PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan defended Tuesday's landmark announcement that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf wouldinto "a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity." The merger sees the golf-business sector (LIV Golf) of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) combine with the other tours while also ending all litigation involving LIV Golf.
The merger generated shockwaves across the golf community as two sides seemingly void of any common ground joined forces. A sharp divide within professional golf emerged last year as the PIF-financed LIV Golf began to hold events while luring away a handful of prominent players on the PGA Tour to sign with the league for millions of guaranteed dollars. Monahan stressed that Tuesday's announcement takes a "competitor off of the board" while giving the PGA Tour more control of its direction moving forward.
"If you just look at just the environment that we're in, the PIF was controlling LIV, and we were competing against LIV," Monahan told reporters in a Tuesday press conference. "I felt very good about the changes we've made and the position that we were in, but ultimately, to take the competitor off of the board -- to have them exist as a partner, not an owner -- and for us to be able to control the direction going forward put us in a position as the PGA Tour to do and serve our members, and at the same time, again, get to a productive position for the game at large."
LIV Golf's debut in 2022 was accompanied by widespread accusations of "sportswashing" -- the use of sports as propaganda to improve an entity's reputation amid human rights scandals and more -- given its funding from PIF. The PGA Tour, under Monahan's direction, prohibited players from competing on both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, and later introduced designated events with elevated purses in an effort to minimize LIV Golf defections.
Monahan acknowledged the scrutiny resulting from PGA Tour's sudden embrace of LIV Golf after taking a decidedly different stance throughout roughly the past year, but challenged critics to keep the long-term impact of the merger in mind.
"I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite," Monahan said. "Anytime I've said anything, I've said it with the information I've had at the moment, and I've said it as someone who was trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players. I accept those criticisms, but circumstances do change. Looking at the big picture and looking at it this way, that's what got us to this point."
In a joint-interview on CNBC Tuesday morning with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF, Monahan said the merger symbolized the realization that a united front was required to ensure a promising future for the game of golf. He added that the investment from the PIF, believed to the be largest of its kind in the world, can grow the game to new heights under consolidated leadership.
"There has been a lot of tension in our sport over the past few years," Monahan told CNBC's David Faber. "What we are talking about today is coming together to unify the game of golf, and to do so under one umbrella. The way we are doing that is creating a for-profit LLC that PIF will invest in alongside the DP World Tour.
"Together, we are going to move forward and take efforts to grow and expand this great game, and take it to new heights. What has happened today is that we have recognized together, we can have a farther greater impact on this game than we can working apart."
Al-Rumayyan added the PIF is willing to do "whatever it takes" to run a successful operation within what he estimated to be a $100 billion industry. It comes at an opportune time, according to Al-Rumayyan, who contended a merger of such magnitude would not have been possible several years back.
"Had we met two or three years ago, the impact we would have had on the game of the golf would have been lesser ... It would be something small," Al-Rumayyan told CNBC "But the way we are doing our partnership, it is going to be really big in many senses."
The merger is expected to be finalized in the ensuing months, with the tours continuing to run independently -- although now under the same umbrella from a commercial operations standpoint.