The background to the LIV Golf and PGA war – and the chances of peace in 2024
There are signs that the war between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour could be cooling off, and 2024 might see improved relations.
Some hope that golf can establish a new normal after a 2023 full of upheaval.
Developments at the PGA point to changes, but players are sceptical.
A private equity bid from one of the wealthiest organisations in international sports, Endeavor, is said to have been turned down by the PGA Tour.
The parent company of IMG Sports and the majority owner of UFC, Endeavor recently completed a takeover of WWE and is estimated to be worth $10 billion.
On 6 June 2023, the PGA Tour and the Saudi PIF, the financiers of LIV Golf, unveiled a startling framework agreement. However, they have since been slammed by prominent LIV Golf star Phil Mickelson over their reluctance to negotiate in good faith.
According to Mickelson, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel intended to operate eight elevated tournaments in October 2021. The players and Silver Lake would share 50/50 ownership of these new elevated events through a different company.
It is alleged that PGA Tour chairman Ed Herlihy objected to these ideas, wanting the PGA Tour to acquire the events outright.
Silver Lake contacted PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan again in February 2022, four months later, to let him know that a new golf league with Saudi backing was “going to happen” and that these eight elite tournaments “could prevent players from leaving” the PGA Tour.
Mickelson alleges that Monahan responded: “The players won’t go, they know what we will do to them.”
These interactions and other clashes between LIV Golf, its players and the PGA have eroded any faith the rebel players have in a deal being agreed before the 31 December deadline.
Speaking to the media at the Tour Championship, Monahan was certain that a deal would be reached.
“If you saw the amount of conversation and the time that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF are spending working forward from a framework to a definitive, I think would you see the sincerity of the efforts there,” Monahan said.
“There’s an intensity and there’s an urgency and there’s a lot of work, good work, that’s being done.”
An ambiguous memo from the PGA Tour to players recently revealed that the circuit has attracted numerous ‘unsolicited’ approaches for investment, which they have used as a show of strength.
“We remain focused on reaching a definitive agreement with PIF and the DP World Tour, but not surprisingly, these negotiations have resulted in unsolicited outreach and proposals from a number of other interested investors,” the memo said.
“All of this activity reinforces the Tour’s strong position and our potential for growth.”
The PGA Tour continue to hold the stance that a deal will be done, but LIV Golf insiders have their doubts.
While the proposed deals have given hope of golf coming closer together, it seems that we might not see a deal in 2024.
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