Jon Rahm is off to the LIV Golf Tour for hundreds of millions of dollars. The two-time major winner, and possibly the best player on the planet at this second, will no longer be a part of the PGA TOUR and will join the third season of the new circuit in 2024.
Rumors are swirling that Rahm will own his own LIV team while pocketing up to $600 million in compensation.
But wait a minute: Isn’t LIV a party to a peace agreement with the PGA TOUR? Does anyone remember this awkward-as-hell peace and cooperation press conference just six months ago?
That video is from June 6, so, no, you’re not going crazy. The Saudi Public Investment Fund was supposed to buy into the PGA TOUR, and everyone was supposed to get along famously.
The PGA Tour has agreed to merge with Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf in a deal that would see the competitors squash pending litigation and move forward as a larger golf enterprise.
The two entities signed an agreement that would combine the PGA Tour’s and LIV Golf’s commercial businesses and rights into a new, yet-to-be-named for-profit company. The agreement includes DP World Tour, also known as the PGA European Tour.
LIV Golf is backed by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, an entity controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and has been embroiled in antitrust lawsuits with the PGA Tour in the last year. The deal announced Tuesday would end all pending litigation.
PIF is prepared to invest billions of new capital into the new entity, CNBC’s David Faber reported Tuesday. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan: “What we’re talking about today is coming together to unify the game of golf and to do so under one umbrella.”
PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan: “The way we’re doing our partnership it’s going to be really big in many senses. We will have both LIV and PGA Tour to in addition to all of our assets, and we will be investing in in the growth of the game of golf and we will be doing many new things that I think will have a better engagement from the players, the fans, the broadcasters, the sponsors, everyone else.”
So why are the Saudis still massively overpaying for PGA players if the parties are supposed to cooperate? Sports washing is one thing, but raiding an entity they’re theoretically partnering with doesn’t make a ton of sense.
Because the agreement between the PGA and LIV is to be finalized by December 31, which Monahan has called that a “firm target.” But it appears the parties might not be close to coming to terms. And not just because Al-Rumayyan isn’t a member at Augusta National yet either.
Front Office Sports reports the PGA “cautioned” LIV about poaching the Spaniard, saying it “would complicate efforts toward ending the schism in pro golf.” But LIV forked over the money anyway, and whatever you think about the Saudis, they are certainly wise in the ways of PR and perception.
This can’t be seen as anything but a shot over the bow as the negotiations between the parties start to come to a denouement. So with the i’s still not dotted and the t’s yet to be crossed, is the merger we all assumed was happening actually not going to happen?
If we go back to competing tours, likely, that Monahan will no longer be the leader of the PGA. His credibility by his own admission at this point is next to nil, and his bosses at the PGA TOUR Policy Board now include Tiger Woods, who hasn’t been shy about his reservations regarding any merger in the first place.
But does the PGA want to go back to the mattresses while fighting an entity with basically infinite dollars and a desire to get into the sport? The federal government might help extricate the TOUR from itself by declaring the merger illegal in the first place, but otherwise, the ball might not be the only bifurcation in golf.
Does the merger still happen? We’ll all find out soon. But it appears the LIV side of the ledger is willing to do whatever it takes to make those terms as favorable as possible.