PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger: Everything you need to know ahead of PGA Tour players meeting

In a surprise announcement Tuesday morning that came after a year of bitter fracturing in men's professional golf, the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour announced an agreement to merge their business operations.

The ramifications of the development are still unraveling, as a 4 p.m. ET meeting has been scheduled for PGA Tour players, many of whom reported being entirely unaware of the agreement.

Both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, along with the DP World Tour, announced the move in a joint statement published Tuesday. The merger aims to create "a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players."

The terms of the agreement are not fully finalized and are scheduled to be completed in the coming months.

"After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Tuesday in a statement.

"Going forward, fans can be confident that we will, collectively, deliver on the promise we’ve always made — to promote competition of the best in professional golf and that we are committed to securing and driving the game’s future."

LIV Golf players pose for a photo before the second round of LIV Golf Tulsa at the Cedar Ridge Country Club on May. 13, 2023.

Here's everything you need to know about the merger agreement.

What do we know about the terms of the merger agreement between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf?

There are still several key details that are unknown about the merger. For starters, the new entity does not have a name yet.

A key element in the merger is financial. The Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth investment fund of the Saudi government, "will make a capital investment into the new entity to facilitate its growth and success," according to the news release. The PIF had been the sole entity to entirely fund the LIV Golf operation.

Additionally, the merger stipulates that the PIF "will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity" and "will have the exclusive right to further invest in the new entity, including a right of first refusal on any capital."

A newly established board of directors will direct and oversee the new entity's operations, schedule, investments. PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan will be part of the new entity's board of directors and will be on its executive committee. The announcement of the full board will come at a later date.

Additionally, the merger will lead to "a mutually agreed end to all pending litigation between the participating parties." In August 2022, a number of golfers who joined the LIV tour filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, challenging their suspensions.

The merger stipulates that after the conclusion of the 2023 season, the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour "will work cooperatively and in good faith to establish a fair and objective process" to allow players who left the PGA Tour and DP tour to re-apply for membership.

LIV Golf, PGA Tour merger shines spotlight on 'sportswashing'

Over the past six years, the term has been used to describe everything from the 2018 World Cup in Russia to a 2019 heavyweight boxing match in Saudi Arabia to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

And at a news conference ahead of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league's first event last summer, it came up twice.

"Isn't there a danger," one reporter asked Phil Mickelson, "that you're also being seen as a tool of sportswashing?"

That term — "sportswashing" — is still relatively new. But the strategy it represents has been employed by governments around the world, in some form or fashion, for a century or more.

For world leaders, it is a way to improve their nation's reputation by hosting a prestigious sporting event, or financing a popular team. — Tom Schad

What is going on with the antitrust lawsuit filed against the PGA Tour?

In August 2022, 11 players who left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf filed an antitrust lawsuit to challenge their suspensions from the PGA Tour.

This followed a report from the month before that the United States Department of Justice was investigating the PGA Tour for possible anticompetitive behavior. Augusta National Golf Club, which operates the Masters Tournament, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America were later revealed to also be part of the investigation.

Since then, lawyers on both sides have battled in various court proceedings to gain leverage. With the merger, however, both sides are mutually agreeing to end all pending litigation against the other.

Who is on the PGA Tour board of directors?

Jay Monahan is currently serving as the PGA Tour commissioner and will retain a large presence after the merger. Ed Herlihy is serving as the 2023 PGA Tour policy board chairman and the co-chair of the board of directors. Jimmy Dunne is acting as the vice chair and senior managing principal on this year's board of directors. Under the merger, however, the board of the new entity will look a little different.

According to the news release, PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan will serve as chairman. Al-Rumayyan will also join the PGA Tour's policy board and will be part of the board of directors' executive committee. Monahan will serve as the CEO of the board of directors.

Al-Rumayyan, Monahan, Herlihy and Dunne will all serve on the executive committee of the board.

9/11 families group slams PGA Tour over LIV Golf merger: 'Paid Saudi shills'

An organization representing families of 9/11 victims ripped the PGA Tour's decision Tuesday to merge with Saudi-funded LIV Golf, describing the PGA and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, as hypocrites who have become "paid Saudi shills."

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, 9/11 Families United said it was "shocked and deeply offended" by the news of the merger, which will see the PGA, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour all operating under a single business umbrella, funded by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. The chair of 9/11 Families United, Terry Strada, said she and the other family members who make up the group felt "betrayed" by the PGA Tour and Monahan individually.

"Mr. Monahan talked last summer about knowing people who lost loved ones on 9/11, then wondered aloud on national television whether LIV Golfers ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour. They do now — as does he," said Strada, whose husband, Tom, died at the World Trade Center.

"PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed. Our entire 9/11 community has been betrayed by Commissioner Monahan and the PGA as it appears their concern for our loved ones was merely window-dressing in their quest for money — it was never to honor the great game of golf." — Tom Schad

The White House is staying out of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf partnership

As news of the PGA Tour's merger with LIV Golf spread, the White House is opting not to weigh in, when reporters at a briefing asked about the agreement in light of Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

"I have no comment on that," White House spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday during a briefing. — Joey Garrison

As PGA Tour and LIV announce merger, the current standings and top players on each tour

LIV golfers Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson have been hard to miss near the top of major tournament leaderboards this year – especially with Koepka collecting his fifth major at the PGA Championship.

But what about all the other players who left the PGA for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour in past months?

With the surprise announcement Tuesday morning of the merger of the two tours' business operations, here's a look at the top 52 players of each tour in 2023. — Jim Sergent

Tune in for 'Full Swing' Season 2

A producer on the Netflix docuseries "Full Swing," which follows the lives of several men's pro golfers, said that the cameras were rolling when the news of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf agreement came through.

"You better believe we were filming when this broke," producer Chad Mumm wrote Tuesday in a tweet.

Season 2 drops in 2024.

PGA Tour golfers frustrated they didn't know about deal with LIV Golf beforehand

The golf world was stunned by the PGA Tour-LIV Golf deal, and apparently, so were the ones on the tours.

The announcement Tuesday morning was a shocker since the PGA Tour and its players have been critical of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, primarily because it is funded entirely by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth investment fund of the Saudi government, which has been accused of wide-ranging human rights abuses, including politically motivated killings, torture, forced disappearances and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

When the announcement was made, PGA Tour golfers voiced their displeasure on Twitter with how they found out about the deal, with many saying that they found out through social media. — Jordan Mendoza

Jack Nicklaus says PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger 'good for the game of golf'

Jack Nicklaus is thankful the infighting is coming to a close.

Nicklaus, who said he was offered but turned down $100 million to be the CEO of the LIV Golf series and said LIV Golf "wasn't for me," reacted to the stunning news that the PGA Tour and LIV Golf will merge.

“The last three years have been difficult for the game and the players," said Nicklaus, who lives in North Palm Beach. "I spoke with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan this morning. He seemed pleased with the arrangement that will once again bring together the best players in the world. I agree that this is good for the game of golf."

This came just one week after Nicklaus spoke ahead of the Memorial Tournament about the LIV players who had decided to split off from the PGA Tour.

“I don’t even consider those guys part of the game anymore," he said then. "I don’t mean that in a nasty way. This is a PGA Tour event, and we have the best field we can possibly have for a PGA Tour event for those who are eligible to be here. The other guys made a choice of what they did and where they’ve gone and we don’t even talk about it." — Tom D'Angelo, Palm Beach Post

Augusta National, Royal and Ancient weigh in on merger

Fred Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, which is the home of the Masters, said the club is "encouraged" by the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger, and said it "represents a positive development in bringing harmony to men’s professional golf."

Ridley added that August and the Masters are "devoted to developing the game and celebrating its many virtues."

Meanwhile, Martin Slumbers, the CEO of R&A, said the club was "pleased that an agreement has been reached which will help men’s professional golf move forward in a collaborative, constructive and innovative fashion. ...

"We care deeply about golf’s future and are committed to ensuring that the sport continues to thrive for many years to come," Slumbers continued. "This agreement represents a hugs step toward achieving that goal for golf and we look forward to working with the new entity for the benefit of the sport globally." — Casey Moore

OPINION: PGA Tour sold out to LIV Golf and the Saudis. Pro golf will never be the same.

Frauds, all of them. But frauds now united in the only thing that actually matters to the world of professional golf: Making money. 

In the end, it didn’t actually matter to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan that the money came from a country, Saudi Arabia, that treats human rights like an inconvenience. The tradition and history of the PGA Tour, in fact, didn’t matter all that much to those who argued that LIV Golf was an unworthy, unserious rival whose guaranteed money and 54-hole events were mocking competition.

And as for the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Greg Norman, they did not, in fact, care all that much about growing the game. They wanted to own it. Now they do: The PGA Tour, brought to you by Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

They sold out. Professional golf will never be the same. 

Read the rest of Dan Wolken's column here.

Jay Monahan, Yasir Al-Rumayyan discuss PGA Tour and LIV Golf merger on CNBC

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan sat down for a joint interview on CNBC on Tuesday morning to discuss the merger news that rocked the golf world.

Monahan called it a historic day.

"There’s been a lot of tension in our sport over the last couple of years," Monahan said, "but what we’re talking about today is coming together to unify the game of golf and to do so under one umbrella."

Conversations began in London over golf and lunch, said Al-Rumayyan, who noted that had the two tours met two or three years ago for those same discussions, the impact on the game would not have been as significant.

"Because it would be something small," he continued. "But the way we’re doing our partnership, it’s going to be really big, in many senses."

Al-Rumayyan said the PIF is committed to investing "whatever it takes" to ensure success, later noting that they wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think it would be profitable.

"If you look at the size of golf, monetary-wise, it’s about $100 billion today," said Al-Rumayyan. "And I think the growth, it’s there. I think working together we can have a faster growth rate than it was for the past 10 or 20 years." — Casey Moore

PGA Tour will retain oversight over tour

As part of the agreement, PGA Tour Inc. will remain in place as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, which means it will continue to have oversight over its tour. During an interview with CNBC, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan offered more insight into the breakdown and Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan confirmed that PIF is prepared to invest billions.

"The c6 still stays in place and out of the c6 we’ll continue to operate our tours," Monahan said. "We’ll put our player retirement plans and assets there. So that stays in place. One of the things that’s important to both of us is every single week we’re playing tournaments, we’re making a huge impact on the communities where we’re invited guests. That continues.

"At the c6 level — you take the assets of the PGA Tour, the PIF assets, and LIV and the Asian Tour and the DP World Tour, take all of those commercial assets and drop them down into that for-profit LLC … we’re going to go through an evaluation of all of the businesses and the PIF will invest … there will be additional investment and growth initiatives. That’s what’s really exciting here." — Casey Moore

What has former U.S. President Donald Trump said about LIV Golf?

During a pro-am event at his Trump National Golf Club May 25, Trump praised LIV Golf and defended his business relationship with the controversial Saudi-funded tour.

"They've been great for golf. The Saudis have been fantastic for golf,” Trump said then. “And they're going to make it a big part of, inside their country, they're going to do some great courses."

LIV Golf also has upcoming stops scheduled at Trump courses in Bedminster, New Jersey, and Miami, Florida, later this year.

After the news Tuesday, Trump celebrated the merger on his Truth Social platform, according to CNBC. “Great news from LIV Golf. A big, beautiful, and glamorous deal for the wonderful world of golf. Congrats to all!!!”

What does the merger with LIV Golf mean for the PGA Tour?

While the merger announced the creation of "a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity," the PGA Tour is retaining its position as "a 501(c)(6) tax exempt organization."

The difference with the merger, however, is that — in the threat of continued disruption in men's professional golf — the PGA Tour reversed course and is aligning with the massive influx of Saudi capital.

In an interview on CBS in June 2022, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan ripped the LIV tour over links between the Saudi government and the terrorist attacks on 9/11. In the interview, Monahan spoke about players who joined LIV Golf needing to apologize to the families of those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and asked: "Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?"

What is LIV Golf?

The LIV Golf Invitational Series made its debut in June 2022 after the tour lured some notable players from the PGA Tour such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Others like Brooks Koepka, the winner of the most recent PGA Championship, Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith have since joined. The LIV tour presented a disruption in the dynamics of the sport.

The format of play of the tour also presented a shakeup to the PGA Tour.

Events were designed as 54-hole, three-round, no-cut competitions. LIV Golf incorporated shotgun starts to expedite play. Players were split into four-person teams. Purses were divided between individual placement and team placement, offering players more financial incentives to participate.

What has Phil Mickelson said about the PGA Tour merger with LIV Golf?

Though he has not made public comments yet, Mickelson, one of the most high-profile players on the LIV tour, posted a message on Twitter to celebrate the news of the merger.

"Awesome day today 😊," he wrote.

Why is LIV Golf so controversial?

The LIV tour drew criticism because it is funded entirely by the PIF, the sovereign wealth investment fund of the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of wide-ranging human rights abuses, including politically motivated killings, torture, forced disappearances and inhumane treatment of prisoners. And members of the royal family and Saudi government were accused of involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist.

What has been Tiger Woods' stance on LIV Golf?

In May 2022, Tiger Woods reaffirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour.

"Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour and committed to the legacy of the Tour have pushed back against, and he's taken some personal time, and we all understand that," Woods said ahead of the 2022 PGA Championship. "Some of his views on how the Tour could be run, should be run, been a lot of disagreement there. Obviously we're going to have difference of opinions, how he sees the Tour, and we'll go from there."

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman confirmed in August 2022 that the league offered Woods in the neighborhood of $700 million to $800 million to join the Saudi-backed tour.

What have other notable PGA Tour golfers said about LIV Golf?

A number of players who declined to join LIV Golf, such as Rory McIlroy, had been publicly outspoken in their criticism of the Saudi-backed tour.

“There’s no room in the golf world for LIV Golf,” McIlroy said in July 2022. “I don’t agree with what LIV is doing. If LIV went away tomorrow, I’d be super happy.” 

What is the timeline of how LIV Golf got started?

LIV Golf first teed off last June after rattling the golf world with the news that it would offer players larger purses backed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. The inaugural tournament was held in London and then the tour traveled to its first stateside event in Portland.

Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio García were among the leading PGA Tour players to leave for LIV. The PGA suspended the players for participating in the new series.

LIV Golf was met with much criticism from Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and others for accepting support from a country with a history of human rights violations and for breaking tradition.

At the end of the first LIV Golf season, Johnson was crowned the champion, earning a prize of $18 million.

In January, LIV Golf signed a broadcast deal with CW Network to air 14 events of the 2023 season.

A month later, the PGA invited LIV golfers to participate in the Masters. Mickelson and Brooks Koepka tied for second place. — Victoria Hernandez

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