A Good Day For Golf? Unpacking The LIV/PGA Tour Merger

The sport is now unified after the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Public Investment Fund agreed to merge and create a new 'entity'

Yasir Al-Rumayyan speaking into a microphone
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The news hit our inboxes, Twitter feeds and smartphones, and we didn't believe it. Was it April Fools' Day? A spoof email? Had the PGA Tour website been hacked? It was a bombshell that had come out of nowhere.

The PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, which backs LIV Golf, have joined forces and the game appears to no longer be fractured. The PIF will be the exclusive investor in the new unnamed and for-profit entity, which will combine the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf.

It's been a messy, ugly and bizarre last 12-and-a-bit months and I didn't like where the fractured future of the men's professional sport was going. So my initial reaction to this is that it can only be a good thing.

My other reaction is 'oh wow this is going to take another 12 months to sort out'.

A fractured sport was already starting to look less for wear. The Players Championship in March, supposedly the 'fifth' Major and one of the strongest fields in golf, was a relatively damp squib without its defending champion or any of the LIV players like Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. You could feel that the 'product' had been weakened.

The PGA Championship numbers were the lowest since 2008 despite an excellent tournament. This, to me, showed that the sport was perhaps struggling to reach that mainstream audience as more casual fans began to lose interest. They didn't know who was playing where, there was too much golf on and the best players weren't playing against each other enough. Hell, we didn't even know who the best players in the world were anymore due to LIV's lack of world ranking points.

Then there's the DP World Tour seeing some of its big names like Garcia, Stenson, Westwood and Poulter resigning their memberships and essentially being forced to leave the tour that they all still love. 

And the Ryder Cup's record points scorer Sergio Garcia never being captain? Poulter the 'Postman' never being captain? Henrik Stenson being stripped of the captaincy. It's been a wild last year for the men's game.

LIV Golf did an impressive job in assembling a mostly-star roster with some of the sport's biggest names. Are they the game's best players? Not all of them, but they were some of the golf's most well known figures and characters who we all had grown to know and enjoy watching and hearing from. Not seeing them week-in, week-out playing in big, historic PGA Tour events was a huge loss for viewers.

The LIV format certainly has its fans but the success of it is arguable. Was it really going to make huge money for the PIF? Would it have ever got a huge TV deal on networks like CBS or NBC in the US and Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland? Probably not. It had been cast aside from many in the establishment and was seemingly fighting with a lot of money in a small pond.

Add in the lawsuits and it seems like this coming together was the right thing for the sport. The Public Investment Fund and its interest in golf wasn't going away, and the fracturing wasn't good for anyone. On certain weekends, fans had DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, PGA Tour and LIV Golf events to choose from. That's simply too much. 

Golf is a popular sport but it's up against huge sports like football, basketball, soccer, F1 and everything else, so it needs to showcase its best to compete. Has it consistently been showcasing its best this last year? Definitely not.

It seems like a very, very small number of people knew what was going on with this merger and the rest of the golfing world, including the biggest name players like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and even LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, will now unpack what has happened and begin to start to think about what's next.

What is next? I have a lot of questions.

  • Will LIV Golf exist next year?
  • Are the likes of Koepka, Smith, DJ and co. coming back to the PGA Tour?
  • What does the PGA Tour schedule look like next year?
  • Can LIV Golfers now play in the Ryder Cup?
  • Can LIV Golfers, the Europeans especially, be future Ryder Cup captains again?
  • How can Jay Monahan keep his job? Players turned down hundreds of millions of dollars to stay loyal to the PGA Tour
  • If LIV continues, will the biggest names all play in it? Will McIlroy join Team Smash?
  • What happens with the world rankings? Will LIV now give up on them?
  • Are purses on the PGA Tour now set to skyrocket?
  • Is the Saudi International now going to be a Major?
  • What happens to Greg Norman now?
  • Will we finally get a 'world tour'?

I'd imagine that the game's key figures don't know the answer to many of these questions yet, and that's what's going to be going on behind the scenes over the next 6-12 months.

All we do know is that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment fund now has its seat at the table. The lawsuits are over. The fracturing is over. Golf has a new future.

Is it inevitable? Perhaps. Is it good for the sport? I think so.

Sure, many of the PGA Tour loyalists like McIlroy, Rahm, Matsuyama and co. have lost out on joining LIV Golf for hundreds of millions of dollars but overall the professional golfers are going to get even richer with this new 'entity'.

PGA Tour purses have reached $25m this year and all LIV Golf events carry $25m prize funds. Will they go up to $40m next year? It's not out of the question. Players certainly seem upset on the whole having been left out of any negotiations so far but once the dust settles they'll be playing on a tour that has investors with assets worth a reported $620bn.

Golf has all become about money now, just like all other sports. That might sound like a bad thing, but we'll be able to see the best against the best more often - and that can only be a good thing?

This last year has been a wild ride for men's golf. The next year could be even more wild.

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x