The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf have agreed to merge commercial operations under common ownership, the PGA Tour has announced.
The shock announcement comes after a year of unprecedented disruption in the men’s professional game following the launch of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit.
“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“This transformational partnership recognizes the immeasurable strength of the PGA Tour’s history, legacy and pro-competitive model and combines with it the DP World Tour and LIV – including the team golf concept – to create an organization that will benefit golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners and fans.”
The announcement will lead to a “mutually-agreed” end to all pending litigation between the various organisations.
An anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA Tour was originally filed last August by 11 golfers before being taken over by LIV Golf. It was due to be heard in 2024.
In April, the DP World Tour won its legal battle against 12 LIV players who committed “serious breaches” of the Tour’s code of behaviour by playing in LIV Golf events without permission.
The subsequent increased fines and suspensions prompted Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson to resign their memberships and become ineligible for the Ryder Cup.
Those players could now return to the fold, with the Tours pledging to establish a “fair and objective process” for players to re-apply for membership after the end of this season.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity and have the right of first refusal on any capital to be invested.
The PGA Tour will appoint a majority of the Board and hold a majority voting interest in the combined entity, with PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan the chairman and Monahan the CEO.
DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: “This is a momentous day.
“We are delighted to be able to not only reignite our relationship with PIF, but also to have the opportunity to build on our current Strategic Alliance partnership with the PGA Tour.
“Together we will be stronger than ever and well positioned to continue to bring the game to all corners of the globe.
“To partner in this new entity and influence the growth of the game for all our DP World Tour members is energizing and exciting.”
Martin Slumbers, CEO of The R&A, one of world golf’s governing bodies, welcomed the news, saying: “We are pleased that an agreement has been reached which will help men’s professional golf move forward in a collaborative, constructive and innovative fashion.
“We care deeply about golf’s future and are committed to ensuring that the sport continues to thrive for many years to come. This agreement represents a huge step toward achieving that goal for golf and we look forward to working with the new entity for the benefit of the sport globally.”
Irish three-time major winner Padraig Harrington tweeted that the news was “good for the cohesion of global golf”.
“Surprised that this merger has happened so quickly but not surprised it’s happened,” he wrote.
“Definitely in the financial interest of both sides. Definitely in the financial interest of the players even though some of those who gain will feel like they’re losing. Good for the cohesion of global golf.
“If there’s one global professional body, they’ll have the power to dictate when and where players play around the world, similar to most professional sports.”
However, some players expressed shock, surprise and a sense of betrayal that the PGA and DP World Tours were merging their commercial operations with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
More than a year of contention and litigation between LIV and the established Tours and the players who joined the new competition ended in the most astonishing and abrupt fashion on Tuesday with the announcement that the three bodies had set up a new commercial entity to “unify golf”.
One American player, Wesley Bryan, replied to the PGA Tour tweet confirming the merger by writing: “Love finding out info on Twitter. This is amazing. Y’all should be ashamed and have a lot of questions to answer.
“I feel betrayed, and will not not be able to trust anyone within the corporate structure of the PGA TOUR for a very long time.”
The move came as a huge surprise to many professionals, with Canadian Mackenzie Hughes tweeting: “Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with.”
Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa wrote on social media: “I love finding out morning news on Twitter.”
Fellow pro Ben An wrote: “I’m guessing the LIV teams were struggling to get sponsors and PGA Tour couldn’t turn down the money.
“Win-win for both tours but it’s a big lose for who defended the tour for last two years.”
Six-time Major winner Phil Mickelson, one of the players who joined LIV Golf, described the merger as “awesome news”.