Living in the Dark: The PGA Tour Side of the Merger with LIV Golf

Written by: Nick Penkala

During the 2021 Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) Tour season a new golf league was created that at the time seemed to be out of thin air. LIV Golf League was created and backed by a Saudi Arabian investment group. LIV stands for the Roman numeral 54, which is the amount of golf holes they play during a tournament, compared to the PGA Tour who play 72. This is just one of a number of differences between the two tours. 

Famously, the PGA Tour is an individuals only tour. A golfer will go out with just him and his caddy to carry his bag and help him throughout his round. At the end of the round the only score that matters is the score that you put up that day. Tournaments are usually four rounds with a cut halfway through. The half that finished in the top half gets to move on to the weekend and play an additional two rounds. In the LIV Golf League, it is a team event. Every week the same teams compete against each other and the team with the best score after three days wins the week. 

(View of the 18th green at a LIV Golf event at the Centurion Club. Image credit Paul Childs/Action Images/Reuters

On Tuesday, June 6th morning it was announced that the PGA Tour along with LIV Golf and the DP World Tour would be merging, now what exactly does this all mean? First things first, all three organizations will work to try and figure out the best way to go about things. This means that for example, players that have been banned from the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour because they went to play on LIV can potentially come back and play on both of these tours. Nobody knows the parameters of the situation, but I could see a way that everyone is allowed to play where they want. The biggest and most concerning part of the merger is that the Public Investment Fund (which is Saudi Arabian backed and owns LIV Golf) will be an investor in the PGA Tour. This becomes an issue to fans of the PGA Tour because of the type of history the Saudia Arabian culture has towards specific groups of people. 

       Tweet from PGA Tour pro Collin Morikawa the morning the PGA Tour/LIV merger was announced. (Image was taken off of Collin Morikawa’s twitter page)

The morning that the merger news was announced, a number of PGA Tour pros took to Twitter, commenting on the fact that they were not notified by anyone prior to the news breaking. Above is a tweet from Collin Morikawa who is one of the best players in the world and a key piece to the PGA Tour landscape. PGA pro Mackenize Hughes also took to Twitter that morning saying “Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with.” These are just two of the countless members of the Tour to voice their opinion on Tuesday after not being told anything by their organization. 

I think that for the PGA Tour there is a larger issue at hand here. Obviously, allowing an investment from a shady partner is not good, but then doing it and not telling any of your major stakeholders is a massive problem. It is still extremely early in the news cycle for this story, but I would not be surprised if some members refused to play because of this or sued the Tour because they are not happy about how they handled things. I think that the PGA Tour is completely in the wrong in this situation.

The players have every right to know what is going on, especially something of this magnitude.  Ethically it is incorrect for the Tour to not at least let people know there is a conversation going on. I think that the PGA Tour is going to get heat for a long time regarding how they handled this situation. I feel as though this is not the precedent they want to be setting.