'Not Going To Avoid Elephant In The Room' - Mike Whan Confident Merger Won't Overshadow US Open

The USGA chief is confident that merger talk won't overshadow this year's US Open once the action begins

USGA CEO Mike Whan looks on during a practice round prior to the 123rd U.S. Open Championship at The Los Angeles Country Club
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's the topic that's impossible to avoid in golf right now, as the fallout from the shock merger between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia continues. 

But while some players have been reluctant to wade into the conversation, ahead of the 123rd US Open and first at Los Angeles Country Club, USGA CEO Mike Whan decided to confront the issue head on. 

"I'm not going to avoid the elephant in the room," Whan said. "In fact, I thought last Monday was the longest day in golf, but it turns out last Tuesday was the longest day in golf. 

"All of us got together on Wednesday and said, 'Gosh, all these stories we wanted to tell, maybe it's going to be harder to tell because media will be focused elsewhere'. And then it hit me driving home Wednesday night, that we lived through - this is deja-vu a little bit for us. 

"If you remember Boston last year, the weekend before we got to Boston LIV played its first event. Before that, LIV had been a lot of press releases and a lot of what ifs, but actually played. And following that there was player suspensions and we were kind of depressed thinking this great country club setting here in Boston that really deserved to be talked about wasn't going to get its due. 

"But I'm fairly certain now having lived through this deja-vu that the same thing will happen this week that happened last year, which is once the balls go in the air the athletes take the narrative back. And if you asked anybody to describe what was the 2022 US Open all about, I don't think anybody would talk to you about the weekend before. 

"They're going to talk about Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick, an incredible 9-iron out of a bunker and that incredible theatre that was created on 18 thanks to the folks at the country club. I am pretty sure when we recap 2023 we're going to be talking about what happened on the golf course."

'Surprised the conversation had reached that point'

The news that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan had struck a deal with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the PIF, caught most people, even players, off guard. Collin Morikawa was one of the first to respond, saying: "I love finding out news on Twitter."

Others also had their say. Rory McIlroy, who cancelled his US Open press conference, said he felt like a "sacrificial lamb" for defending the PGA Tour so fiercely. Jon Rahm added that there was a feeling of "betrayal" among players who had stayed loyal to the traditional tours.

As for his reaction, despite being the head of one of golf's governing bodies, Whan admitted he was surprised the conversation to merge reached such an advanced stage so quickly.

"I think I had a similar response to probably a lot of people in the room" Whan added. "I was surprised. I wasn't shocked that there was conversations, I was just surprised conversation had reached that point. I certainly didn't expect to be invited into the room. I didn't have much to probably add to those conversations. I wasn't offended that I was surprised, I was just surprised.

"Then like a lot of you, I'm sure I'm not on the top-five list of let me make sure you understand every detail, but I've had conversations with many from the PGA Tour, so I think I'm getting my head around it, but there's a lot to learn, and I'm sure they would agree that there's a lot to learn. I'm going to reserve judgement in terms of let's see where this goes."

Andrew Wright
Staff Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x