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A snapshot of where the PGA-LIV negotiations are actually at


LIV-PGA merger, golf

Negotiations between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf have been given a much-needed push in the right direction, after members of the Tour’s policy board met with the PIF in the Bahamas this month.

Attempting to finalise the PGA-LIV merger and unify men’s professional golf tournaments around the world has proven difficult, as you would expect.

Negotiations have both developed and broken down all too regularly.

But recently, player directors, including Tiger Woods, have flown to the Bahamas for somewhat of a meet-and-greet with the governor of the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) Yasir Al-Rumayyan. The reported reason for this meeting which was led by commissioner Jay Monahan, was to map out the plan to join forces and unify the game.

Both parties, individually, have been securing victories for their own products; LIV Golf having poached two-time Major champion Jon Rahm away from the Tour, while the PGA received a high profile $1.5 billion investment from Strategic Sports Group that had the backing of LeBron James and Drake.

Many have been confused by the fact the two agreed midway through 2023 that there would be a PGA-LIV merger, but after US courts got involved and practically prevented them from meeting their December 31 deadline, they were forced to once again restart negotiations.

It seems the PGA-LIV merger saga will continue to roll on for a while longer, but here’s what you need to know about where it’s at, as of March-April 2024.

Whats the latest on the PGA-LIV merger?

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As March wrapped up, the PGA-LIV merger took an important step in the right direction to unify men’s professional golf after the PGA Tour’s policy board meeting with the PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan in the Bahamas; a ‘secret meeting’.

It was also reportedly just a meet-and-greet, with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan leading negotiations, alongside player directors including Australia’s Adam Scott and golfing legend Tiger Woods.

One of the PGA player directors, Patrick Cantlay, stated prior to the meeting that he was excited to see negotiations restart and hoped a deal could be struck.

“I imagine I’ll do a lot more listening than talking,” Cantlay said before the Bahamas meeting.

“I’m excited to hear what I will learn and I’ll have a lot more information after.”

“I doubt we’ll get into anything substantive in the first meeting, just more of a meet and greet.

“If there’s a deal that could be struck that’s in the best interest of the entire membership, I’m all for it.”

golf majors, US Open, LA Country Club, McIlroy, Rahm, PGA-LIV merger
Rory McIlroy and John Rahm have been prominent figures in the LIV and PGA standoff.

The important thing to takeaway from this Bahamas meeting is that it shows there is still interest from both parties to reunite world golf, regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of their individual competitions.

It indicates to golf fans that a deal could be done sooner rather later.

Why do the PGA want to unify world golf?

Ever since the LIV Golf tour was created and got up and running midway through 2022, the PGA Tour has never looked the same. Many superstars of the sport have been lured to the more globally-focused and heavily cashed up association.

It’s meant that the PGA’s ratings have dropped in both popularity and broadcast viewership. According to ESPN, for example, the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational from early-March was down 30% on viewership compared to the final round only a year ago.

Even the Genesis Invitational in February dropped 5% — and that could’ve been much worse if it wasn’t for the return of Tiger Woods, which undoubtedly boosted viewership.

It’s clear that the bleeding of talent the PGA Tour is experiencing cannot continue being viable, given its standing as the premier tour. It’s now experimenting smaller player fields to combat criticism it’s become a ‘watered down’ competition.

The $1.5 billion investment made by the Strategic Sports Group – a consortium of billionaire sports team owners – has definitely helped the PGA arrest some momentum. However, it’s clearly in the best interest of the competition that they unify, with both LIV Golf and the DP World Tour (European league).

tiger woods, sunday red, PGA-LIV merger

Why would LIV Golf want to unify world golf?

There’s no denying at the moment that LIV Golf has the upper hand on the PGA Tour when it comes to potential PGA-LIV merger talks, considering the amount of top class players they have at their disposal that the PGA badly wants back.

Most recently, LIV poached reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm away from the Tour on a whopping $300 million deal, which somewhat signalled the beginning of a painful end for PGA, or at the very least a painful demise.

It also must be acknowledged that the PIF’s breakaway tour hasn’t exactly witnessed a return on investment as of yet; reports confirm it made virtually no revenue in its first season.

Mind you, as we know, the PIF isn’t really in it for a profit, primarily.

Regardless, LIV will, at some point, need to see its league prove some degree of long-term viability. According to ESPN, the PIF spent $784 million to get it up and running, which doesn’t include cash spent on bonuses paid to lure in the PGA’s star golfers. It’s in both parties’ best interests to figure something out.

“Look they’re a sovereign wealth fund,” Rory McIlroy has previously said.

“They want to park money for decades and not worry about it.

“They want to invest in smart and secure businesses, and the PGA Tour is definitely one of those, especially if they’re looking to invest in sport in some way.”

Another issue LIV continues facing, that could be resolved via a deal with the PGA, is legitimately cracking the American viewership market. Their first event of this year averaged 208,000 viewers through the final round, compared to the PGA’s Cognizant Classic final round yielding 1,362,000 viewers.

Where do fans sit on the situation right now?

It’s fair to say that there are a couple issues preventing LIV from dominating the PGA, but it seems golf fans worldwide are eager to see them join forces and bring all the best golfer back together.

Many sports have gone through this division in the past; World Series Cricket was initially a major disrupter to the traditional formatting, the American Football League and National Football League eventually merged to create the NFL, and even closer to home, Australia’s rugby league fans had to endure the Super League wars.

It’s natural for these things to eventually rear their ugly heads, but what’s important is that no lasting damage is made to either side that scars and resentment.

What golf fans ultimately crave is seeing all the best golfers in the world competing against one another. Many will be open to parts of LIV’s alternate look and formatting being integrated, if and when agreements are reached.

It’s still a big wait and see on whether the PGA-LIV merger will eventuate any time soon. But recent signs suggest that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

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