Once PGA-LIV merger shock settles, so many questions and few answers on what’s next
TORONTO – After a year of battling, throwing barbs at each other and launching legal actions aplenty, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf have merged.
If you didn’t see this one coming, you aren’t the only one. At the RBC Canadian Open, top players and agents were left dumbfounded at the news which most first learned over social media on Tuesday.
That wasn’t by accident. Those brokering the deal were reportedly on a blow-up arrangement. If news of the deal was leaked prior to being signed, everything would be negated. Better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.
That even applied to former PGA Tour star Greg Norman, the LIV head who, according to sources, was only told of the arrangement minutes before it was made public. With his name not appearing anywhere on the release, it’s possible those few minutes were his last in the employ of Saudi-backed LIV Golf.
That’s apparently not the case for PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan, who was named CEO of the new for-profit entity that has been created, which also includes the DP World Tour (European tour).
But he isn’t getting off easy.
Monahan met with players at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club – site of this week’s RBC Canadian Open – in a meeting that one tour player described as very tense. When one person in the room called for a change of leadership, the room broke into a loud round of applause. Another surmised that Monahan’s support amongst the attendees was about 90 per cent against.
He may yet still have to face his members and explain just what happened and how they couldn’t be brought in to a monumental decision.
“I think that what's transpired the last year and a half and the rhetoric, not only on this side but on that side as well, I think it's difficult to look at that and say, how did we get here now,” said Canadian Adam Hadwin, the first player to enter the media room following the announcement.
But here they are. At a starting point that, once the shock settles, has so many questions and so few answers.
Why was the deal done? What does the future look like? What about those players who passed up big LIV cheques and stayed loyal to the PGA Tour? What about the LIV players who were supposed to be banned from the PGA Tour for the rest of their lives? So many questions.
At the player meeting, Monahan provided some answers, while he obfuscated on others. He never seemed to find a way to explain how his words of a year ago, where he linked LIV’s Saudi backers to the 9/11 families, were no longer important. Or if the players on this new circuit will have to apologize for playing on it, as he once said LIV players might have to do. Instead it was about the power of unity.
“We just realized that we were better off together than we were fighting or apart,” said the commissioner, “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, we can move forward and grow the PGA TOUR . . .”
And what brought the two parties together? Perhaps it was necessity. The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is worth many hundreds of billions, but it didn’t get that way by throwing money into the wind. Clearly LIV Golf wasn’t working that well as a revenue-generating enterprise.
The PGA Tour also emptied its pockets to build up the purses of designated events to keep up. How long could that be sustained?
And then there are the legal cases that hang over both parties. Perhaps both sides decided partnership was the easiest way to avoid discovery, where the dirty laundry gets aired. The agreement brought an end to all of that.
Even those stalwarts, the marquee players who stayed with the PGA Tour despite being offered big, fat LIV cheques appear to be in discussion to get a little payback. Monahan hinted that it wouldn’t be out of order to consider compensating Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Hideki Matsuyama for passing up hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Ultimately everything needs to be considered,” he offered. “Ultimately what you're talking about is an equalization over time, and I think that's a fair and reasonable concept.”
The next steps are still somewhat unclear. Monahan described the deal as a framework agreement. A definitive agreement is needed to iron out all the little things like a schedule for next year, purses and who will be allowed to play. For the rest of this year, LIV and the PGA Tour will continue to operate on their regular schedules.
That may give the commissioner time for the major repair job he’ll need to undertake with the players, who don’t seem too pleased with him.
As for what the golf world looks like next year, stay tuned. This would seem to be just the start of what could be a wild ride.