company.

What Lies Ahead

As questions mounted about the PGA Tour–PIF deal last summer, it became clear that any meaningful change wouldn’t come until at least 2025, given the need to set ’24 schedules in due time. But now, it appears ’26 is the earliest golf fans should expect PGA Tour and LIV stars back together on a singular circuit.

Burning questions remain around what penalty, if any, LIV players will face in order to return to the PGA Tour; what will become of the LIV tour and its team format; and which executives will ultimately be in charge of the sport’s future.

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