PGA Tour sold out to LIV Golf and the Saudis

In less than a year, the Saudis went from disruptors to forcing a complete capitulation that laid the PGA Tour’s moral high ground to waste. From top to bottom, they own professional golf now.

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Players practice on the driving range during a LIV Golf event last year.

Players practice on the driving range during a LIV Golf event last year.

Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Frauds, all of them. But frauds now united in the only thing that actually matters to the world of professional golf: Making money.

In the end, it didn’t actually matter to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan that the money came from a country, Saudi Arabia, that treats human rights like an inconvenience. The tradition and history of the PGA Tour, in fact, didn’t matter all that much to those who argued that LIV Golf was an unworthy, unserious rival whose guaranteed money and 54-hole events were mocking competition.

And as for the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Greg Norman, they did not, in fact, care all that much about growing the game. They wanted to own it. Now they do: The PGA Tour, brought to you by Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

They sold out. Professional golf will never be the same.

Oh, you can already hear the preening and high-fiving from those even nicer private jets that have been paid for with Saudi oil. And why not?

A year ago, Monahan stood up in front of the world and argued that the way Saudi Arabia treats women, gay people and journalists should matter in a player’s decision whether to jump at the guaranteed payday that came with a LIV invitation.

“I would ask any player that has left or any player that would consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

Today? Not so much.

“We are pleased to move forward, in step with LIV and PIF’s world-class investing experience, and I applaud PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan for his vision and collaborative and forward-thinking approach that is not just a solution to the rift in our game, but also a commitment to taking it to new heights.”

World-class investing experience? Are we talking about the future of pro golf or shares of Vandalay Industries?

In its stunning announcement Tuesday, the PGA Tour positioned it as a merger. On paper, it looks more like a hostile takeover.

The full details, and exactly what it means for golf fans, are lacking at this point. It’s clear from the immediate reaction of PGA Tour players on social media that this decision came from out of the blue and was made well above their pay grade.

“Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with,” world No. 67 Mackenzie Hughes said.

Are the three entities still going to operate separately while being in business together? Will players go back and forth at will to play whatever tour they want in a given week? Or does the merger set up the top level pro golf as a globetrotting international tour that will regularly bring all the best players to Australia, Asia, the Middle East and Europe?

What does that mean for the mid-tier tournament in your hometown that brought thousands of tourists in for a weekend? What does it mean for television rights? And does it mean fans will now be subjected to more of LIV’s interminably boring team competition?

There’s also the Donald Trump angle to figure out since the former president’s ties to LIV have been part of the Justice Department’s probe into his handling of classified documents, according to The New York Times. With his third bid for the presidency underway, Trump will no doubt be front and center claiming credit for the reunification of his favorite sport.

From top to bottom, this is a solution that may indeed hold some benefits for players and fans. But underneath the hood, the details are guaranteed to be so unsavory you’d need a bottle of Maalox just to get through the day.

For the PGA Tour, though, it is undeniably the most convenient end game. With LIV’s limitless resources, the Saudis could muck things up with years of messy and expensive antitrust litigation, not to mention the ever-present threat of poaching more stars like Brooks Koepka.

And any time the Saudis wanted to ratchet up the pressure, the PGA Tour was going to have to tap into reserves or hit up sponsors for more cash to keep the peace within its own ranks.

Maybe Monahan and his employers saw an unending fight with no clear path to victory. Or maybe they just got tired of the fight.

Either way, in less than a year, the Saudis went from disruptors to forcing a complete capitulation that laid the PGA Tour’s moral high ground to waste. From top to bottom, they own professional golf now. As was probably the intent all along, everyone else is just along for the ride.

Read more at usatoday.com

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