By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Asian Tour, the only one of the major regional golf bodies to have embraced Saudi-backed LIV Golf before the shock merger with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, has welcomed the deal as “a massive stride forward for the game”.
The sporting world was stunned on Tuesday when the PGA Tour and DP World Tour put aside two years of bitter dispute to announce a merger with the Saudi-backed LIV circuit, forming one unified commercial entity.
The Asian Tour, struggling financially after the COVID pandemic, accepted a $400 million cash injection from LIV Golf last year to bankroll an expanded and more lucrative schedule.
Although not mentioned in the media release that announced Tuesday’s merger, the 29-year-old Asian Tour said it was a “great result” for everyone involved in golf.
“This hugely significant development validates our well documented decision to collaborate with Golf Saudi and LIV Golf to elevate the Asian Tour’s standing in the game,” Tour Commissioner Cho Minn Thant said in a news release.
“We were always confident a solution would be found, and we are delighted it has come so soon following a turbulent period for golf globally.
“The Asian Tour looks forward to … playing our part in helping to build a model and structure for the Tours to work together so that we can all enjoy what will arguably be the most exciting period for professional golf.”
The statement announcing the merger described it as a “landmark agreement to unify the game of golf, on a global basis”, which had obvious implications for regional tours around the world.
LIV had stops in Singapore and Australia in this year’s schedule, the latter in Adelaide in April played out in front of raucous crowds in one of the highlights of the breakaway tour’s season.
The PGA of Australia made no deals with LIV but allowed Australian golfers contracted to the circuit to play in last year’s Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship, despite both being co-sanctioned by the mainly European DP World Tour.
The Australian Tour was less enthusiastic than the Asian Tour in its initial take on the merger, saying only that it would continue discussions with PGA Tour and DP World Tour to discuss the details of the deal.
“We have and will continue to act in a deliberate, strategic and consistent manner which is to be committed to work within golf’s global ecosystem and provide strong pathways for (our) players … into tours around the world,” PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman said in a statement.
“These discussions are ongoing as we continue to ensure any new arrangements deliver positive benefits to our Tour, all of our members, the entire Australasian golfing community and those who love the game.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)
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