The US-based PGA Tour is set to partner with the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf, ending a feud that has dogged the men’s professional game for the past year.
The PGA Tour made the shock announcement on Tuesday, saying a new partnership with LIV and the DP World Tour would “unify the game of golf.”
“The parties have signed an agreement that combines PIF’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, for-profit entity,” the statement read.
When asked what changed his position on the PGA Tour accepting the money from Saudi Arabia, Monahan said, “I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite. Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that’s trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players.”
A spokesperson for the PGA Tour that the new relationship between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour (formerly known as the European Tour) and LIV Golf is not a merger, but “a partnership/creation of a new commercial entity.”
Bin Salman is the man a US intelligence report names as responsible for approving the operation that led to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Bin Salman has denied involvement in Khashoggi’s killing.
According to the US State Department, the Kingdom’s dismal human rights record includes free speech restrictions, torture, political prisoners and enforced disappearances.
Officials at the daily White House news conference said they had no comment on the news.
Still to be determined is how players like Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, who defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf for nine-figure bonuses, can rejoin the PGA Tour after this year.
Also unclear was what form the LIV Golf League would take in 2024. Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a memo to players that a thorough evaluation would determine how to integrate team golf into the game.
The agreement combines the Public Investment Fund’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights — including LIV Golf — with those of the PGA and European tours. The new entity has not been named.
“They were going down their path, we were going down ours, and after a lot of introspection you realize all this tension in the game is not a good thing,” Monahan said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
“We have a responsibility to our tour and to the game, and we felt like the time was right to have that conversation.”
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, will join the board of the PGA Tour, which continues to operates its tournaments. Al-Rumayyan will be chairman of the new commercial group, with Monahan as the CEO and the PGA Tour having a majority stake in the new venture.
“We are pleased to move forward, in step with LIV and PIF’s world-class investing experience, and I applaud PIF Governor 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.”
“Today is a very exciting day for this special game and the people it touches around the world,” said PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. “We are proud to partner with the PGA TOUR to leverage PIF’s unparalleled success and track record of unlocking value and bringing innovation and global best practices to business and sectors worldwide. 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.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the Board of Directors of the new entity will oversee and direct all the new entity’s golf-related commercial operations, businesses and investments. The new entity will work to ensure a cohesive schedule of events that will be exciting for fans, sponsors and all stakeholders. PIF will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity, alongside the PGA TOUR, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour. Going forward, PIF will have the exclusive right to further invest in the new entity, including a right of first refusal on any capital that may be invested in the new entity, including into the PGA TOUR, LIV Golf and DP World Tour. The PGA TOUR will appoint a majority of the Board and hold a majority voting interest in the combined entity.
Collins then asked DeChambeau if he thought that Jay Monahan was a hypocrite after the PGA Tour commissioner had been critical of the Saudi-back golf league and the players who bolted the Tour for LIV.
“I do feel bad for the PGA Tour players because they were told one thing and something else happened, and our side, we were told one thing and it’s come to fruition. In the end, for me, I want the players, the fans and the game of golf to win,” DeChambeau said. “It does stink a little bit from my perspective that the PGA Tour players are not necessarily winning. I hope they can find a way to make sure they are valued in the same way that we are over at LIV. I think that’ll happen, it’s just going to take some time with players pushing back a little bit and trying to figure out what gives them the best opportunity to be successful on their own end. Eventually, we all come back together now and play as one group, and I think that’s the best thing.”
“I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite. Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that’s trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players. I accept those criticisms,” Monahan said in a conference call on Tuesday, according to Golf Week. “But circumstances do change. I think that in looking at the big picture and looking at it this way, that’s what got us to this point.”
Monahan said the deal has been in the works for seven weeks: “We just realized that we were better off together than we were fighting or apart, and by thinking about the game at large and eliminating a lot of the friction that’s been out there and doing this in a way where we can move forward.”
“After the shock sort of ebbed away, I was hugely disappointed,” Chamblee said Tuesday during an appearance on the Golf Channel. “I think this is one of the saddest days in the history of professional golf. I do believe the governing bodies, the entities, have sacrificed their principles for profit.”
Chamblee said he suspected there were three key reasons behind the decision to merge: legal issues over previously-pending antitrust litigation; “entanglements” some PGA Tour sponsors have with PIF capital; and the sheer amount of Saudi money that became available to the PGA Tour with the merger.
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