Winners and losers from PGA TOUR deal with Saudi PIF, LIV Golf
It's rare that the entire sports world is completely blindsided by a story, but that's exactly what happened on Tuesday with the news that the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour were merging with the owners of LIV Golf, the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
The move ends a bitter dispute between the PGA TOUR and LIV Golf over the past year, with the merger canceling all pending litigation between the parties.
There's still a great deal to be determined regarding the details of the move, but some instant winners and losers emerged from today's news.
Winner: Guys who went to LIV
The former PGA TOUR players who joined LIV are likely having one of the champagne celebrations we see following the completion of an event. There is no bigger winner from Tuesday's announcement than that group of players.
The criticism lobbed at the big names heading to LIV Golf suggested they were giving up on their legacies to chase vast sums of money. The healthy compensation part was certainly true, but Tuesday's announcement offers a way back in to chase the legacy side of the coin.
One of the most interesting tidbits from the merger regarded the manner in which members of LIV Golf will be brought back to the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour. The PGA TOUR's statement said:
The three organizations 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 completion of the 2023 season and for determining fair criteria and terms of readmission, consistent with each Tour's policies.
While it appears there will be some sort of fine or penalty for those who left, it's highly unlikely to amount to anything substantial that will make anybody question their decision. Those players who were previously on the PGA TOUR could theoretically return with much fatter wallets and pick up where they left off.
Loser: Stars who defended the TOUR
On the other side of the aisle are the top players who opted to defend the PGA TOUR and turn down overtures from LIV Golf. Some of these players, led by Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, were very vocal on a weekly basis in criticizing the rival circuit.
McIlroy and Thomas could have snatched massive paydays to jump ship, but they remained and vehemently defended their organization. It's hard to view Tuesday's move as anything more than a slap in the face to that pair and other superstars like Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler.
That group was part of the contingent that assembled in Delaware last summer in a meeting that eventually reshaped the format and schedule of the TOUR this year. It doesn't appear that Tuesday's move is going over well with them.
You can include World No. 18 Collin Morikawa in that group, as the two-time major winner took to Twitter shortly after the news dropped.
The fact that the players seemed blindsided by this move despite defending the PGA TOUR in the media all season long shows just how secretive things were.
The new format and structure will likely put plenty of money in the top players' accounts, but it's tough to view them as anything but losers in the immediate term on Tuesday.
Winner: Jay Monahan's bank account
They say everyone has a price, and it will be interesting to see what Monahan's was when the details of the deal are eventually divulged. For the announcement on Tuesday to come from a man who preached legacy over leverage in response to the money LIV was throwing at PGA TOUR players was absolutely stunning. There's no doubt Monahan made the TOUR, and himself, plenty of money with the upcoming Saudi investment. He also added a new title to his portfolio as he will be the CEO of the new venture between the parties.
Loser: Jay Monahan's reputation
Almost exactly one year ago, Monahan joined the CBS broadcast during the Canadian Open and fielded numerous questions about LIV Golf as the circuit held its first-ever event in London. The most notable one promoted this response.
Nobody looks immediately worse than Monahan, with multiple players taking shots at his flip-flopping in regards to LIV Golf. Monahan met with the players at the Canadian Open in Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, a gathering that got heated quickly.
Johnson Wagner, who is both a TOUR player and television analyst, relayed the scene from the meeting that was largely anti-Monahan.
While Monahan's move will stuff the TOUR's pockets with money, it sounds like he has plenty of relationships to fix with the players if he wants to remain in his position.
Winner: Golf fans
Golf fans worldwide are undoubtedly huge winners with Tuesday's announcement. The best players in the world will once again face off against one another on a regular basis, with increased purses raising the stakes. The first two majors of this season provided incredible drama with strong performances from stars on both the PGA TOUR and LIV, and getting that regularly again will make for excellent viewing.
LIV also showed that there is a huge appetite for professional golf in Australia - an area the PGA TOUR neglected in recent years. With so many international stars in world golf right now, the increased funding to the PGA TOUR could present more playing opportunities in all corners of the globe.
Loser: Greg Norman
While Greg Norman can certainly be lauded for all he did in getting LIV Golf off the ground last year, the writing appears to be on the wall for the Australian legend as the head of the circuit. Norman's profile has diminished significantly at recent LIV events, and the announcement on Tuesday failed to mention him at all.
During Monahan's appearance on CNBC with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF chairman divulged that he had let Norman know of the news just minutes before he went on air to make the announcement.
That scenario appears very likely with the merger moving forward.
Winner: Team golf
Tuesday's announcement indicated that some form of team golf would continue once the Tours merge going into 2024. That is great news for fans who enjoy a break from the individual stroke-play events we see on a weekly basis on TOUR. While there are plenty of kinks that need adjusting in the LIV team format, the circuit did create some unique and compelling storylines with that angle.
The other team formats that will benefit from the merger are the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. Last year's international team was decimated by LIV defections at the Presidents Cup, while Henrik Stenson was stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy for the upcoming event in Italy due to his move to the circuit. With the tours all back under one umbrella, one would think all players would be eligible again for participation in golf's best team events.
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