The PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit have agreed to a landmark merger that will create one operation that aims to “unify the game of golf” — which has drawn mixed reactions from professional golfers and fans.
LIV Golf, founded in 2021 in a direct challenge to the PGA Tour, has been led publicly, with funding from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, by former pro Greg Norman.
Key Words (July 2022): Trump tells golfers to ‘take the money’ from LIV Golf or ‘pay a big price’
As touring pros began reacting to the news Tuesday morning, notable among them was Phil Mickelson.
It’s no surprise that Mickelson is all “fore” it: He was one of the first professional golfers to leave the PGA Tour for LIV, and was offered roughly $200 million to join the Saudi-backed league last year, according to the Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine. Dustin Johnson was another high-profile player who earned a big payday from LIV, reportedly bagging more than $150 million just to compete.
From the archives (August 2022): Phil Mickelson and 10 other LIV golfers sue PGA Tour over antitrust claims
These were controversial moves, as many golfers were criticized for joining LIV Golf and turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record. According to the U.S. State Department, Saudi Arabia has in recent years been linked to multiple human-rights violations, including unlawful killings; executions for nonviolent offenses; forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees by government agents, among other offenses.
A U.S. intelligence assessment in 2021 concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had personally approved the abduction or killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.
The PGA Tour suspended Mickelson and 10 other golfers last summer, and banned other players who joined the LIV Golf International Series from participating in any PGA Tour events.
Many pro golfers’ reactions to the merger were more mixed, including two PGA Tour players. “Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with,” wrote Canadian player Mackenzie Hughes.
“The hypocrisy,” added American golfer Dylan Wu. “I guess money always wins.”
Collin Morikawa, winner of the PGA Championship and the Open Championship and currently playing only on the PGA Tour, was also unaware of a possible merger. He learned the news on social media, too. “And everyone thought yesterday was the longest day in golf,” he wrote.
In addition to reactions from pro golfers, one notable golf enthusiast, former U.S. President Donald Trump, also commented on the merger on social media.
“GREAT NEWS FROM LIV GOLF. A BIG, BEAUTIFUL, AND GLAMOROUS DEAL FOR THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF GOLF. CONGRATS TO ALL!!!” he wrote in all caps on Truth Social.
Trump has advocated for golfers leaving the PGA in favor of LIV Golf, saying they would come to regret a refusal to take the Saudi money.
As part of the merger, the parties to the deal are dropping lawsuits against each other effective immediately. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund will make a major financial investment in the new-look entity, and will also be a corporate sponsor for events.
“There’s been a lot of tension in our sport over the last couple years,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told CNBC on Tuesday. “What we’re talking about today is coming together to unify the game of golf, and to do so under one umbrella.”
During Monahan’s interview, he was asked if he thought players and fans would react positively to the move.
“It’s less about how people respond today, and it’s all about how people respond in 10 years,” he said.
A year ago, Monahan suggested players considering a move from the PGA Tour to LIV should ask themselves whether they had ever felt compelled to apologize for their PGA affiliations, hinting that becoming LIV players, given Saudi human-rights abuses and ties to a majority of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers, would become cause for shame.