Bitter rivals LIV Golf and PGA Tour announce shock merger to end golf’s civil war

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Golf’s ongoing civil war appears to be coming to a surprising end after Saudi-backed breakaway league LIV Golf, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour announced that they have merged.

The three biggest tours in world golf made the announcement out of the blue after 18 months of bitter conflict that has seen players who defected from the ‘establishment’ PGA Tour to the controversial LIV tour, such as Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson, branded as traitors.

That has caused feuds with loyalist stars such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm – often resulting in a war of words in the press – but the tours appear to have reached a solution.

A statement put out by the PGA Tour confirmed the merger, which puts an immediate end to all ongoing lawsuits where players and tours have been suing and counter-suing each other.

The statement read: “The PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) today announced a landmark agreement to unify the game of golf, on a global basis.

“The parties have signed an agreement that combines PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA TOUR and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players.”

The end to the ongoing lawsuits was also highlighted in the statement.

“Notably, today’s announcement will be followed by a mutually agreed end to all pending litigation between the participating parties,” it added.

“Further, the three organizations will work cooperatively and in good faith to establish a fair and objective process for any players who desire to re-apply for membership with the PGA TOUR or the DP World Tour following the completion of the 2023 season and for determining fair criteria and terms of re-admission, consistent with each Tour’s policies.”

Rory McIlroy has been loyal to the PGA Tour and commissioner Jay Monahan throughout the civil war (AP)
Rory McIlroy has been loyal to the PGA Tour and commissioner Jay Monahan throughout the civil war (AP)

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan – who has been one of LIV Golf’s most outspoken critics – also stressed his delight at the agreement reached.

“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” said Monahan.

“This transformational partnership recognizes 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 organization 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.”

An anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA Tour was originally filed last August by 11 golfers before being taken over by LIV Golf. It was due to be heard in 2024.

In April, the DP World Tour won its legal battle against 12 LIV players who committed “serious breaches” of the Tour’s code of behaviour by playing in LIV Golf events without permission.

The subsequent increased fines and suspensions prompted Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson to resign their memberships and become ineligible for the Ryder Cup.

Those players could now return to the fold, with the Tours pledging to establish a “fair and objective process” for players to re-apply for membership after the end of this season.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity and have the right of first refusal on any capital to be invested.

The PGA Tour will appoint a majority of the Board and hold a majority voting interest in the combined entity, with PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan the chairman and Monahan the CEO.

Additional reporting by PA