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The PGA Tour has spent the better half of a year doing everything in its power to distance itself from LIV Golf, the rival circuit that signed away some of its best players that happens to be funded by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Firm (PIF).
Lawsuits were filed, players were banned from the Tour, and ‘sports washing’ and ‘blood money’ were common phrases mentioned by every sports outlet in the world that planted its flag on the side of the Tour.
The perceived notion was that the PGA Tour and LIV Golf would never come close to working with one another. Most assumed the two would remain separate entities, battles would take place in a courtroom, and some believe that the Saudis could eventually take their money elsewhere and LIV would one day dissolve.
Now, three days shy of the one-year anniversary of the inaugural LIV event, the PGA Tour has announced that it has agreed to merge with LIV Golf.
The PGA Tour will now enter a partnership that combines its own business with the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) as well as the DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity.
As the Tour statement explains, LIV Golf will technically be dissolved while the PIF has now picked up a very large seat at the table when it comes to the operations of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
Nobody – players, fans, and media members – saw this coming. Given the shocking new reality, everyone is collectively trying to make sense of it all while history is very much unfolding in real time.
Which Side Wins With The PGA Tour – LIV Golf Merger?
Both LIV and the PGA Tour will benefit tremendously from the merger. That may seem like a cop-out answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one.
While the PGA Tour wasn’t struggling financially, its pockets did have a floor. The same can not be said for the PIF and LIV Golf, the limit simply does not exist when it comes to they’re funding and the Saudis clearly made the Tour an offer it could not refuse.
This new-look partnership will erase all conversations about whether or not tournament purses are lucrative enough or if the top players in the world are being compensated fairly.
While everyone can have their own opinion about where the money is coming from, any financial-caused headaches the Tour was having are gone.
While LIV had the deeper pockets, the PGA Tour had the better crop of players, history, and rooted fanfare that LIV Golf was desperately missing.
LIV has put most of its chips into its team aspect hoping to form something similar to the franchises seen in Formula 1 racing. That’s incredibly tough to get off and running, not only because it’s never been done before, but it’s especially difficult to get going with teams that lack superstar names.
LIV teams were struggling to find their footing from both an interest and sponsorship level. Those issues should iron themselves out rather quickly with the new partnership.
Golf Fans Should Be Ecstatic With The Merger
Take politics out of the equation, and there is absolutely no question that this is a win for golf fans around the world.
Following the drama between LIV and the PGA Tour was fun for all of about three days. The amount of petty-laced grenades everyone has tossed at one another, the constant arguing, and the going-to-bat for two organizations that don’t actually affect our day-to-day lives at all was well past the tired phase.
The golf world was divided more than it ever has been because some players decided to go cash in on a massive payday while others stuck by the tradition and legacy of the PGA Tour. Hopefully, that division is no longer the leading story in golf.
Gone should be the days of having to plant flags in certain players’ camps. We don’t have to hear one person say how Phil Mickelson deserves credit while the next person tries to claim he should be banned from every golf course on the planet.
While details are still very much in the air and the future is still relatively unclear, the golf world should get back to seeing the best players in the world play against one another on a far-more consistent basis.
Cam Smith, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and the rest of LIV should now be teeing it up alongside Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and the rest of the best far more often than not.
No Litigation Garbage, Just More Golf
From the moment LIV Golf was first mentioned, months and months before it was even formed, everyone with a brain knew that the only way its battle with the Tour was going to be resolved was going to be inside a courtroom.
That was the only viable solution because the incredibly firm stances that were taken that the Tour would never cave and work with LIV Golf.
Well, money talks, and here we are, in a beautiful, way more exciting, way less law-talking jargon nobody fully understands and we can just focus on golf.
While some people will still pump politics and law into the situation, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of everyone involved in professional golf is relieved that the ugly side of things is no more.
We were looking at years of this back-and-forth drama that could only be resolved in a courtroom, and now we’re just looking at a sport that will rightfully include the best players in the world on the biggest stage imaginable.
The Stance The Two Sides The Sports Media Will Take
It should be clear by now that the stance taken on this side of things is that the LIV-PGA Tour merger is a win for golf. The sport, at least professionally, that so many around the world love was being poisoned by two organizations that didn’t see eye-to-eye and now the sport itself is the headline instead of the baggage.
Folks on the other side who could not get past the fact that LIV Golf is funded by Saudi Arabia will pat themselves on the back and say ‘told you so’ and that this is a win for sportswashing.
It truly depends on how you want to look at the situation. The Saudis did win here, they just partnered with the best professional golf tour in the history of the game and now get to influence that entity. Those unable to separate politics from sports are immune to not complain about something, and they’ll stick with the sports-washing take.
The reality of it is, you have no other option but to deal in … reality.
As bad as the Tour wanted LIV Golf to go away, it became clear that it never was thanks to its bottomless pockets and its recent successes (Brooks Koepka winning the PGA Championship). LIV was going to continue to poach more talent with cash and hurt professional golf.
Thankfully for all of us, the Tour stepped into that reality and entered this partnership. Two things can be true at once, as well. The Saudis won the ‘battle’ but the Tour benefitted from taking part in the fight.
It’s hard to think that the next year of professional golf could be any crazier than this past year, but it’s a safe bet we’re in for the ride of our lives.
Follow Mark Harris on Twitter @ItIsMarkHarris