Struggling to process the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger? You’re not alone

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Saudi PIF Governor Yasir Al Rumayyan.

Saudi PIF Governor Yasir Al Rumayyan, left, and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

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It read like an April Fools’ prank or Saturday Night Live sketch: PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan — one-time bitter rivals — sitting side-by-side Tuesday morning on a CNBC set, singing the praises of their decision to merge their respective organizations.

Only there was no chuckling audience or laugh track.

Because, stunningly, this partnership is actually happening.

The PGA Tour and LIV Golf, along with the DP World Tour, have found common ground, or at least common coffers — a commercial agreement worth untold billions but that flies in the face of everything that Monahan and his band of Tour loyalists have been preaching from the mountaintops for the past two years.  

“What we’re talking about today is coming together to unify the game of golf, and to do so under one umbrella,” Monahan said.

This was the same Jay Monahan whose Tour has been under assault by, and in an ugly legal battle with, LIV Golf. Who had banished players who signed with the upstart league. Who had accused LIV of being an untenable business that was nothing more a sportswashing enterprise for laundering Saudia Arabia’s public image. Who had chastised players for aligning with a nation with ties to 9/11.    

“I would ask any player that has left the PGA Tour or any player that would consider leaving,” Monahan told CBS’s Jim Nantz on the Canadian Open telecast last year, “have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

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A year later, how does Monahan reconcile the Tour’s stunning about-face with his prior comments and sentiments? With the same message that many LIV defectors delivered when asked why they left in the first place: the Tour just wants to grow the game.    

“Together we’ve recognized that we can have a far greater impact than we can working apart,” Monahan told CNBC’s David Faber, “and I give Yasir great credit for coming to the table with an open heart and an open mind. We did the same, and the game of golf is better for what we’ve done here today.”

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan looks on during Day Four of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club on July 10, 2022 in North Berwick, Scotland.
‘The hell is going on?’ Players, fans and others react to PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger
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Monahan and Al-Rumayyan didn’t say when that secret summit took place, only that it occurred with a small group in London over a couple of lunches and a round of golf. Almost as shocking as the agreement was that both parties managed to keep it under wraps. Players on both sides seemed unaware of any deal, as did many members of both organizations. Even Greg Norman, LIV’s commissioner and CEO, wasn’t told of the plan until Tuesday morning, Al-Rumayyan said.

Monahan will address his membership at a players-only meeting at the Canadian Open at 4 p.m. local time Tuesday, in a session that undoubtedly will run high on emotion. Given the time and mental energy so many players — Rory McIlroy chief among them — have committed to defending the Tour since their peers started signing with LIV, Monahan might be wise to arrive at Oakdale G&CC not in Brooks Brothers but in body armor.

“Tell me why Jay Monahan basically got a promotion to CEO of all golf in the world by going back on everything he said the past 2 years,” Tour pro Dylan Wu tweeted Tuesday morning. “The hypocrisy. Wish golf worked like that. I guess money always wins.”

Joel Dahmen took a more facetious tone, tweeting of Dustin Johnson’s LIV team: “I’ve grown up being a fan of the 4 Aces. Maybe one day I get to play for them on the PGA Tour!”

Really, there’s so little that we know about the deal and its potential impact and ramifications. On CNBC, Monahan and Al-Rumayyan spoke in sweeping generalizations, suggesting the partnership would result in “better engagement” for players, fans and sponsors, and that it would present an opportunity to introduce more people to the game.

Specifics were sparse, and that’s seemingly because they’re still being hammered out.

“The first step is today,” Al-Rumayyan said. “The second one is the definitive agreement.”

He added, vaguely, “Working together we can have a faster pathway than the way it was the last 10 or 20 years.”

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan looks on during Day Four of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club on July 10, 2022 in North Berwick, Scotland.
‘The hell is going on?’ Players, fans and others react to PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger
By: Jack Hirsh

The newly formed body does not yet have a name, but it has begun piecing together a board, which tells you something about the hierarchy of decision-makers. Al-Rumayyan will be the chairman, and Monahan the chief executive officer. Beneath them will sit an executive committee comprising, for now, Ed Herlihy, the Tour’s policy board chairman, and Jimmy Dunne, a Tour policy board member, with more board members to be announced at a later date. Dunne’s involvement is of particular interest given his investment firm lost many employees on 9/11 and he has spoken critically of players who joined LIV. (“I don’t like it when they say they’re ‘growing the game,’” Dunne told Sports Illustrated‘s Michael Rosenberg a year ago. “That’s crap. I don’t even like it when they say ‘I have to do what’s best for my family.’ I really wonder how many of those guys, the lifestyle that they were living was so horrible that their family needed them to do this.”) 

Questions about what’s next? Yeah, you might have a few.

Is Al-Rumayyan now Monahan’s boss, and, if so, does that make him golf’s kingpin? Will LIV players still get fully paid out for their original deals? Will LIV franchises now become more palatable to sponsors? Will the Saudi investors push for more PGA Tour events in the Middle East? Will players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour somehow be made whole? What will Rory think, say and do? Has Phil Mickelson been vindicated? If LIV alleged the PGA Tour was a monopoly, how would it classify an umbrella company that owns men’s golf’s three biggest tours?

Oh, and, ultimately, will this be a win for fans? Indeed, however you feel about the morals of the merger, the best players in the world will now have more than only four opportunities a year to play against one another.

“This is not just a solution to the rift in our game, but also a commitment to taking it to new heights,” Monahan said in a statement announcing the partnership. “This will engender a new era in global golf.”

Another new era. Buckle up, folks.

Alan Bastable Editor

As’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.

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