Professional golf’s biggest beef is coming to a controversial end with the shock merger of the PGA Tour and its rival, the Saudi government-backed LIV Golf. Though details of the merger are still sketchy, players and media expressed shock at what seemed to be the PGA Tour’s capitulation to its controversial competitor.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, dumbed down the real issues of the day (such as egregious human rights violations by the Saudis) in comments reported on by Reuters saying, “How did we go from a confrontation to now being partners? We just realized that we were better off together than we were fighting or apart.”
Monahan’s capitulation to the LIV reflects a major turnaround for the PGA boss, who was a vocal critic of the upstart golf tour. Monahan addressed the issue directly saying, “I recognise that people are going to call me a hypocrite. Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment … I accept those criticisms. But circumstances do change.”
Though Monahan recognized that he would be called a hyprocrite, he failed to acknowledge that his turnaround turnaround represents a major victory for a regime with an appalling human rights record. Though the LIV is funded by the Saudi sovereign fund, Public Investment Fund (PIF), no decision of this magnnitude is done without the approval of Saudi Crown Prince, and frequent human rights violator, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (MBS).
Some issues from the merger that have remained unclear include how the PGA, and its integrity monitors, will handle the LIV’s payment structure. Unlike the PGA, the LIV guarantees every player a payment for every tournament, a move that might have major implications for gaming regulators. Players are also wondering how and when players who jumped ship from the PGA to the LIV will be able to compete in big-time tournaments like the Masters.
Details from this historic merger will continue to emerge but, at the end of the day, the union of the PGA and LIV represents a big win for the Saudi government and MBS.