The recent LIV Golf-PGA TOUR news has again been misplayed by mainstream media. Here’s why it makes perfect sense for the future of professional golf.
“Groundhog Day” remains one of my favorite movies, but we’re almost exactly where we were when I posted in this space a year ago. On the eve of last year’s U.S. Open golf championship, I bristled that too much media attention was being bestowed on legitimizing the announced LIV Golf initiative, as the requisite muckraking and reports of the demise of the PGA TOUR ensued. I asserted my skepticism that this upstart would captivate more than a passing fancy — and I wasn’t wrong.
LIV lasted barely a year, without driving any meaningful audience, broadcast or sponsor support. Just last week, for all purposes, it folded its tent as its financial benefactors agreed to surrender its assets and offer its financial support to the PGA TOUR as part of an agreement in principle, which has now again roused the mainstream media to put on their Chicken Little suits and sound apocalyptic cries of disruption under the curious semantic of a “merger.”
I find the term “merger” to be taking significant liberties, given the way I interpret the information made available. One can certainly throw shade at the way in which this potential business arrangement was announced to TOUR members and the rest of the world, and one should also question the ethics of holding hands with a Saudi regime that the TOUR rightfully criticized for human rights violations throughout LIV’s brief tenure. These two items are not insignificant and will clearly need to be addressed as things move forward. However, this arrangement, as proposed, was both inevitable — and strategically, a huge win for the PGA TOUR and golf overall.
The PGA Tour accomplishes several key objectives here that will put them in an even greater position of strength than they have ever had in the world of professional golf. Remember that the four most prestigious, major championships and the Ryder Cup are not controlled by the PGA TOUR, a reality that the organization has tried desperately to rectify since the organization was formed after splitting from the PGA of America in 1968. The large capital infusion the Saudis will bring to this new venture conceivably provides an impetus for increased player compensation, greater product development, and more significant engagement among a fan base that is growing and becoming more diversified.
Equally significant in the agreement is the elimination of potentially crippling litigation that threatened to impact the TOUR’s reserve funds and continue to shine a negative light and distraction away from the organization’s core businesses. By reaching this agreement, the TOUR also removes a distracting competitor with a huge financial war chest, and gains control over all major worldwide tours.
Mending fences with players from both sides will be sticky, but three years from now, professional golf will be better for it, the TOUR will be the lead decision maker, and casual followers will have long forgotten the typical mainstream press sensationalism of these past few days. Now, let’s put this story on the backburner and enjoy what promises to be a terrific showcase for the USGA at its flagship U.S. Open Championship.