The PGA Tour shocked the world earlier today by announcing that they’re merging with LIV Golf. After two years of legal battles and hostility between the pride of American Golf and the Saudi-backed breakaway, a sudden rug-pull has left the state of Golf in the most interesting spot it’s ever been in. But what does that mean for all parties moving forward?
The greater good
If we forget everything else for the time being and just focus on the two rosters coming together once more, this is a good thing.
We saw Brooks Koepka win the PGA Championship in defiant fashion only a few short weeks ago, putting an end to the ‘parity in talent’ argument that is often raised when debating the two leagues. The idea of seeing Koepka along with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and upcoming talents such as Mito Peirera, rejoin the PGA Tour is going to give viewers an exciting tournament to watch each and every week.
Regardless of what your view is on LIV, it’s hard to argue that some of the PGA Tour events over the last couple of years have lacked star quality. There have been weeks where Matt Kuchar has clearly been one of the best players in the field and while that’s no disrespect to Kuch or the field in that particular week, it’s a far cry from seeing 5-10 of the top 20 Golfers consistently week in and week out.
It might not have come about in the way any of us ever expected, but the fact we truly get to see a complete roster of the best talent in the world is a great thing for the viewer.
The future of Golf is an exciting one
The other element to this is how the tournaments will look. After the PGA Tour lost its monopoly upon Greg Norman’s formation of LIV Golf, we saw Jon Monohan scramble to make changes to the PGA Tour that many have spent years crying out for. Elevated purses, joint events with the DP World Tour, a focus on promoting the game the right way and a new modern ‘team league’ heavily influenced by LIV.
Say what you want about LIV Golf, but the festival-like atmosphere, the inclusion of teams, and the desire to try new things at least inspired some long-awaited changes from the PGA Tour that would’ve otherwise not been made due to there never being a need.
We may see the ‘teams’ element implemented in a way that isn’t as substanceless as LIV, where there is a natural attachment to the players on each group and the names/logos don’t look like something cooked up on an old Playstation game. We may also see a more relaxed atmosphere, with ‘walk-up’ music and other elements from LIV’s unique take on the game of Golf.
No matter your view on the merger, one of the best parts about the merger is undoubtedly the prospect of the game of Golf becoming far more enjoyable for casual viewers and younger audiences, who would’ve previously had no interest.
Everyone has a price…even the PGA Tour
It’s not exactly a great look for the likes of PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan. After two years of whining about LIV Golf and the morality surrounding its existence, to ‘sell out’ and blindside the players who left absurd amounts of money on the table and almost reward those who left is definitely a controversial thing to do.
The PGA Tour and its Golfers have mostly been ‘Anti-LIV’ since its inception. The PGA Tour echoed the sentiments and excluded the LIV Field from the majority of the season. To eradicate that in what might be the most shocking move in sporting history makes the PGA Tour look hypocritical, and embarrass all those who vouched for the Tour and sided with legacy over money.
It’s hard to imagine the likes of Rory McIlroy are going to embrace this with open arms and there is bound to be a natural tension between groups of Golfers. But the stars are now powerless. There may have been some LIV Golfers who were anti-PGA Tour and now have to come home with their tails between their legs (and a boatload of money that is going to rile up any pre-existing PGA Member).
A disappointing reminder of reality
Fireworks are almost bound to burst into the night sky, but the sad part is that the tribalism factor is dead. Unlike the WWE/AEW wars that continue to wage on in the world of Professional Wrestling, everyone is back under one banner – trapped. Anyone that was Anti-LIV, is now forced to play ball and oblige with the morally questionable nature of its entity. If they don’t, there is no alternative. There’s no other professional tour now. It’s the PIF way, or the highway.
Unless the world of YouTube Golf can conjure up something magical to entice professionals into a whole new realm of play (looking at you, Good Good), professionals are now entirely trapped with their hands behind their back. If they don’t want to play with the LIV guys or embrace what could be a whole slate of changes to how the PGA Tour is run, tough.
This is either going to go one of two ways. It’s either going to make Golf, or it’s going to break it. Either way, the beautiful game is never going to be the same again…for better or worse.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire