By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – The announcement that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf will merge under common ownership will go down as one of the most consequential moments in the sport’s history but there is plenty of uncertainty about how it will impact the game.
After over a year of discord, the rival circuits announced a shock truce on Tuesday that will see the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund – the primary financial backer of LIV Golf – be the exclusive investor of the new entity.
The agreement came as a slap in the face to many who opted to stand by their tours, most notably four-times major champion Rory McIlroy, rather than chase the staggering signing bonuses that LIV Golf used to lure others.
Meanwhile, the likes of Hall of Fame golfer Phil Mickelson and fellow major winners Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Cam Smith, who have made boatloads of money with LIV, can reapply for membership on the PGA Tour following the 2023 season.
But while they could one day find themselves members of the PGA Tour again, those who joined LIV Golf may get a frosty welcome from those competing on the U.S.-based circuit.
“There still has to be consequences to actions. The people that left the PGA Tour irreparably harmed this Tour, started litigation against it,” world number three McIlroy said on Wednesday. “Like, we can’t just welcome them back in. Like, that’s not going to happen.”
One thing that did not go unnoticed was the absence of LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman’s name from Tuesday’s press release, which is perhaps a sign that the former world number one’s days with the organisation are numbered.
Both McIlroy and 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, who has yet to comment on the merger, took aim at Norman last year when they said the Australian needed to step down from his CEO role in order to end the animosity between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.
Another unknown is how the golf calendar will look under the framework of the merger or whether the LIV Golf League team-based competition will even exist after its 2023 season.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who was announced as CEO of the new unnamed organisation, gave no assurance on LIV Golf League’s future, saying only there is a commitment to make “a good-faith effort” look at the role team golf can play.
Monahan, who has taken a strong stance on those who joined LIV — which critics consider an attempt to “sportswash” Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights violations — also faces a rocky road ahead as some PGA Tour members called for his resignation.
“I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” Monahan said on Tuesday after a heated 75-minute meeting with players in Toronto.
“I accept those criticisms. But circumstances do change. I think that in looking at the big picture and looking at it this way, that’s what got us to this point.”
Despite the deal, it seems unlikely that European golfers who joined LIV and resigned from the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour, will be eligible for the Sept. 29-Oct. 1 Ryder Cup in Rome.
The two criteria for being a member of the European Ryder Cup team are that a golfer is both European and a member of the DP World Tour.
Typically, a resigned player who wants to rejoin the DP World Tour for the 2023 season would have had to give their notification by May 1 of this year.
DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley said subsequent requests would require proof of an exceptional circumstance to be allowed, something he said would “be difficult and highly unlikely that that would happen.”
On the flipside, American players who joined LIV can still qualify for the U.S. team despite being banned from PGA Tour events given they are still members of the PGA of America, which along with Ryder Cup Europe, organises the biennial competition.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)
Brought to you by www.srnnews.com