LIV Golf-PGA Tour merger a game changer - GulfToday

LIV Golf-PGA Tour merger a game changer

Illustrative image.

Illustrative image.

For two years the United States’ PGA Tour, which has been organising competitive golf since its formation 1929, had been fighting a legal and media battle with newcomer Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf, set up in 2021. LIV Golf is backed by Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country’s $600 billion wealth fund.

Ever since it has been set up, LIV Golf had managed to attract many of the world’s top golf players including six-time champion Phil Mickelson. The two sides announced the decision to come together and create a new entity. Unlike the PGA Tour which was a not-for-profit company, it has been declared that the new entity will be a for-profit company.

The details of the new structure are awaited. The PIF governor, Yasir Al-Rumaiyyan, who is said to have opened talks with PGA Tour to end the confrontation, had said that the merger will make golf more accessible and more popular, and that this would benefit the players. There is plenty of criticism from the American side, especially golf writers in the American media. They have said that PGA Tour had sold its soul, and it was drawn by the prospect of big money that LIV Golf is promising. Many of the players like Mickelson, who is already with LIV Golf, had praised the new development.

Al-Rumaiyyan and PGA Tour commissioner explained the rationale of the merger decision, and how it is a positive development. He explained in an interview to a television business channel: “We have both LIV and PGA Tour, in addition to all of our assets, and we will be investing in the growth of the game of golf and doing many new things that I think will have a better engagement from the players, the fans, the broadcasters, the sponsors, everyone else.”

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan talked about how the deal benefits the game: “It is a historical day for PGA Tour and the game of golf. There has been a lot of tension in our sport over the last couple of years. But what we are talking about today is coming together and unifying the game of golf.”

The American resentment is understandable because the PGA Tour was a pre-eminent golf tournament in the world, and players from all over the world flocked to it. Over the years it has established its reputation. The reason that PGA Tour caved in to the deal offered by LIV is not as simple as Monahan had made out to be.

It is not only for the greater glory of the game that PGA Tour is joining hands with LIV. It cannot be ruled out that with the American economy going through a rough patch in the post-pandemic period, the PGA Tour must certainly be facing the cash crunch.

It is not like the good times any way. So, it is possible that the American golf organiser had yielded ground to LIV to save itself more than the game, and benefit from the management strategy of a younger partner like LIV. Of course, there is nothing dishonourable in doing an honest business deal, and the PGA Tour folk can maintain discreet silence on the real reasons why they went to the deal.

It is also quite possible that the PIF looking for investment opportunities must have sensed that golf holds huge commercial potential. But LIV will have the additional responsibility of keeping the game’s standards high enough to avoid negative comparison with PGA Tour.

Though money is an important factor in sport, it is much more important that the standards and spirit of golf are maintained as well. It is a business thumb rule: credibility is all.

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