The PGA Tour, LIV Golf and DP World Tour, the operator of the European Tour, have agreed to merge into a single, for-profit entity that is likely to transform the world of men’s golf, the tours jointly announced on Tuesday.
The agreement puts an end to the pending litigation between the legacy tours and the Saudi-backed LIV league that would have gone to court in California next year, and it caps the end of a saga that had caused turmoil and ill-will in the sport for close to two years.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which provided LIV with enough money to make star players massive guaranteed offers and pay record tournament purses to lure them away from the PGA Tour, will make a capital investment in the combined entity as part of the agreement.
Critics have accused the LIV tour of being a vehicle for Saudi Arabia to attempt to improve its reputation in the face of criticism of its human rights record. A senior PGA executive said recently that he did not think LIV had a “sustainable business model".
“Today is a very exciting day for this special game and the people it touches around the world,” said PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. “We are proud to partner with the PGA Tour to leverage PIF’s unparalleled success and track record of unlocking value and bringing innovation and global best practices to business and sectors worldwide.”
The tours also said in their joint announcement that players who were indefinitely suspended by the PGA Tour or DP World Tour for playing in LIV events could have a path to return.
The organisations “will work cooperatively and in good faith to establish a fair and objective process for any players who desire to re-apply for membership” to the legacy tours, they said.
“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.
“This transformational partnership recognises the immeasurable strength of the PGA Tour’s history, legacy and pro-competitive model and combines with it the DP World Tour and LIV — including the team golf concept — to create an organisation that will benefit golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners and fans.
“Going forward, fans can be confident that we will, collectively, deliver on the promise we’ve always made — to promote competition of the best in professional golf and that we are committed to securing and driving the game’s future.”
While the new entity will be a for-profit organization, PGA Tour Inc will remain as a tax-exempt organisation under US law.
The decision to merge comes less than two weeks before the third major championship of the men’s golf season, the US Open. For parts of 2022 and 2023, the majors were the only times that LIV players commingled with the PGA and DP World Tour players.
Animosity grew between the factions, with Phil Mickelson often speaking as the de facto player leader for LIV and directing accusations of collusion at the PGA Tour and other governing bodies, and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy fiercely defending the PGA Tour and criticising LIV frequently.