PGA Chief's About-Face Came in Secret Meeting

Jay Monahan once reviled the Saudi LIV tour, but he then agreed to a stunning merger
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2023 10:25 AM CDT
Golf May Never Be the Same After Stunning Merger
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan in a file photo.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

A lot of words are being thrown around to describe what happened in the world of golf on Tuesday: Shocking, stunning, hypocritical (from the critics), to name a few. One thing clear, though, is that "Tuesday was unlike any other [day] in golf history," writes Brendan Quinn at the Athletic. "In a snap, without warning, the entire professional sport changed both structurally and fundamentally." The reference, of course, is to the out-of-nowhere announcement that the PGA is reversing itself and merging with Saudi Arabia's LIV Golf tour.

  • The deal: Quinn's story has the details of how PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan secretly met with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (which bankrolls the LIV). The two hit it off quickly and struck a deal after only their second meeting, all of which somehow remained under wraps until Monahan's announcement Tuesday. The negotiating unfolded in the last two months.
  • The cash: Many, many details of the deal are still to be worked out, but one basic view is that the PGA needed money in a bad way (in part to compete with the LIV), and the Saudis have a ton of it. "The merger is the latest sign that money can overwhelm almost any other force in professional sports," writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times. He notes that when the LIV launched, Monahan lambasted it publicly, calling out the Saudis' human rights record and even suggesting that golfers who migrated to the LIV would be betraying 9/11 victims because most of the attackers were Saudi citizens.

  • Backlash: Monahan is getting slammed by angry PGA golfers, many of whom turned down lucrative deals to go to the LIV. "I feel betrayed, and will not ... be able to trust anyone within the corporate structure of the PGA TOUR for a very long time," tweeted Wesley Bryan. In contrast, Phil Mickelson, one of the first to move to the LIV, tweeted that Tuesday was an "awesome day." One particularly scathing take comes from Brody Miller in an Athletic essay: "In the end, Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour had a price tag. The only thing left to wonder is if they always did, or if they simply lost."
  • He called it: Donald Trump, that is. In an online post last summer, he wrote: "All of those golfers that remain 'loyal' to the very disloyal PGA will pay a big price when the inevitable merger with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big 'thank you' from PGA officials." The New York Times reports that Trump, whose business enterprise has maintained strong ties with the Saudis, will benefit from the deal because major tournaments will be played on his courses. It remains unclear whether the PGA will compensate players who turned down big LIV offers.
  • Who won? In assessing the deal at Golf Digest, Shane Ryan writes that it's "too early to tell" which side is the winner in the merger. But "there's a compelling argument being made that from a business standpoint, both come out ahead; the PGA Tour gets lots of money and an end to both a harmful schism and any potential revelations they didn't want to see in a deposition, and the Saudi PIF gets the influence in golf that was the entire raison d'etre for LIV Golf in the first place."
(More golf stories.)

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