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WEISS: Pro Golf’s Future Secure, But What Can We Make of Merger?



Saudi Arabia's Yasir Al-Rumayyan and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced their merger on live TV. (CNBC)

Collin Morikawa was quick to reference Monday on Twitter being considered “the longest day in golf” as many U.S. Open sectional qualifying sites held their 36-hole events.

But this year that designation would be nowhere close to the truth as Tuesday morning news broke of the PGA Tour merging with both the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour.

It was an announcement that caught so many by surprise and for good reason. This one was very tight lipped. No assembled media at the Memorial Tournament even discussed the possibility, rather seemed to be waiting for the legal process to play out.

Players found out when the public did and as it emerged later, LIV Golf CEO/Commissioner Greg Norman was only told 10 minutes before the PIF’s Yasir Al-Rumayyan went on CNBC to be interviewed about the deal.

It is a deal which helps all sides in different ways, but how much will depend in the coming weeks as details are ironed out.

Will LIV Golf now receive both current and retroactive Official Golf World Ranking points? Will any LIV golfers go back to the PGA Tour? What will golf fields look like at respective tour events? How much different will professional golf be with everyone on the same general wavelength? Will this create a boost in fan interest?

There are so many moving parts that need to be answered and there will be a lot to be answered for.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan held a player meeting for those on site at the RBC Canadian Open and players will certainly take him to task. A lot of golfers will feel that he sold them out for money after imploring them to turn down big paychecks and all that LIV represented both politically and competitively.

As this piece is being written, Rick Gehman tweeted that player response was 90-10 in the negative and that there was a standing ovation when the room called for new leadership. Wesley Bryan also weighed in on Twitter, saying the “vibe is HOTTTTTT!!!!”

Golf Channel’s Amy Rogers reported that both Webb Simpson and Justin Rose left the meeting and declined to answer any media questions.

It was at this same event a year ago that Monahan in reference to Sept. 11, 2001 wondered aloud if LIV golfers ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour, attempting to take what was then viewed as the moral high ground.

Now 9/11 Families United, golfers and much of the community have turned on Monahan for what they feel is him giving in.

For the PGA Tour, the money that will be gained will be important for them, as is remaining a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization.

The Tour views the ability to see this very public and bitter feud come to an end and also ends the lawsuits filed between them and LIV Golf. There was the potential for the anti-trust lawsuits to have some merit and this agreement stunts any progress towards any findings which could be publicly announced.

PGA Tour players have expressed both exasperation and frustration. Never were they informed of the potential proceedings or had an opportunity to voice opposition.

Players such as Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Will Zalatoris and others were offered large sums of money to play for LIV and all of them bought what Monahan sold. Now that money will never be collected and anyone else who plays a LIV event will play at a significantly lower rate.

If the players feel deceived by Monahan, which certainly seems to be the case, then his future as commissioner is in serious peril, a statement supported by news from the player’s meeting.

LIV Golf has to view this as a win as now there is no choice but for the tour to be taken seriously. One of its members, Brooks Koepka, emerged victorious at the PGA Championship and both he and Phil Mickelson had first-page finishes at the Masters.

The somewhat maligned vision of LIV as a “party tour” which sees a reduced schedule of events, three rounds of tournament play, shorts and music now will be something for all to be able to take in.

LIV’s television deal with the CW did allow for competition to be taken off YouTube, but the numbers never appeared to be big and in one event this season, the end of the tournament was not shown on live television.

Koepka’s win allowed LIV to cash in and start charging to watch live competition on YouTube, but this development will make broadcasts more legitimate.

LIV certainly has endured some growing pains, as the overall broadcast and team play drew criticism.

Mickelson has been grinning ear to ear from this news and he should. The left-hander has long had a “smartest one in the room” reputation and this may have been his biggest risk yet.

He missed multiple majors as he was suspended and frankly was serving as a distraction, all while trying to encourage fellow pros to make the jump to LIV.

When Mickelson returned to the public eye, his reputation certainly took plenty of hits, but he held strongly on his convictions, lately challenging golfers and media alike.

These conversations were firm and consistent in his approach and now much of the golfing community can see his long-game mentality which certainly appears to have been the successful approach. One again Mickelson played chess, while most were playing checkers.

LIV golfers will have the opportunity to rejoin the PGA Tour, a thought most would never have considered possible without paying exorbitant fines, but now there is a certain level of intrigue with how it all plays out.

The DP World Tour has lost quite a bit of its firepower with many leaving for LIV or playing almost exclusively on the PGA Tour with this year’s designated events leading to larger prize pools.

Many LIV players departed the tour on bad terms, resigning membership because of the stance which was taken. Now there is a possibility for the DP World Tour to have more higher-profile fields, something which certainly is needed.

One of if not the most outspoken media voices throughout the process has been Brandel Chamblee. Often a target of Phil Mickelson and actually sued by Patrick Reed for defamation, Chamblee called Tuesday “one of the saddest days in the history of professional golf”.

Another vocal critic in Eamon Lynch also did not back down, stating golf would be measurably worse for this deal in a piece with a headline calling elite golf public relations for a tyrant.

This deal was done could be that golf can truly become a global game. The PGA Tour does not leave the United States much and often plays its events at TPC courses. The ability to play in Australia and other countries has to be an interesting process which can grow the game, something which will interest all parties.

All four major championships also have to be breathing a sigh of relief as each will not have to pick sides anymore. Several press releases conveyed excitement about what is to come.

There is never a great time to make this announcement and it is a shame that the timing will overshadow Canada’s national open this week, but now how these next few weeks of these ongoing developments will determine a lot about golf’s future.

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